Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image U.S. Senate approves new energy bill  2007-12-14 12:33:32     
WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) — The U.S. Senate Republicans Thursday passed a new comprehensive energy bill after the Democrats stripped the controversial tax package from the bill.

The vote was 86-8. The first time it was voted on in the Senate, it only got 59 yeses, one vote short of the needed 60.

The Republicans rejected the bill last week because it included tax increases for oil companies.

The new energy bill contains a 21-billion-dollar tax package, under which some 13.5 billion dollars in tax breaks for the five largest oil companies would be repealed to be used for tax incentives to promote renewable fuels and energy efficiency.

Analysts say the “Five Oil Bigs,” namely Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Conoco Philips, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and BP PLC would be the hardest hit by the tax repeals.

Republican leader Mitch McConnell said earlier the Democrats had known that the bill connected with tax packages would never be signed into law because of the president’s opposition.

Before its last vote, the White House voiced a veto threat, saying “Their proposal would raise taxes and increase energy prices for Americans.”

“That is a misguided approach and if it made it to the President’s desk, he would veto it,” it said in a statement.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), which represents the major oil companies, had dismissed the allegation that the new oil taxes would cause companies to cut back on investments for producing oil and expanding refineries.

“The House ducked the opportunity to craft balanced energy legislation that would ensure reliable energy supplies for American consumers,” said a statement released by the API last week.

“The tax provisions are counterproductive, making it more difficult to expand domestic oil and natural gas production and refining capacity while costing American jobs,” it added.

The new energy bill aims to increase U.S. automobile fuel economy by 40 percent to an industry average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. It would be the first increase in the federal vehicle standard for cars in 32 years.

It also would require a sevenfold increase in the use of ethanol as a motor fuel to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022, with two-thirds to be cellulosic ethanol from such feedstock as prairie grass and wood chips.

Oil companies welcomed the Senate’s decision to drop its tax package, but was otherwise more guarded.

“There are provisions promoting energy efficiency in the legislation that will enhance our nation’s energy security,” said the API in a statement. “However, we remain concerned by the unrealistic biofuels mandate.”

Following the Senate green light, House approval of the revised bill was expected. The White House also said late Thursday that President George W. Bush would not veto the bill.

“If the legislation makes it to the President’s desk, he will sign it into law,” The White House said in a statement.
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