Senate Not Open to Oil-For-Renewable Package Reconciliation 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 05 Mar 2008 14:12:00 GMT

Despite earlier reports that the Senate was considering inclusion of the oil-for-renewable package (H.R. 5351) in its budget reconciliation, as the budget markup begins today, the filibuster-proof strategy has been taken off the table.

The National Journal reports:
While a Senate budget resolution is going to set aside $13.4 billion over five years for these renewable and efficiency credits – some of which expire this year – it merely signals that the issue is one of the priorities for Senate Democrats and does not forward debate over how to pay for those credits. . . a spokesman for Reid said he will not resurrect an energy tax debate until after lawmakers come back from the upcoming two-week Easter recess.

The Journal also reports that Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has been tasked by Majority Leader Reid to attempt to find further Republican votes to establish a veto-proof majority for the package.

CQ Politics points to Sen. Landrieu as objecting to using reconciliation:
Sen. Mary L. Landrieu , D-La., for example, is against using the process to pass renewable-energy tax breaks if they lead to tax hikes on oil and gas companies.

Sen. Landrieu cast a deciding vote against the oil-for-renewable tax package during the 2007 energy bill debate.

National Journal
The decision by Senate leaders not to pursue a filibuster-proof budget reconciliation plan removes one option for moving billions of dollars of renewable energy and efficiency tax breaks funded by repealing incentives for oil and gas companies.

While a Senate budget resolution is going to set aside $13.4 billion over five years for these renewable and efficiency credits – some of which expire this year – it merely signals that the issue is one of the priorities for Senate Democrats and does not forward debate over how to pay for those credits.

A reconciliation bill would have sent detailed instructions to committees on how to pay for that spending and would have been immune to a filibuster.

The budget resolution also includes $3.5 billion in discretionary funding for energy above President Bush’s FY09 request, which Senate Budget Chairman Conrad touted as “a very big increase; I think the biggest increase in more than 30 years.”

Senate Democrats are trying to overcome Republican opposition to scaling back billions in incentives for oil and gas companies to pay for the popular renewable and efficiency credits. Democrats in December fell one vote short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster of a $21.8 billion proposal that reduced oil and gas incentives by about $13 billion.

A politically problematic $18 billion House-passed renewable energy tax proposal is pending, but few are optimistic that it could become law given a White House veto threat. This is leading to some brainstorming on other means of getting these credits extended quickly.

Majority Leader Reid has tasked Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., with helping find another Republican vote or two. Cantwell, who pushed for a one-year $5.5 billion renewable and efficiency tax package as part of a failed Finance Committee economic stimulus plan, said a similar smaller package should be considered. “There’s nothing preventing us from looking at the bigger package – see what the president does – but still work toward a smaller package too,” she said.

Cantwell said “the challenge is to still try to save investment in ‘08,” and extend the tax incentives within the next month or so.

This is the basic message of a broad coalition of businesses, renewable energy groups, environmentalists, labor unions and others who are taking advantage of an international renewable energy conference in Washington this week to do some cohesive lobbying to extend these credits by the end of the month.

But a spokesman for Reid said he will not resurrect an energy tax debate until after lawmakers come back from the upcoming two-week Easter recess.

Several industry officials say they are not requesting that Congress follow a particular strategy for quickly extending the renewable and efficiency incentives.

“We basically said Congress should figure this out,” said Dan Reicher, former assistant Energy secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy under President Clinton and now director of climate change and energy initiatives at Google.org.

“We have tried to stick to a pretty simple approach – extend the credits quickly and extend them for a long period of time.”

But the political problems associated with repealing the billions in oil and gas incentives means the solution to getting an extension through fast is potentially undefined.

“The answer is, you need some new and original thinking here,” said Marchant Wentworth, legislative representative for the Clean Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

While Cantwell has talked about doing a smaller package to gain support and possibly avoid a veto threat, Wentworth cautioned that there does not appear to be a magic number to achieve that.

“The question we all face is, are there new votes that you would get? These are leadership-driven; it’s unclear to me that lowering the incentives gets you anything,” he said.

In the meantime, a wide variety of groups and companies – including retail giant Wal-Mart, the Real Estate Roundtable, Dow Chemical and DuPont – are targeting congressional leaders and several Senate Republicans to vote for extending the credits regardless of whether it affects oil and gas company incentives.

Among Republicans being targeted are Sens. John Ensign of Nevada, John Sununu of New Hampshire, Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Richard Lugar of Indiana.

Lugar and Murkowski voted against the filibuster in December. Renewable energy groups might also get a rare chance to lobby Bush personally when he speaks today at the 2008 Washington International Renewable Energy Conference.

Next Steps on Oil-for-Renewable Package 5

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 04 Mar 2008 17:02:00 GMT

Upon the House passage of the oft-stymied oil-for-renewable tax package as a standalone bill (H.R. 5351) last week, Ben Geman of E&E News reported on a possible mechanism for moving the bill through the Senate with a simple majority:
Senate Democrats are eyeing a filibuster-proof budget bill as a vehicle for energy tax provisions that have narrowly failed to win the 60 votes needed to cut off debate, several lawmakers said yesterday.

Energy taxes are a “candidate to be considered in [budget] reconciliation,” Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) told reporters. “I think we have to look at things that reduce our dependence on energy.”

The oil-for-renewables package, which faces the threat of a Bush veto, received resounding support from a broad coalition of industry, investors, and environmental organizations in a press conference today on the first day of the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference. President Bush is scheduled to offer the keynote address to the convention tomorrow.

Pelosi, Bush Battle on Oil-For-Renewables Tax Package 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 28 Feb 2008 20:33:00 GMT

The Democratic House leadership sent a letter today challenging Bush to sign the House oil-for-renewables tax package (H.R. 5351) passed by their chamber yesterday.
Promotion of the renewable energy industry is the goal of the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference, which your Administration hosts next week. The conference offers a remarkable world platform to support a fiscally responsible commitment to these industries and technologies and the jobs they will produce. We urge you to reconsider your previous opposition to fiscally sound incentives for American renewable energy, and lend your support to this historic legislation in time for this occasion.

At today’s press conference, President Bush parried a question about his threatened veto of bill (after admitting ignorance about the likely $4 gallon gas this spring).

He claimed the cost-neutral bill would “cost the consumers more money and we need more oil and gas being explored for, we need more drilling, we need less dependence on foreign oil.” With respect to renewable energy, he discussed cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels, nuclear energy, and carbon sequestration, but not solar, wind, or energy efficiency.

QUESTION: Mr. President, back to the oil price tax breaks that you were talking about a minute ago.

Back when oil was $55 a barrel you said those tax breaks were not needed, people had plenty of incentive to drill for oil. Now the price of oil is $100 a barrel and you’re planning to threaten a plan that would shift those tax breaks to renewables. Why, sir?

BUSH: I talk about some — some — of the breaks. This generally is a tax increase. And it doesn’t make any sense to do it right now. We need to be exploring for more oil and gas.

And taking money out of the coffers of the oil companies will make it harder for them to reinvest.

I know — they say, “Well, look at all the profits.” Well, we’re raising the price of gasoline in a time when the price of gasoline is high.

Secondly, we’ve invested a lot of money in renewables. This administration has done more for renewables than any president.

Now, we’ve got a problem with renewables, and that is the price of corn is beginning to affect food — cost of food and, you know, it’s hurting hog farmers and a lot of folks.

And the best way to deal with renewables is to focus on research and development that will enable us to — to use other raw material to produce ethanol.

I’m a strong believer in ethanol. This administration’s got a great record on it.

But it is — I believe research and development’s what’s going to make renewable fuels more effective.

Again, I repeat: If you look at what’s happened in corn out there, you’re beginning to see the food — the food issue and the energy issue collide. And so to me the best dollar spent is to continue to deal with cellulosic ethanol in order to deal with this bottleneck right now.

And secondly, the — yes, I said that a while ago — on certain aspects.

But the way I analyze this bill is it’s going to cost the consumers more money and we need more oil and gas being explored for, we need more drilling, we need less dependence on foreign oil.

And as I say, we’re in a period of transition here in America, from a time where we were — where we are oil and gas dependent to hopefully a time where we got electric automobiles, and we’re spending money to do that; a time when we’re using more biofuels and we take huge investments in that; a time where we’ve got nuclear power plants and we’re able to deal with the disposal in a way that brings confidence to the American people so we’re not dependent on natural gas to fire up our — you know, a lot of our utilities; and a time when we can sequester coal.

That’s where we’re headed for but we’ve got to do something in the interim. Otherwise we’re going to be dealing, as the man said, with $4 gasoline.

And so, that’s why I’m against that bill.

House Debating Oil-For-Renewables Package Today 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 27 Feb 2008 17:11:00 GMT

From the beginning of her tenure, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has attempted to pass legislation cutting billions in tax breaks and royalty payments to oil and gas companies to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The legislation has died twice by a single vote in the Senate – in December as part of the energy bill (H.R. 6), and three weeks ago as part of the economic stimulus legislation (H.R. 5140).

House leadership announced plans to immediately reintroduce the legislation as a standalone bill, named the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008 (H.R. 5351).

Debate on the bill is now taking place, with a final vote scheduled for some time after 3 PM EST.

Update: HR 5351 passed by a roll call vote of 236-182. 17 Republicans joined the Democratic majority; 8 Democrats (Barrow, Boren, Cuellar, Gene Green, Lampson, Melancon, Ortiz, Rodriguez) voted against passage.

CRS summary:
Extends: (1) the tax credit for production of electricity from renewable resources through 2011; (2) the energy tax credit for solar energy and fuel cell property through 2016; (3) the special rule for treatment of gain from electronic transmission transactions by certain electric utilities through 2009; (4) the tax credit for residential energy efficient property expenditures through 2014; (5) the tax credit for alternative fuel vehicle refueling property expenditures through 2010; (6) the tax credit for biodiesel and renewable diesel used as fuel through 2010; (7) the tax credit for nonbusiness energy property expenditures through 2009; and (8) the tax deduction for energy efficient commercial buildings through 2013.

Allows new tax credits for: (1) investment in new clean renewable energy bonds and qualified energy conservation bonds; and (2) the production of plug-in hybrid motor vehicles, cellulosic alcohol fuel, and electricity from marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy sources.

Revises the definition of “passenger automobile” for purposes of the limitation on depreciation deductions.

Allows a tax exclusion for bicycle commuting reimbursements.

Revises certain tax incentives for investment in the New York Liberty Zone.

Revises tax credit amounts for certain energy efficient household appliances produced after 2007.

Allows a five-year recovery period for the depreciation of qualified energy management devices.

Places limits on the tax deduction for income attributable to the domestic production of oil, natural gas, and any related products.

Revises tax rules relating to foreign oil and gas extraction income and foreign produced fuel used or sold outside the United States.