Declaring a new direction in energy policy, the House last night approved $16 billion in taxes on oil companies, while providing billions of dollars in tax breaks and incentives for renewable energy and conservation efforts.Republican opponents said the legislation ignored the need to produce more domestic oil, natural gas and coal.
The House passed the tax provisions by a vote of 221-189.
Earlier it had approved, 241-172, a companion energy package aimed at boosting energy efficiency and expanding use of biofuels, wind power and other renewable energy sources.
"We are turning to the future," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The two bills, passed at an unusual Saturday session as lawmakers prepared to leave town for their month-long summer recess, are expected to be merged with legislation the Senate passed in June.
On one of the most contentious and heavily lobbied issues, the House voted to require investor-owned electric utilities nationwide to generate at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind or biofuels.
The utilities and business interests had argued against this, saying it would raise electricity prices in regions of the country that do not have abundant wind energy. But environmentalists said it will spur investments in renewable fuels and help address global warming as utilities use less coal.
Democrats avoided a nasty fight by ignoring - at least for the time being - calls for automakers to make vehicles more fuel-efficient. That, and whether to require large increases in the use of corn-based ethanol as a substitute for gasoline, will be taken up when it's time to merge with the House and Senate bills.