Energy industry groups fight to keep tax breaks

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

The oil and wind power industries are both on the move, aiming to extend billions of dollars in tax deductions and credits that have come under fire during the presidential campaign and could possibly be on the chopping block this year.

Some governors are calling for the extensions of tax credits for wind and the oil and the  gas industry’s main lobbying groupis  launching an ad blitz to drum up support for extending tax deductions.

A bipartisan coalition of 28 governors from wind-heavy states is urging Congress to extend the Wind Production Tax Credit as part of their year-long push to prevent the credit from expiring.

“Due to the uncertainty that has resulted … we have begun to see a negative economic impact and loss of jobs in our states,” Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, chair of the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, said in a phone news conference on Wednesday, which was also attended by Oregon Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber, Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

“Nationally, wind energy drives about $10 to $20 billion a year in private sector capital investment and employs almost 75,000 Americans,” said Kitzhaber, vice chair of the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition.

The wind PTC is set to expire at the end of this year and has been opposed by House Republicans and conservative groups.

“We’re still providing a $5 billion special tax break each year for an industry that supplies just over 2 percent of our power,” said a joint letter from 88 conservative groups, led by the American Energy Alliance, which oppose the wind PTC extension.

“American consumers — not Washington lawmakers — should decide the future of American energy,” reads the letter, which was also signed by groups such as Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Action, the National Taxpayers Union, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Club for Growth.

The letter preceded an AEA ad campaign that launched on Wednesday that highlights nation-wide grassroots opposition to wasteful subsidies to wind energy industries which will additional $10 billion even if the wind PTC expires at the end of this year.

The oil and gas industry have also launched a media blitz of their own, aimed at securing support for extending industry tax deductions that will target Washington, D.C. and the energy-producing states of Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia — each of which has a Democratic senator up for re-election in 2014.

“We are taking every opportunity to engage with members of Congress about the peril of punitive taxes on the industry, especially when we are helping with jobs that the country so desperately needs,” said Brian Johnson, senior tax adviser for the American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas lobbying group.

“Our immediate focus is a continued educational campaign on the energy sector, how they contribute to economic growth, and looking at the bigger picture, how appropriate policies can help us do more,” he added.

During the presidential debates, both candidates expressed openness to ending billions in tax breaks for the oil industry.

“But, you know, if we get that tax rate from 35 percent down to 25 percent, why, that $2.8 billion is on the table,” Republican candidate Mitt Romney said during one debate. “Of course it’s on the table. That’s probably not going to survive you get that rate down to 25 percent.”

“The oil industry gets $4 billion a year in corporate welfare. Basically, they get deductions that those small businesses that Governor Romney refers to, they don’t get,” President Obama said in that same debate. “Why wouldn’t we want to eliminate that?”

FuelFix reports that, Obama’s 2013 budget proposed about $40 billion in tax increases over 10 years that focuses on large energy companies and independent producers.

“Americans deserve to hear about energy from energy producers,” Johnson said. “Energy is an engine of revenue for our nation. Eliminating our deductions is a tax increase and should be treated as such.”

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