What's in the House offshore-drilling bill?
The House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday night that would relax the federal ban on offshore drilling and try to expand renewable energy. Here's a breakdown.
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• Repeal some $18 billion in tax breaks for big oil companies. In 2004, Congress enacted a provision that effectively lowered the corporate tax from 35 percent to 32 percent for manufacturers, engineering and architecture firms, Hollywood studios, and oil and gas companies. This bill would repeal this reduction for the so-called Big Five oil companies: ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell. Other oil and gas companies would continue to enjoy the reduced taxes. Additionally, the bill would eliminate a provision that allows US oil companies to claim tax credits for oil extracted abroad.Skip to next paragraph
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• Require oil companies to pay royalties avoided because of an Interior Department contracting error. In 1998 and 1999, theInterior Department issued more than 1,000 leases for deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and, to encourage development of these areas, offered a break from the usual 12 percent royalty. In issuing these leases, the Interior Department accidentally left out the standard escape clause that rescinds this break if prices climb higher than $34 per barrel. The omission was noticed in 2000, but nobody fixed the leases. Oil passed $34 a barrel in 2004, and in January 2007, investigators calculated that the government could have collected an additional $865 million.
• Offer renewable energy and efficiency tax credits. These credits would be covered by that $18 billion taken back from the oil companies, and would apply to solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas, hydropower, and other forms of renewable energy. The bill also includes credits for plug-in electric vehicles.
• Require utilities nationwide to generate 15 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2020. This would be slowly phased in, beginning with a 2.75 percent requirement in 2010 and gradually increasing each year until 2020.
• Offer tax breaks for improved building efficiency and strengthen efficiency standards for building codes. This bill requires new homes and commercial buildings to realize a 30 percent improvement in minimum building standards by 2010, and 50 percent by 2020.
• Offer tax breaks for companies that promote bicycles for commuting.
• Issue grants to reduce public-transportation fares and expand bus and rail service.
• Crack down on Minerals Management Service ethics violations. This is a response to the MMS ethics scandal that came to light last week. This bill would make it a federal crime for oil companies holding federal leases to offer gifts to government workers. The bill would also institute drug testing for MMS employees.
The bill faces a possible veto from President Bush. Also, the Senate is expected to take up an offshore-drilling bill this week – one that would open up less area than the House bill. The differences between these two bills will need to be reconciled before Congress sends a finalized bill to the White House.
The two chambers don't have much time: Congress is scheduled to adjourn Sept. 26.