House approved huge energy bill

The House by a wide margin approved a mammoth energy plan for the nation Thursday that sends billions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies to energy companies, but is expected to do little to reduce U.S. oil consumption or dampen high energy prices.

"This is a good bill for America," declared Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, a key author of the legislation. "It is for America's future."

The bill was approved 275-156. Congress now awaits action by the Senate, probably on Friday.

President Bush, facing public pressure to outline a direction for the nation's energy strategy amid soaring oil prices and high gasoline costs at the pump, had called on Congress to give him an energy bill before departing for lawmakers' five-week summer recess.

The 1,725-page bill, the product of weeks of compromise between widely different versions approved by the two chambers earlier this year, would provide $14.5 billion in energy tax breaks, much of it to traditional energy companies. It also provides money for promoting renewable energy sources and new energy technologies and measures to revitalize the nuclear power industry.

"It is not a perfect bill," said Sen. John Dingell, D-Mich.

But he called it "a solid beginning" to diversifying future energy sources, improving the nation's aging electricity grid and fostering more energy conservation.