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Final U.S. Energy Bill Ready for Vote

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday released a final summary of the energy bill's $14.5 billion in tax breaks and incentives.

The full House was expected to approve the bill today, with a Senate vote likely to follow on Friday. Once approved by both chambers, the legislation will be sent to President George W. Bush to sign into law.

The bill focuses on increasing production of oil, natural gas and other energy sources but critics say it does little to encourage more oil conservation or reduce oil imports. The United States now imports 60 percent of the 21 million barrels of oil consumed each day.

Among highlights of the final energy bill:

* Offers a total $14.5 billion in tax breaks and incentives over 10 years, with nearly $9 billion earmarked for oil and gas production, electricity reliability and coal pollution projects. Less than $5 billion will be spent on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

* Requires a delay of at least 141 days in a U.S. government review of the Chinese-government owned CNOOC Ltd. oil company's $18.5 billion bid for American oil giant Unocal.

* Offers energy companies royalty relief for drilling in Gulf of Mexico deep waters.

* Requires an inventory of offshore oil and natural gas resources, including areas off Florida where drilling is banned.

* Gives Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, not the states, exclusive authority to approve LNG import terminals.

* Expands Strategic Petroleum Reserve by 300 million barrels to 1 billion barrels.

* Allows oil refiners that increase capacity of existing plants by at least 5 percent to expense half the cost of investments.

* Bans oil drilling in the Great Lakes.

* Dropped language in Senate bill requiring the federal government to find ways to cut U.S. oil demand, or to require better fuel mileage for gas-guzzlers.

* Dropped language to open the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve to drilling, but this is expected to be added to a separate government funding bill later this year.

* Requires the use of 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol a year as a gasoline additive by 2012, almost double the current use.

* Expands ethanol production credit to producers with capacity of up to 60 million gallons, double the current capacity allowed.

* Allows parties in liability suits related to contamination from methyl tertiary butyl ether to remove ongoing cases to a federal court. Does not extend liability protection to makers of MTBE, which has contaminated state water supplies.

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