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House Rolls Back Oil Company Subsidies

The U.S. House of Representatives rolled back billions of dollars in oil industry subsidies Thursday in what supporters hailed as a new direction in energy policy toward more renewable fuels. Critics said the action would reduce domestic oil production and increase reliance on imports.

The energy legislation was the last of six high-priority issues that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had pledged to push through during the first 100 hours of Democratic control. The bill passed by a 264-163 vote.

The bill's prospects are uncertain the Senate, where Democrats hold a narrow majority. The top Republican on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, said the bill was "another pig in the poke" that targets incentives necessary to promote domestic drilling.

The legislation would impose a "conservation fee" on oil and gas taken from deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico; scrap nearly $6 billion worth of oil industry tax breaks enacted by Congress in recent years; and seek to recoup royalties lost to the government because of an Interior Department error in leases issued in the late 1990s.

Democrats said the legislation could produce as much as $15 billion in revenue. Most of that money would pay to promote renewable fuels such as solar and wind power, alternative fuels including ethanol and biodiesel and incentives for conservation.