Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) “struck while the iron was hot Thursday and vowed to shepherd a plan through the panel that ends billions of dollars in tax breaks for the largest oil companies,” The Hill reports.
Baucus released a short “blueprint” of the plan – which would expand investment in “clean” fuels and efficient vehicles – the same day that oil giants Exxon and Shell reported big gains in first-quarter profits.
And the outline arrives a day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he planned to bring a tax break repeal measure to the floor. The White House and Democrats are targeting the subsidies in the wider political debate that has erupted over high gasoline prices.
The plan would “prevent the five biggest oil companies from claiming a lucrative deduction on domestic manufacturing income, reduce the foreign tax credit for royalty payments to foreign governments and impose an excise tax on certain Gulf of Mexico leases, the blueprint states.”
The plan would “not add to the deficit because repealing the oil industry tax incentives would pay for the ‘clean’ energy programs in the bill, according to the Senate Finance Committee.”
Filed under Energy, Taxes
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) “said Wednesday that the Senate will turn quickly to legislation to repeal billions of dollars in government subsidies enjoyed by big oil companies every year,” the AP reports.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Senate will consider as early as next week Obama’s proposal to repeal the tax breaks. Obama wants to use that $4 billion a year to invest in alternative energy in an effort to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
"There’s no necessity for these subsidies," Reid told reporters. "The companies have broken all records for profits."
It’s not at all clear “that Senate Democrats would be able to overcome a certain GOP filibuster of legislation to repeal the tax breaks, which include a deduction for drilling costs and oil and gas depletion allowances that give producers a tax deduction comparable to the break given manufacturers for depreciation of the value of an investment in plants and equipment.”
The United States “should construct about 100 more domestic nuclear power plants over the next 20 years, according to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.),” The Hill reports.
In an interview with Tennessee’s The Daily Times, Alexander hailed nuclear power as a safe and clean energy source, despite the meltdown last month at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant that was triggered by an earthquake and tsunami.
“Since the 1950s, there’s never been a fatality in connection with the Navy reactors,” Alexander said Tuesday in a reference to about 100 naval vessels run on nuclear power. He also said there had been no fatalities traced to radiation at any of the nation’s 100 power plants on the ground.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) “said he is ‘reasonably optimistic’ an energy bill would pass Congress,” Bloomberg reports.
High gasoline prices are helping to push energy to the forefront of policy discussions in Congress, Bingaman said today at an energy conference in Washington sponsored by The New Republic. Companies worried about maintaining U.S. leadership in clean-energy markets are also pushing for a bill, Bingaman said.
“We have a lot of things we are polarized about in Congress these days,” Bingaman said. “This area of energy is one where we ought to be able to develop enough of a consensus to move ahead.”
The energy committee will look to advance bills to overhaul federal regulations in response to last year’s BP Plc’s oil spill, reduce the cost of transportation fuels, increase electricity production from non-polluting sources and boost energy conservation efforts, Bingaman said.
Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) “are reviving a bipartisan ‘gang’ of senators they formed in 2008 to craft sweeping energy legislation,” The Hill reports.
“We are reconvening the group of 10, Senator Chambliss and I, we are going to put together a plan to dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign energy, and so we are going back to work,” Conrad said Tuesday in the Capitol, adding that the group plans to meet this week.
The meeting is Wednesday afternoon, Senate aides said. The gang’s revival could mark a major political shift in what have been sharply partisan disputes over gasoline prices, climate change and other energy matters.
The original energy "Gang of 10" formed in the summer of 2008 and grew to 20 senators.
Conrad said “the 13 members of the gang that are still in the Senate are all invited to the meeting.”
These senators include: John Thune (R-S.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and others.
The chairman of the “Nuclear Regulatory Commission said there is no immediate need to conduct special inspections of U.S. nuclear plants in the wake of the breakdown of a plant in Japan following an earthquake and tsunami,” Bloomberg reports.
Gregory Jaczko said current U.S. policy is to continually review standards and to take lessons from events elsewhere in the world. The U.S. has about 23 plants with similar reactor containment designs as the Japanese plant, he said.
“We’re going to take a look at what happened, we’re going to do a systematic and methodical review of the information, and if we need to make changes to our program, we’ll make changes,” he said at a White House briefing.
Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer of California and Tom Carper of Delaware today asked the NRC to conduct a “comprehensive investigation” of all nuclear power facilities in the U.S. to assess whether they can withstand a catastrophic disaster, according to a letter to Jaczko released by Carper’s office.
Filed under Energy, Letters
You might see “some Senate Democrats talking to TV cameras in front of gas stations in their home states next week,” POLITICO reports.
Democrats are being advised to emphasize high gas prices to their advantage when they go home for a weeklong break next week as they seek to counter GOP criticism levied at the Obama administration.
“The high price of gas is the number one issue I get asked about when I’m home in New York,” according to a prepared text of a speech obtained by POLITICO that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) used to address Tuesday’s Senate Democratic policy lunch in the Capitol. "And polling data shows it to be one of top issues on the people’s minds across the country.
“So, when you go home over recess, it may be worth doing press events on steps you are taking to lower the price of oil and, therefore, gasoline,” Schumer’s added in his prepared notes.