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Sticking it to the Man: Make Exxon pay for renewable energy!


When you start looking at economics, there's a tendency to become bound up in the endless series of twists and connections. Every little thing in the economy seems to be linked to every other little thing, which means that any change or attempt at improvement is almost guaranteed to have endless, almost unimaginably horrific repercussions. Sometimes, it seems like the only safe move is to do absolutely nothing.

That having been said, there is something in me that wants to applaud bold, brave actions. I want to see the government come up with brilliant, revolutionary solutions to economic problems. I want to see them fight the bad guys and help out the good guys. Part of me just wants to scream "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, and let's stick it to the Man!"

Okay, I'm going to calm down. However, I have to admit that, when I read about Congress' latest move, I wanted to jump up and applaud. You see, yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would give more than $17 billion in tax credits to companies that produce solar, wind, and other renewable forms of energy. Democratic leaders in the House immediately praised this as a step on the road to a cleaner environment and energy independence.

Of course, the first question is how those damn liberals intended to pay for this wonderful plan. After all, the Democratic congress has resolved to "pay as you go," which means that any new expenditures have to be balanced by comparable cuts.

So here's the sweet part: repulsed by the record-breaking profits that oil companies reported last year and the ever-increasing price of gas, the bill's framers propose to pay for these renewable energy credits by canceling the current tax breaks for oil companies. So there you have it: the House of Representatives is planning to fund alternative fuel programs by increasing taxes on oil companies.

Of course, gas companies and their legislative cronies are up in arms, claiming that this will reduce domestic oil production and raising the specter of the evil Hugo Chavez, arguing that cutting tax incentives to America's oil companies is a blow against freedom. Predictably, President Bush has already stated that he will veto this bill if it comes across his desk.

I really hope that this bill will make it through the Senate, leaving President Bush with the uncomfortable choice of abandoning the oil industry that has supported him for so long or openly fighting against renewable fuels. However, even if it doesn't get that far, I'm kind of excited to see an attempt at a bold solution to a major problem. Regardless of how this pans out, it's nice that increased federal support of alternative energy is a topic that's officially on the table.

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He got rid of his car last fall, but still hates the gas companies.

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