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Senate Conservatives Vote to Keep United States Hooked on Oil

Senate Conservatives Vote to Keep United States Hooked on Oil

Senate Republicans blocked the Energy Bill today, and with it the path toward cleaner cars and a lower-carbon economy, says Dan Weiss.

For the second time in a week, Senate conservatives voted today to continue America’s oil addiction by blocking the cure: better fuel economy standards and more renewable fuels. A bipartisan majority of 59-40 voted to consider the Energy Independence and Security Act, but a determined minority once again stood in the way of change.

Drivers are facing gasoline prices that are one-third higher than last year, yet Senate conservatives blocked the bill to protect big oil tax loopholes worth an average of $1.2 billion per year over the next decade. Big oil, of course, has made a half trillion dollars in profits since 2001 and the big five oil companies have already made a combined $90 billion profit just during the first three quarters of 2007—75 times more than the average annual value of the loopholes.

Bush himself said in 2005: “I will tell you with $55 oil we don’t need incentives to oil and gas companies to explore.” Yet two and a half years later oil has soared to $90 a barrel, and not only are some senators ignoring this advice, Bush himself is threatening to veto the bill if the tax breaks are not restored.

The energy bill would help America begin to curtail its oil habit. When fully implemented, the 35 miles per gallon average standard for cars and light trucks would reduce oil use by over one million barrels daily and save drivers $22 billion annually by 2020. Had the standards been fully in effect in 2006, America would have used 2.5 million fewer barrels of oil every day and drivers would have saved $90 billion in lower fuel costs.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid already acceded to Senate naysayers’ demand to remove the renewable electricity standard from the energy bill, even though a majority of senators supported it. The standard would have saved consumers at least $13 billion in lower electricity bills by 2020, and created tens of thousands of jobs in the renewable energy industry.

But blocking wind and solar power was not enough. Many of these stubborn senators also wanted to protect big oil’s tax breaks and keep the United States dependent on oil. Today they succeeded. Hopefully, Senate conservatives will stop enabling our dependence on oil and give consumers a break by voting for the energy bill next time.

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Daniel J. Weiss

Senior Fellow