Senate Votes to Keep Oil Subsidies Instead of Renewable Energy Incentives

The Senate voted against another chance to eliminate tax breaks from oil companies and apply those funds to extend renewable energy tax incentives and to reduce the US deficit.

In a 51-47 vote, Sen. Robert Menendez’s (D-NJ) bill was voted down. Although a majority voted in favor of the bill, it needed 60 votes to pass because of a Republican filibuster, which has been used to defeat just about every bill since President Obama entered office.

Two Republicans – Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe from Maine voted to repeal the tax breaks. Four Democrats – Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu (LA), Ben Nelson (NB) and Jim Webb (VA) – voted against the bill.

Just an hour before the vote, President Obama weighed in asking that they approve the bill.

Republicans says eliminating oil subsides would further raise gas prices, but a Congressional Research Service study shows it would have little to no impact on gasoline prices.

Obama and Democrats say oil companies don’t need the breaks, especially when they’re earning sky high profits. Those funds are needed to encourage renewable energy, which, as a newer technology needs the breaks.

Senator Menendez, who called continuing oil industry tax breaks "insanity," says, "It’s time to use the money for things that actually make sense," like boosting clean energy technologies that provide alternatives to petroleum and help the U.S. become a leader in these industries.

Removing oil industry incentives would raise $24 billion over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, while extending renewable energy and efficiency incentives would cost $11.7 billion. 

"We ought to be supporting the clean energy entrepreneurs and American innovators who are developing ways we can reduce our addiction to oil, decrease pollution and improve our national security – not the giant oil conglomerates who are keeping us stuck in the past," says Scott Slesinger, legislative director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Why gas prices are high and will continue to rise:

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