The Spokesman-Review

Opinion

Editorial: Labrador bill would be a big boon for Big Oil

A reasonable U.S energy policy must account for two truths.

First, fossil fuels will be depleted at some point, whether in 50 or 150 years. Second, by not placing a price on the environmental costs of carbon, the government is keeping oil costs down, which hinders the development of alternative energy sources.

A bill co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, ignores both truths while purporting to let free markets determine the winners and losers in the energy field. The congressman and his co-sponsor, U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., fail to understand that if we cannot accelerate the development of wind, solar, biomass and other emerging technologies, we’ll all be losers.

Labrador held a press conference on Thursday to tout his bill, which would eliminate all energy tax credits and then use the savings to lower taxes for corporations, which is his real agenda and the reason anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist was present.

We support an overhaul of the complex, inefficient federal tax code in the interest of lowering rates, expanding the base and raising revenue for deficit reduction. But we cannot abandon efforts to encourage alternative energy production. If tax credits aren’t getting the job done, then we need other strategies. This bill offers none.

Gone would be tax credits for: plug-in electric and fuel cell vehicles; alternative fuel and alternative fuel mixtures; cellulosic biofuel producers; electricity produced from renewable sources, including wind, biomass and hydropower; equipment powered by solar, fuel cells, geothermal or other specified renewable sources; advanced nuclear power generation credit; clean coal investment; enhanced oil recovery credit, and credit for producing oil and gas from marginal wells.

Are all of these efforts failing? The sponsors don’t make that case. They might as well rename it the Oil Industry Protection Act.

Labrador says the bill supports free-market principles, but tax credits are only part of the government’s involvement in energy. The bill would preserve other ways the tax code favors oil and gas industries. Carbon would remain unpriced, despite the scientific evidence of its long-term impact on the climate. Defense spending on “national interests” abroad (i.e., oil) would not be curtailed.

The Solyndra solar energy mess provides impetus for such a bill, but the oil industry has been rocked with political scandals throughout its history.

Congress needs to take the long view and encourage the development of alternative energy sources, or it risks ceding the field to other nations. The United States has already fallen behind because of its allegiance to traditional energy sources.

We will need fossil fuels far into the future, but we cannot look upon this as a simple marketplace competition. It’s not about picking winners and losers; it’s about having a reliable, cleaner energy supply when a finite source runs out.

To respond to this editorial online, go to www.spokesman.com and click on Opinion under the Topics menu.

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