Stimulating a Senate Vote on Energy

Heating assistance for low-income families may get renewed attention.

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It now appears certain that Senate Democrats do not have the votes to pass their own version of an economic stimulus package, which would have contained $5.5 billion in tax breaks for wind, solar, and alternative energy. However, they are aiming to amend the bill piece by piece, forcing at least one vote on energy.

About 35 senators—including cold-state Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—have already voiced support for adding to the deal $3.6 billion in heating assistance to poor families. Without it, the increase in heating bills—especially in households that use oil—will eat up much of the taxpayer rebate. Such a move would more than double the $2.6 billion that now is in the budget for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. But it would bring the program up to the full funding level that Congress authorized in the 2005 energy bill.

It's uncertain whether there will be an effort to revive the renewable tax credits on the Senate floor. The renewable energy industry argues that it creates jobs, making the economic stimulus a fitting vehicle for the tax credits. But the stimulus bill may be moving too fast for renewables to get aboard.

energy policy and climate change

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