The centerpiece of the 1,055-page Energy Independence and Security Act is a mandate to increase fuel economy by 40 percent to an industry average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020.
The 235-181 vote sent the measure to the Senate, where Republicans hope it will be stripped of tax hikes on the oil industry and renewable electricity measures before a final version is sent to President Bush, the Washington Post reported. The White House objected strongly to the bill on multiple fronts.
Democrats characterized the bill as "a new direction" in American energy policy away from dependence on fossil fuels, according to the Associated Press. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., declared the bill "a historic opportunity" and "a shot heard around the world for energy independence," with crude oil prices near $90 a barrel and retail gasoline over $3 a gallon.
Republicans derided it as a "no energy bill" because it doesn't open new U.S. acreage to oil and natural gas drilling, Reuters reported. They said the bill will do nothing to curb soaring prices for gasoline and home heating fuels.
The energy bill would roll back $13.5 billion in tax breaks enjoyed by the five largest U.S. oil companies with the money to be used for tax incentives for development of renewable energy -- including cellulosic ethanol from grasses, wood chips and biodiesel; and to spur energy efficiency programs and conservation, the AP reported.
"There's nothing in here that's going to lower gas prices in America ... nothing that is going to help American families deal with heating costs this winter ... nothing to increase production," said Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio.
Analysts say the bill is unlikely to survive in its current form, but a stripped-down version could become law if controversial tax and renewable electricity provisions are dropped, according to a Reuters report.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he wants to call a vote on the bill before Congress adjourns later this month.