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US Senate Passes Energy Bill

The U.S. Senate has overwhelmingly approved (by an 85 to 12 vote) a sweeping energy bill that aims to curb the United States' reliance on imported oil.

The comprehensive bill would promote a broad mix of energy sources, from nuclear power and natural gas to coal and wind energy.

It also would aim to reduce energy consumption through tax incentives for efficient appliances and homes and hybrid automobiles that use both gasoline and electricity.

The legislation directs the president to reduce U.S. oil demand by one million barrels a day by 2015.

Senator Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican, is chief sponsor of the bill:

"I believe we have an energy bill worthy of our times," he said.

Senator Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat, is co-sponsor.

"The bill moves us toward a better energy future. It will help us to produce more energy, it will help us to conserve more energy, and use energy more efficiently," Mr. Bingaman added.

But senators acknowledge the legislation would have little immediate impact on the soaring cost of energy, including oil, which surpassed a record $60 a barrel this week.

Still, Energy Secretary Sam Bodman called the Senate action an important step.

"We have a long way to go in this country in terms of establishing an energy program that will provide the kind of security that our citizens deserve,” noted Mr. Bodman.

At the White House, President Bush issued a written statement saying the bill would help U.S. economic growth by addressing the root causes of high energy prices and reducing dependence on foreign sources of energy.

But the Senate legislation must be reconciled with a bill passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year before a final version is sent to Mr. Bush for his signature.

There are significant differences between the two measures, with the Senate bill emphasizing conservation and clean energy technologies more than the House legislation.

For example, the Senate bill includes tax breaks and credits to companies to voluntarily reduce carbon dioxide emissions, a provision not included in the House version.