Welch supports repealing tax breaks for oil companies

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(Host) The U.S. House on Wednesday approved a measure that repeals tax breaks for oil producers and encourages renewable fuels.

Todd Zwillich has this report from Washington.

(Zwillich) The bill passed by the House cuts about $18 billion in tax breaks enjoyed by oil companies and spends most of the money on tax breaks and other incentives for renewable fuels. Democrats, like Vermont’s Peter Welch, said the bill was designed to help move the U.S. away from fossil fuels.

(Welch) "Are we going to embrace and alternative energy policy that is going to allow us to (a) protect our environment, (b) to create jobs and (c) to give us much more flexibility and independence in foreign policy. This legislation is a step along the road of a new energy policy and a new future for this country."

(Zwillich) The political motive for Democrats was also strong. Exxon posted a record $41 billion in profits last year, even while oil companies enjoy government tax breaks.

Seven Republicans voted for the measure. Congressman Don Young was not among them. He’s from the oil-drilling state of Alaska.

(Young) "The American public better wake up. If this bill was to become law, you have much higher prices at the gas tank. There’s no solution here. We have to recognize our economy is based upon fossil fuels and will be for a hundred years."

(Zwillich) Earlier this week the Vermont Senate passed a wide-ranging bill promoting renewable energy and home heating efficiency in the state. Welch argued both bills could offer a boost to the renewable energy industry.

(Welch) "The bill that we pass today will partner with that bill, and work its way through the Vermont legislature providing tax incentives that will stimulate a growing market in the state and all around the country."

(Zwillich) House GOP whip Roy Blunt of Missouri dismissed the bill as a political maneuver.

(Blunt) "This is the Congress that never gets tired of foregone conclusions. We’re voting for the fourth time on a bill that everybody knows couldn’t become law."

(Zwillich) That’s because Senate Republicans likely have enough votes to block the bill, and President Bush opposes it.

For VPR News, I’m Todd Zwillich on Capitol Hill.

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