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House energy bill an exercise in childishness

Bob Tippee
Editor

Kicking oil companies in the shins is not energy policy. It's childishness.

The US House took a foot-swipe at oil companies on Feb. 27 when it passed the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008.

The bill would extend and enlarge tax subsidies for electricity generated from renewable energy and for renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.

It supposedly would pay for the tax breaks with a jab of the congressional heel into the US oil industry's tibia: a tax hike estimated at $18 billion over 10 years.

"We want to take the $18 billion in tax subsidies that the Bush administration and previous Congresses gave oil companies and reinvest the money in alternative energy technologies," said Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.; OGJ Online, Feb. 28, 2008).

This is rubbish. Of that sum, $13.57 billion would come from curtailing the oil industry's use of a tax deduction enacted in 2004 to help all US manufacturers compete internationally. The rest would come from tightening limits on foreign tax credits associated with oil and gas income.

Neither of those original tax measures was enacted specifically for oil and gas companies. And neither represents a "subsidy" on the order of the 50¢-$1/gal tax gifts that the bill extends or creates for renewable fuels.

To pretend otherwise is deceitful.

And to pretend that the tax bill would somehow "end our dangerous reliance on foreign oil," as Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) proclaimed, is foolish.

The tax bill would steer money away from investment in commercial energy sources that fill more than 60% of US needs and spend it on noncommercial forms that together account for less than 5% of total supply.

Subsidizing renewable energy to displace rather than supplement oil and gas will come nowhere close to ending oil imports. It will just waste money.

The Democratic Congress seems not to care how much it harms energy consumers and taxpayers as long as it can claim to be hurting oil companies.

Grownups should know better.

(Online Feb. 29, 2008; author's e-mail: bobt@ogjonline.com)


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