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Energy/Environment

The Latest Energy Tax-Hike Disguise
Posted By: Pete Sepp - 02/10/11

What is it with Washington’s warped calendar anyway? Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, but a group of Senators apparently can’t wait until Halloween. How else to explain a recent letter from leading Senate Democrats, calling on House Republican leaders to end “taxpayer-funded handouts to big oil companies that add little to our economic or energy security” so as to “make a down payment toward reducing nation’s deficit.” We shouldn’t be fooled by the disguise of deficit reduction; what the Senators propose is a very ugly tax hike.

Almost no other area of policy sees the terms “subsidies” and “spending” mangled, mutilated, and otherwise misused than energy. The list of signatories to the letter, which include Sens. Bill Nelson and Bob Menendez, ought to provide the first clue that we’re in for a linguistic contortion act. These are the same sponsors of legislation in the 111th Congress to do away with two provisions of the Tax Code that are available to a wide range of industries – but only for U.S. oil and gas companies. The Section 199 domestic manufacturers’ deduction and the dual capacity tax credit are, respectively, aimed at creating jobs and offsetting taxes paid to other countries, and provide tax relief for companies throughout the economy.

Question: In what world do laws that thousands of businesses of all kinds use to offset liabilities from a burdensome corporate tax system become “subsidies” when a handful of those businesses develop oil and gas? The answer, apparently, is a world of the Senators’ own creation, where they decide which companies “making billions in record breaking profits” should get singled out for higher tax bills.

Next Question: In what world does raising the tax burden of an individual or a company become, in the words of the Senators, “a good first step towards cutting spending”? The answer, again, is a world only Washington can inhabit, where deciding not to take 100 percent of everything Americans earn is an “expenditure” that needs to be budgeted.

Several recent NTU posts on Government Bytes and elsewhere have exposed these follies of fiscal thinking, but a few points bear repeating:

  • Accepting for a moment the government’s flawed definition of “expenditure,” data from the Joint Committee on Taxation shows that so-called "big oil" receives only a fraction of the amount in energy-specific "tax expenditures" as compared to the renewables sector. Renewables are projected to receive an average of $12.5 billion in "tax expenditures" each year between FY 2009 and FY 2013, while major companies in the demonized American oil and gas industry are slated for less than a billion dollars. Where is the outcry among these Senators to “cut” the “budget” for renewables?
  • Last year a study estimated the economic costs of repealing the dual capacity and Section 199 provisions for oil and gas would total over 154,000 jobs lost in 2011 alone, not only in the energy sector but across the whole economy. Doing so would also result in more than $341 billion in lost U.S. economic output and over $68 billion in lost wages. So it’s puzzling that the Senators would want to proceed this way, especially since their letter states, “It defies common sense to cut programs that are creating jobs, helping jumpstart our manufacturing sector and strengthening the middle class …”

It’s one thing if Congress wants to revisit these provisions across the board in the name of tax reform that will cut rates. It’s quite another when lawmakers hide their high-tax agenda behind the mask of “deficit reduction.” Welcome to Halloween in Washington. Be afraid … be very afraid.

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Panel on Entitlement Reform, SOTU Analysis Covered in Latest Tab
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 02/02/11

Tab Insert

The National Taxpayers Union Foundation released the latest information on the President’s State of the Union speech this morning. Covered on CNBC, US News & World Report, and Investors Business Daily, the study authored by Senior Policy Analyst Demian Brady also appeared at the top of the Drudge Report. A part of the Foundation’s SOTU coverage, Brady examined the speech line-by-line to give taxpayers a cost of the President’s proposed agenda. Here are a few highlights:

  • 2011 SOTU Net Spending: $21.349 billion per year
  • 2010 SOTU Net Spending: $70.46 billion per year
  • Number of Spending Proposals: 15 (5 boost spending, 3 cut spending, 7 unknown spending impact)
  • Largest Spending Increase Item: “Investment” in transportation infrastructure ($50 billion)
  • Largest Spending Cut Item: Two-year extension of last year’s proposed three-year discretionary spending freeze (-$15 billion)
  • Highest NTUF Recorded SOTU Net Spending: President Clinton’s 1999 speech ($305 billion)
  • Lowest NTUF Recorded SOTU Net Spending: President Bush’s 2006 speech ($1 billion)

NTUF also announced the panelists who will speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference next week in Washington DC:

  • The Honorable Devin Nunes of the House of Representatives
  • Maya MacGuineas, President, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President, American Action Forum
  • Dan Mitchell, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute
  • Steve Moore, Wall Street Journal

The Taxpayer’s Tab included four newly scored bills in the 112th Congress:

  • HR 403, Homes for Heroes Act of 2011
  • HR 38, a bill to rescind funds appropriated to the Health Insurance Reform Implementation Fund under the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010
  • HR 27, Lumbee Recognition Act
  • HR 90, a bill to provide for federal research, development, demonstration, and commercial application activities to enable the development of farms tha are net producers of both frood and energy, and for other purposes.
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Tune into NTU's State of the Union Coverage tonight
Posted By:  - 01/25/11

Tonight at 9 p.m. EST, the National Taxpayers Union's crack government affairs and policy analysis teams will provide special online coverage of the President’s State of the Union Address, and we want you to be there and be a part of the discussion. We will be breaking down the President's proposals and what they will mean for taxpayers. Details on how you can join the conversation are below.

  • If you have a Twitter account, use the hash tags #NTUSOTU and #SOTU to link to our discussions and analyses. Hash tags are like keywords for Twitter. Just use them in each of your messages to link to the ongoing dialogue. Remember to also follow @NTU and @NTUF for all the latest commentary!
  • You can also log onto NTU’s Facebook page, where we will constantly update our newsfeed with links, comments, and memorable quotes. Be sure to join our page by clicking "Like"!
  • Even if you don’t have a Twitter of Facebook account, you can still share your thoughts and opinions by going to our special chat room. Join the chat here.
  • NTU will also be updating our blog, Government Bytes, as the night progresses. You can comment on each post as well! Just click on the “Post a Comment” link and speak your mind.

We look forward to seeing you online tonight at 9 p.m. EST!

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Obama Targets Oil and Natural Gas Industry
Posted By:  - 01/25/11

Here we go again:

I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own.

We know what this means: higher taxes! Many of you probably remember our ad campaign that we launched last year to fight the very taxes President Obama just promised.

In a blog post last September, NTU Executive Vice President explains what is at stake if proposed energy taxes are implemented into law:

"Congress is considering an extremely destructive 'double tax, through repealing a widely available credit that offsets taxes paid to other countries. However, this new “double tax” would apply only to energy providers here in the U.S. – meaning state-owned companies in countries like Venezuela and China will effectively receive a competitive edge over American firms. Ironically, even BP – the target of Congress’s ire over the Gulf spill – will gain a tax advantage. Also under consideration in the U.S. Senate is a repeal of Section 199 of the U.S. tax code, a manufacturers’ deduction, for only the oil and gas industry. The deduction allows companies to reinvest revenue into creating jobs and domestic economic growth."

And here are two of the letters we distributed in strong opposition to the tax hikes:

http://www.ntu.org/news-and-issues/health-care/job-killing-energy-tax.html

http://www.ntu.org/news-and-issues/health-care/full-repeal-1099.html

Clearly this issue isn't going away.

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Senators Oppose Higher Ethanol Blending Requirements
Posted By:  - 01/07/11

The Hill's E2 Wire is reporting that "A bipartisan coalition of senators are mounting increased opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to allow some vehicles to fuel up with higher blends of ethanol in their gasoline." 

Ethanol has been hanging around Washington for decades, but perhaps there's a sense now that it's time to put an end to it.

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Conservation Corps Scored at $16 Billion in Tab
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 12/14/10

Tab Insert

This week’s Taxpayer’s Tab covers a variety of legislation introduced during the 111th Congress, ranging from improving America’s small town infrastructure to eliminating sex-based pay-discrimination.

The 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps Act -- this week’s Most Expensive Bill -- would reestablish the Depression-era program at a cost of $16 billion each year. The Corps is intended to employ people, especially out-of-work veterans and people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits, by improving America’s parks and forests.

Be sure to check out the WildCard -- a bill to get kids and families outdoors through community program grants. You might be interested how much it costs…

The bills highlighted in Issue 23 of The Taxpayer’s Tab include:

  • HR 6456/HR4318, 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps Act
  • HR 6246, Rural Energy Communities Development Act of 2010
  • S 3772, Paycheck Fairness Act
  • HR 6426, Moving Outdoors in Nature Act of 2010
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Drilling Ban Reimposed
Posted By:  - 12/03/10

Back in October, I wrote about the Obama Administration’s move to lift its 6-month ban on deepwater drilling. While we were cautiously pleased with their decision, we had concerns surrounding the timeline and when oil rigs would actually be able to resume drilling. Operations were told that they would be subject to a permit review process, but the Interior Department has yet to approve a new permit.

Now, however…you ready for this?...the Obama Administration has implemented a 7-year drilling moratorium for the entire East Coast as well as the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico. This plan comes in spite of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s October announcement that safety risks had been significantly reduced.

This moratorium will inevitably lead to fewer jobs in an industry that employs or supports 9 million Americans and a trillion dollars of economic activity annually. Given today’s reports that unemployment rose to 9.8% in November, it is unfathomable for the President to authorize this devastating ban. How can Obama be serious about making jobs his number one priority when he’s acting to destroy them in a region that’s already suffered immensely throughout this economic crisis?

My other fear surrounding October’s so-called moratorium lift was that it would amount to nothing more than a political tactic to help vulnerable Gulf Coast Members of Congress in the mid-term elections. Was it? I’ll let you be the judge. But I think it’s certainly safe to say that we were right to be skeptical. We’ve seen these types of games played before.

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Muck Soil Conservation Bill Scored in Latest Taxpayer’s Tab
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 11/30/10

Tab Insert

NTU Foundation continues its research efforts with four new scored bills ranging the legislative spectrum. The Taxpayer’s Tab’s 21st installment also gives taxpayers a broad range of legislators from across the nation, from coast to coast and a few Midwest states.

One bill that got our attention this week was HR 6180, which would establish a muck soil conservation program. Muck soil is a top soil that is used in producing many agricultural products, from onions to celery. The legislation calls for $50 million to be spent in the first year in the form of state grants. Farmers who perform five requirements (mentioned in the Tab) would be paid up to $500 per acre to use the muck soil.

The latest Taxpayer’s Tab includes the following bills:

  • HR 6229/S 3595, Developing Innovative Partnerships and Learning Opportunities that Motivate Achievement (DIPLOMA) Act
  • HR 5780, Reduce and End our Deficits Using Commonsense Eliminations (REDUCE) in the Energy Program Act
  • HR 5893, Investing in American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010
  • HR 6180/S 3809, a bill to amend the conservation provisions of the Food Security Act of 1985 to promote the conservation and improvement of the soil, water, and wildlife resources of lands containing muck soils, and for other purposes

Throughout the week, NTUF will tweet summaries, spending report links, and updates concerning the latest Congressional research.

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Al Gore Comes Clean on Ethanol
Posted By:  - 11/22/10

Not certain why Al Gore chose a conference on green energy to come clean about corn-based ethanol, but better late than never.  He doesn't think that it's all that energy-efficient.  And, are you sitting down for this one?  He says that his support was driven, in part, by the desire to get the farm vote!  Shocking.  I am almost at a loss for words -- almost.

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NASA and Haiti Reforestation Acts Covered in Taxpayer’s Tab
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 11/17/10

Tab Insert

As legislators head into the Lame Duck session and taxpayers begin to make holiday plans, NTUF continues its efforts in bringing officials and citizens the most up-to-date potential spending picture.  

The latest edition of The Taxpayer’s Tab covers a wide range of topics and policy goals. One bill already signed into law is the NASA Authorization bill. Many have voiced their positions on whether space travel should remain in the realm of the government agency or privatized to let NASA focus on science and traveling to other planets. Budget hawks have cited the large bureaucracy and lack of direction shows NASA needs to be reformed. S. 3729 provides more money to NASA, on average $1.1 billion in the next three years, for more science, more encouragement of private rocket competition, and another shuttle mission.

Legislation covered in the new Taxpayer’s Tab includes:

  • S 3729/HR 5781, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010
  • S 3742/HR 2221, Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2010
  • HR 2103/S 987, International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009
  • S1183/HR 4206, Haiti Reforestation Act of 2010
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