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New Energy Bill Doesn't Ease Oil Prices

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - An energy bill signed by President Bush on Monday will not bring relief from the skyrocketing oil prices that have once again hit a new high.

The $14.5 billion legislation that was passed by Congress after a four-year battle boosts oil, natural gas and electricity supplies and promotes alternative energy sources, but the president admitted it does not offer any short-term solutions, according to Reuters.

"We're not going to solve our energy challenges overnight," Bush said during his speech at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque. "Most of the serious problems, such as high gasoline costs and rising dependence on foreign oil, have developed over decades. It's going to take years of focused effort to alleviate those problems."

The measure will funnel billions of dollars to energy companies in the form of tax breaks and loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants, clean coal technology and wind energy, the Associated Press reported. It will allow consumers to claim tax credits for buying hybrid-fueled cars and making energy-conservation improvements on their homes.

Also, beginning in 2007, daylight-savings time will extend by four weeks to save energy. The new law, however, will not curb oil imports with stricter fuel mileage requirements for gas-guzzling SUVs and other vehicles.

Supporters of the energy bill say it will revive America's nuclear power industry, boost oil drilling, convert coal into a cleaner-burning fuel and use homegrown, corn-based ethanol to stretch gasoline supplies. But environmental groups and some Democrats criticize its extensive tax breaks, subsidies and loan guarantees as a lavish gift to energy companies already enjoying near-record profits.

"Big energy lobbyists may be cheering the bill's enactment, but ordinary Americans had better hold fast to their wallets," Anna Aurilio, legislative director of U.S. Public Interest Research Group, told Reuters. "As gasoline prices careen out of control, the bill keeps America speeding down the wrong road toward more oil consumption, more drilling and more pollution."

Meanwhile, the price of a barrel of crude oil hit a new high of more than $63 Monday, Reuters reported. The national average price of a gallon of gas is $2.29. The United States relies on foreign oil to meet 60 percent of its daily petroleum demand of almost 21 million barrels. Gasoline use accounts for two out of every five barrels consumed.

"This economy of ours has been through a lot and that's why it's important to get this energy bill done to help us continue to grow," Bush said. "What this energy bill is going to do, it's going to help keep momentum in the right direction."

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