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    House Passes National Energy Bill

    Calls for billions in tax breaks for oil companies.

    WASHINGTON -- A national energy plan that would send billions of dollars in tax subsidies to energy companies passed the House on Thursday despite criticism from many lawmakers that it would do nothing to dampen high prices or lessen dependence on Middle East oil.

    The Associated Press reported that supporters said the legislation would establish a framework for developing a wider mix of energy sources in coming years, including wind turbines, lower-pollution coal plants and new nuclear reactors.

    Lawmakers avoided a certain fight in the Senate by leaving out one of President's Bush's top energy goals: opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling. House Republicans promised to pursue that issue separately.

    The White House said Bush, who had challenged Congress to end four years of stalemate over energy legislation, looked forward to signing the legislation. The president has acknowledged the measure will have little impact on oil or gasoline prices.

    White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the legislation would address root causes of high energy prices, but "we didn't get into this overnight and we're not going to get out of it overnight."

    The bill passed the House by a vote of 275-156 and was expected to be approved by the Senate by a wide margin, probably today.

    "This bill is going to go through lickety-split," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., though he denounced it as a collection of giveaways to cash-rich energy companies that would fail to curb the nation's thirst for imported oil.

    Seventy-five Democrats joined Republicans in moving the 1,725-page legislation through the House, the AP reported.

    "It is not a perfect bill," said Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, the top House Democrat involved in crafting the legislation. "But it is a solid beginning to developing an energy strategy for the 21st century."


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