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US Senate rejects bid to end oil, gas industry tax breaks  

The bill would have funneled money saved by ending the subsidies to extend tax credits for wind energy, cellulosic and biofuels until January 1, 2014.

Credit:  Keith Chu, Platts, www.platts.com 29 March 2012 ~~

The US Senate Thursday rejected a bill that would have stripped billions of dollars’ worth of tax subsidies from oil and natural gas companies and funneled that money to renewable-energy producers.

The bill failed on a vote of 51-47. It needed 60 votes for approval.

The measure never had a realistic chance to pass, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Leader from Kentucky, said in a Senate speech ahead of the vote. He accused Democrats of raising the issue to score political points by railing against oil companies.

“For some reason they thought they’d put some political points on the board this week if the American people saw them voting on a tax hike that they knew didn’t actually have the votes to pass,” McConnell said. “None of this makes sense to me, but that’s how the Democrats have chosen to run this place.”

Republicans, though, on Monday voted with the Senate’s Democratic majority to allow debate on the bill, to put the focus on Democrats proposing to raise taxes on oil companies at a time of high gasoline prices.

The bill (S. 2204), sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, was the latest in a string of efforts by Democrats to eliminate about $2 billion in annual tax benefits for the largest integrated oil and gas companies. The benefits include foreign tax credit rules, certain allowable deductions and Outer Continental Shelf and deep gas royalty relief.

The bill would have funneled money saved by ending the subsidies to extend tax credits for wind energy, cellulosic and biofuels until January 1, 2014. It would also have reinstated expired tax breaks for biodiesel and renewable diesel, refined coal and energy efficient homes and appliances through the end of the year.

In a speech just ahead of the Senate vote, President Barack Obama said tax subsidies and high gas prices amount to a double hit to US taxpayers, and called for Congress to pass the bill.

“You’re already paying a premium at the pump right now, and on top of that, Congress thinks it’s a good idea to send billions more of your tax dollars to the oil industry,” Obama said.

Source:  Keith Chu, Platts, www.platts.com 29 March 2012

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