OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Oil tax breaks fight ends with whimper

Tomorrow's news today: President Obama will give a 10:45 a.m. Rose Garden speech "urging Congress to vote to end the billions in taxpayer dollars handed out to oil companies every year," according to the White House. Obama is slated to give examples of how those funds could be spent on alternative energy development.

State of play: What promised to be a high-profile clash over legislation to eliminate billions of dollars in tax breaks for the largest oil companies is likely to end quietly.

The Senate is expected to finally reject the legislation Thursday — an inevitable conclusion that Republicans dragged out in an effort to pummel Democrats over the bill.

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The legislation, authored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), would eliminate $24 billion in tax deductions for the largest integrated oil companies and extend several green-energy and energy-efficiency tax breaks.

Republicans strongly oppose the legislation, but backed a procedural motion Monday that enabled floor debate on the measure, betting that they could score political points by bashing Democrats for supporting the bill.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) cut the debate short Tuesday by blocking votes on a handful of amendments to the bill.

While lawmakers spent the week arguing about the bill, the floor debate fell short of the epic battle Republicans had been hoping for.

Republicans alleged that the bill would burden the oil industry and potentially raise gas prices, while Democrats argued that oil companies don’t need the tax breaks at a time when they’re making massive profits, painting Republicans as pawns of Big Oil.

Opponents of stripping the incentives have highlighted a March 2011 Congressional Research Service report that says a wide-ranging repeal of oil industry tax breaks could raise oil prices “on what would likely be a small scale.”

But a separate May 2011 Congressional Research Service report that analyzed legislation similar to the Menendez bill found that the repeal of five key oil-industry tax breaks would have little to no impact on gasoline prices.

NEWS BITES:

Senate hearing to delve into gasoline prices

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hear from the federal government’s top energy analyst Thursday as the panel delves into gasoline prices.

Howard Gruenspecht, the acting head of the Energy Information Administration, will be among the witnesses at the hearing on current and near-term gasoline prices and trends.

Others include Pulitzer Prize-winning oil historian and energy consultant Daniel Yergin.

Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) took to the floor Wednesday to make the case that while he supports U.S. drilling for energy security and other economic reasons, an expansion won’t bring down prices.

“[T]o suggest that some change in policy regarding domestic production is going to change the price of gasoline at the pump is just disingenuous,” he said. Check out Bingaman’s speech on oil production here.

EPA chief storms France for green talks

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson has traveled to France, where she's meeting with environmental leaders from dozens of nations to discuss urban sustainability and represent the United States at Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development talks.

“During the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Environment Policy Committee's ministerial meeting, Administrator Jackson will represent the United States in discussions about the upcoming Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, and talk about ways in which the environment committee can support the global conference's efforts,” EPA said in an advisory.

House panel to look at military’s energy program

A House Armed Services Committee panel will gather Thursday to hear from Pentagon officials heading military efforts to expand the use of alternative energy and efficiency.

The hearing is titled “What is the Price of Energy Security: from Battlefields to Bases.” More info here.

Studies link extreme weather, climate change

The Washington Post unwraps two new reports — including one from the United Nations’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — that look at the nexus between wild weather and climate change.

From their piece:

“Scientists are increasingly confident that the uptick in heat waves and heavier rainfall is linked to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, posing a heightened risk to the world’s population, according to two reports issued in the past week.”

Interior to assess areas off Atlantic coast for future leasing

The Interior Department said Wednesday it would conduct seismic and offshore surveys along the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic coasts to determine assess the potential for renewable and oil-and-gas development in the region.

The plan, included in a draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, was first outlined in a draft five-year oil-and-gas leasing unveiled by the administration last year.

“As we move forward with the safe exploration and production of our domestic energy supply, this environmental analysis will help provide the critical information we need to make smart decisions in the Mid- and South Atlantic,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.

“Making decisions based on sound science, public input, and the best information available is a critical component to this Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy.”

Read more about the plan here.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

Here's a quick roundup of Wednesday's E2 stories:

- White House: No decision made on tapping emergency oil stockpiles
- Interior approval brings Shell closer to drilling in the Arctic this summer
- EPA official won't rule out issuing climate rules for existing power plants
- House panel OKs subpoena of Obama administration over drilling report
- Poll: Obama receives low marks on efforts to reduce gas prices

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