House Democrats are targeting billions of dollars in oil company tax breaks for quick repeal next year. A broader energy proposal that would boost alternative energy sources and conservation is expected to be put off until later.
Hot-button issues such as a tax on the oil industry's windfall profits or sharp increases in automobile fuel economy probably will not gain much ground given the narrow Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.
Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in an outline of priorities over the first 100 hours of the next Congress in January, promises to begin a move toward greater energy independence "by rolling back the multibillion dollar subsidies for Big Oil."
Other prime targets of House and Senate Democrats include:
• Alleged price gouging. Proposals to create a federal price gouging law for gasoline and other fuels probably will move quickly.
• More incentives and mandates to expand the use of ethanol and biodiesel as a substitute for gasoline. Requiring oil companies to phase in retail pumps that deliver fuel that is 85 percent ethanol.
• Requiring power companies to produce a percentage of their electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. Such a measure is a priority of Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat and incoming chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
• Extending energy efficiency tax credits approved by Congress last year. Most are scheduled to expire at the end of next year.
• Expanding a tax break for buyers of gas-electric hybrid cars and offering more incentives for automakers to build greater numbers of the vehicles.
Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who will take over as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he plans hearings on legislation to spur further production and distribution of ethanol and biodiesel, and promote conservation.
But he suggested it will take time to produce legislation. "The process is a long one. It takes hearings; it takes fact finding," said Dingell in a telephone interview.
On the Senate side, Bingaman probably will avoid writing a single broad energy bill, preferring to push through specific legislation. Among Bingaman's other goals are new incentives to spur renewable energy development and more tax breaks for conservation.
Last spring, Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said if the country is to reduce its addiction to oil and high energy prices it needs a "crash program" to develop more alternative energy sources, dramatically increase conservation and examine "whether or not we should break up the big oil companies."
Next year, Schumer assumes the No. 3 leadership position among Senate Democrats and will be one of the party's top strategists.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
"Democrats to quickly target oil industry tax breaks"
AP, via CNN: