Oil company tax break can be better spent
The U.S. House has voted to eliminate a tax break for oil companies and use the revenue for renewable energy incentives.
A veto threat from the White House and opposition from Senate Republicans could choke off incentives for further development and production of renewable energy just as Hawaii businesses and government agencies have begun to move increasingly toward clean energy projects.
If a bill passed by the House doesn't win approval, $18 billion in tax credits for commercial solar, wind, wave and other renewable ventures and residential solar credits will expire by year's end.
The principal objection from the Bush administration and Republicans is that the incentives would be financed by rescinding a tax break to the five biggest oil companies whose huge profits have notched records recently. They contend that eliminating the breaks would discourage oil exploration and increase consumer prices.
Oil companies need no encouragement to explore for oil, not when the price of crude reaches new highs nearly every week; consumers will see fuel costs rise one way or another. Moreover, taxes the companies would pay constitute roughly 1 to 2 percent of their net profits over 10 years.
The House has pushed similar legislation -- prudently spending neutral -- three times in the past year, only to have it thrown out in the Senate where Republicans have blocked passage through procedural votes. Meanwhile, the administration remains adamant about tax shields for the companies.
The incentives have generated tens of thousands of jobs in growing renewable energy industries at a time when new employment and manufacturing businesses are needed. More important, they have helped pave the way toward a more secure energy future.
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