Renewable energy bill ends 100-hours agenda

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

KAI RYSSDAL: Congressional Democrats are wrapping up their 100 hours agenda today. The House is set to vote on a bill that would end subsidies for big oil and invest that money. As much as $15 billion into a reserve fund for renewable energy.

Marketplace's Hillary Wicai has more from Washington.


HILLARY WICAI: The bill would scrap billions in oil industry tax breaks. It would also require renegotiation of certain deep-water drilling leases for the Gulf of Mexico.

The government made a big mistake when it negotiated those in the late 90s and stands to lose billions.

Tyson Slocum with Public Citizen says it's about time.

TYSON SLOCUM: You've got big oil companies that are set to extract valuable gas and oil from public land and they'll be paying little to no royalties. This is a great attempt at trying to fix that royalty mess so that taxpayers aren't getting fleeced.

Congressman John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia, summed up the crux of the Democratic argument: oil companies don't need government help.

JOHN LEWIS:It is time to end corporate welfare. It is time to take tax payer dollars back from the oil companies and use them to solve our energy problems.

The bill has some moderate Republican support, but other GOP members insist it's just a tax hike on the oil industry.

Congressman Don Young is a Republican from Alaska.

DON YOUNG:I ask my colleagues if the problem is foreign oil, and it is, why increase taxes and make it harder to produce oil and gas? That makes no sense to me.

The oil industry says a rollback of tax breaks will discourage new production.

John Felmy with the American Petroleum Institute says subsidies have made a difference.

JOHN FELMY: We've seen a massive increase in production of oil in the deep water of the Gulf that wouldn't have occurred otherwise.

It's not clear how the bill will eventually play out in the Senate.

In Washington, I'm Hillary Wicai for Marketplace.

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