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Senate rekindles Vestas tax issue; Federal credit extension reappears in oil subsidies fight

The federal wind power tax credit sought by Vestas and other wind turbine manufacturers is back in the Senate for action, but it’s probably on another doomed course as part of a Democratic bill to cut $25 billion in subsidies to major oil companies.

Senate Democrats and Republicans agreed Monday to bring the oil legislation up for debate Tuesday because both saw it as a prime opportunity to blame the other for rising gasoline prices. The measure will come up for a formal vote on Thursday, but it needs 60 votes to be approved – an unlikely result given the tough partisan division in the Senate.

Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, are trying to get the wind power tax credit extended for another year because Vestas has four plants in the state, including Pueblo, and has warned it could lay off as many as 1,600 workers without the extension.

“Rising energy prices and the pinch that families are experiencing as a result are a reminder of why we need affordable, secure and clean energy to power our economy,” Udall said in a statement Thursday.

“Wind power now supports 6,000 jobs in Colorado alone, but we are at risk of losing them every day we delay this extension,” Bennet said.

Despite their efforts, and those of Republican senators who support wind power, the tax credit has been blocked, rejected or ignored in the few major pieces of legislation that have passed the Senate this year.

The oil subsidies bill is sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. It would pay for a series of alternative energy tax credits – including wind power – by cutting off $25 billion in tax subsidies to the largest oil companies over the next 10 years.

Republicans have worked hard for months to link higher gasoline prices to President Barack Obama and Democrats, so they willingly agreed with Democratic leaders to let the Menendez bill come to the floor on Tuesday.

Showing the way, Sen. Paul Ryan, R-Ky., went after the administration in his floor speech, saying the White House didn’t understand the economics of gasoline pricing.

“Passing this bill will mean raising gasoline prices for Americans by $25 billion,” he said. “You can’t raise taxes on these (oil companies) because they’ll just pass the cost to consumers.”

On the other side, Menendez told reporters that every dollar of higher gasoline prices brings the oil companies another $375 million in profits.

“I think the American people are sick and tired of paying ridiculously high gasoline prices at the pump and then paying big oil again with our collective taxpayer subsidies,” he said.