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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL ONLINE: Oil News Roundup: January 18, 2007 4:44 p.m.

Crude-oil futures slumped to a new 20-month low, briefly trading below $50 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after the Department of Energy said U.S. inventories rose much more than expected.

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

* * *
IRAQ OIL LAW DRAFTED: Iraq’s long-awaited hydrocarbons law, which could attract huge investments from foreign oil companies, has been drafted and will be submitted to the cabinet for endorsement next week, the Oil Ministry said. The law is expected to encourage foreign oil companies to quickly modernize Iraq’s oil sector and meet the goal of doubling the current crude production of 2.5 million barrels per day by 2010.

•China Targets Polluting Buildings: China will need to invest about $193 billion in the next 15 years to make its buildings more energy efficient, a move that could save it from burning hundreds of millions of tons of polluting coal and reduce China’s greenhouse-gas emissions, according to Vice Minister of Construction Qiu Baoxing.

•Rolling Back Oil Subsidies: Newly empowered House Democrats sought to recoup billions of dollars in lost royalties from offshore drilling as they anticipated approval of a $15 billion package of fees, taxes and royalties on oil and gas companies. The money would be used to promote renewable fuels.

•Pelosi Creates Global-Warming Committee: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi created a special committee in an effort to jump-start long-delayed government efforts to deal with global warming.

•IEA Cuts Demand Forecast: The International Energy Agency lowered its expectations for world oil demand growth in 2007 and reduced its 2006 oil demand growth figures due to mild winter weather that has crimped energy demand and weaker expectations for U.S. economic growth.

•Saudis to Build Capacity: Saudi Arabia plans to increase its crude-oil production capacity nearly 40% by 2009 and double its refining size over the next five years to keep pace with growing global demand.

•Nigerians Release Hostages: Five Chinese telecommunications workers and an Italian oil worker abducted in Nigeria’s restive southern delta region have been released, militants and officials said.

•Reliance Profit Jumps: Reliance Industries’ fiscal third-quarter net profit rose 58% after a rise in refining margins offset a squeeze on margins in the petrochemicals segment.

•Fire in Kuwait: A fire broke out in a Kuwaiti refinery, and the country’s production of refined oil will be cut by 2% as a temporary, precautionary measure, officials said.

•Big Build Leads to Big Fall: MarketBeat breaks down today’s tumble in crude-oil futures, fueled by the biggest weekly gain in crude-oil inventories in years.

•Loosen Necktie, Save Energy: Chile’s government urged men to shun neckties so that offices could use less air conditioning.

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