The great energy bill giveaway

Where is that $14 billion going anyway?

Published July 27, 2005 6:24PM (EDT)

Crony capitalism continues to be the defining characteristic of the Republican-dominated Congress and the Bush administration. In yet another instance of lavish, pork-barrel spending, negotiators from both the House and the Senate have agreed on the final details of an energy bill that includes billions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies for the energy industry. President Bush, naturally, is expected to sign the bill soon.

The Associated Press reports that a few billion dollars in tax breaks have been set aside for efficiency initiatives, conservation programs and renewable energy, out of a total of more than $14 billion to be paid out over the next 10 years. Most of the rest of those billions will go to the polluting energy industry.

The report notes that the nuclear industry "reaped major benefits," including $2 billion in "risk insurance" if there are permitting or regulatory delays in construction of six new nuclear power reactors. The nuclear industry also got loan guarantees for future reactors, including a green light for building a $1.25 billion next-generation power plant. Oil and gas producers did well, too. They got $1.5 billion in tax breaks for deep-well drilling. The coal industry and corn farmers also stand to benefit, as the energy bill's largesse dishes out juicy tax breaks and regulatory incentives for those industries too.

"This bill is simply a failure," Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Democrat and senior member of the energy committee was quoted in the New York Times. "It's a huge waste of money." The same Times article reports that "even advocates of the bill acknowledge that it will do almost nothing to reduce gasoline prices immediately." It goes on to note that a Senate plan to require utilities to increase their use of renewable fuels and a proposal to find ways to cut American oil use by one million barrels a day within 10 years were both scuttled in the negotiations. The final bill also neglects to address the subject of global warming and automotive mileage standards.

In what might be most symbolic aspect of the misguided bill, House and Senate conference participants approved a $250,000 study of "irradiated fuel" -- despite the fact that many had no clue what it was, according to the Associated Press.

Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Massachusetts, summed it up best in the Washington Post today: "This is a huge giveaway for the oil and gas industry. The bill just tips the American consumer and taxpayer upside down and shakes money out of their pockets. This bill is a historic failure."

War Room couldn't agree more, but perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. Considering that Bushs Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit was a gigantic windfall to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and Halliburton continues to receive plum contracts over in Iraq, the Bush administration and the Republican-controlled Congress have never been particularly shy about their relationship with their business cronies. It's high time they should be.

By J.J. Helland

J.J. Helland is Salon's editorial fellow in New York.

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