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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL ONLINE: Oil News Roundup: December 27, 2006 4:55 p.m.

Crude-oil futures fell to a one-month low of nearly $60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as warm seasonal weather in the U.S. Northeast showed no signs of letting up, damping winter demand for heating oil.

Here is Wednesday’s roundup of oil and energy news:

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CHINA SUBSIDIZES SINOPEC AGAIN: Underscoring Beijing’s continued reluctance to fully liberalize domestic fuel prices, China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. got a surprise government subsidy of about $639 million. This is the second time that Asia’s largest refiner by capacity, known as Sinopec, has received a government cash injection to compensate for domestic fuel-price caps that have forced it to sell fuel at a loss after buying high-priced crude oil.

•Norton Goes to Shell: Royal Dutch Shell announced it has hired former Interior Secretary Gale Norton as an in-house lawyer, Law Blog reports. Norton’s move comes amid rising congressional scrutiny of the Interior Department’s dealings with the oil industry, specifically the agency’s policies for collecting oil and gas royalties from public lands.

•Russians Probe Yukos Link to Poisoning: Russian prosecutors said they are investigating the possible role of a former owner of the Yukos oil company in the radiation poisoning death of one-time Russian intelligence agent Alexander Litvinenko.

•Trouble for Czech Giant: Ongoing Czech political deadlock and simmering antinuclear protests in Austria bode ill for Czech electricity giant CEZ becoming the region’s nuclear-energy leader, analysts say.

•Gas Prices Rise: The price of gasoline rose by two cents last week to an average of $2.34 a gallon nationwide. Prices have climbed by 14 cents since early November.

•White House Seeks Polar Bear Protection: The Bush administration is proposing that polar bears — in deep trouble because of global warming and other factors — deserve federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

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