New House Energy Bill Represents GOP Corporate Welfare
Remember the days when the GOP used to accuse the Democrats of pork barrel spending? While the media was paying much attention to ANWR yesterday, the House rammed through an energy bill that looks strikingly familiar to Dick Cheney’s energy task force wish list.
House Republicans, both during committee action and on the House floor, turned back repeated attempts to tilt the legislation more toward energy conservation and away from incentives for production, chiefly fossil fuels.
Although the bill contains some tax breaks for buying solar heating equipment and more efficient appliances, a proposal to require automakers to produce cars that burn 5 percent less fuel by 2010 was rejected 268-162. Cars burn 40 percent of the country’s oil.
“How can we be silent on auto fuel efficiency if this bill is going to do anything at all?” asked Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y
“There is no rhyme or reason to this legislation. It is a grab bag of subsidies, tax giveaways for almost every special interest in Washington,” said Aileen Roder, Program Director at Taxpayers for Common Sense. “This bill is fueled by pork.”
This bill continues the time-honored congressional pastime of funding the research and development needs of the energy industry without demanding much in return. It included blitzkrieg of new federal research programs and a corporate accountant’s dream with $18.7 billion in major new tax breaks for big energy.
Some of the highlights of the bill include $10.9 billion in new subsidies and tax breaks for the oil & gas industry; $17.89 billion in new research programs; $3.219 billion for the nuclear power industry;$2.227 billion in spending and tax breaks in utilities; and $1.925 billion in subsidies to build new “clean coal” facilities.
The group also criticized the bill for trying to spend more money on failed policies of the past. “Most of the bill provisions have been pushed by industry for years. It's no secret that energy lobbyists and their supporters will use every possible opportunity to slip coveted tax breaks and spending subsidies into federal legislation,” continued Roder.
Among the worst provisions is royalty relief for oil companies engaged in off-shore and unconventional drilling. When oil is drilled on federal land, oil producers pay the government a fee for using our land and taking our natural resources. When they get ‘relief’, however, they can just take the oil for free, without paying for use of a natural resource on public lands.
The bill also includes $1.925 billion in subsidies to build new “clean coal” facilities, despite the fact that the Clean Coal Technology Program has been documented a failure by the government’s own General Accounting Office, for its inability “to meet cost, schedule, or performance goals.” Twenty years after the program first started, all that clean coal has to show for itself is billions of dollars down the drain and a few technologies fueled more by the necessities of the Clean Air Act than by government-sponsored research.
With FreedomCAR, the Bush administration once again envisions joint research between the federal government and big auto manufacturers. In conjunction with FreedomCAR is the Hydrogen Fuel Program, so-called Freedom Fuel, which is slated to research affordability and cost-competitiveness of hydrogen fuel. Despite the FreedomCAR’s checkered history, these programs will receive $1.799 billion over three years without a single standard set for their accountability.
Maybe corporate welfare is another issue the Democrats should run on next year.