Monday, March 3, 2008

The Chamber and Their Captive Congressman

The U.S. House last Wednesday passed a bill to extend more than $17 billion in tax credits and other incentives to encourage the production of energy from solar, wind and other renewable sources, and to promote energy conservation. It was a bold step toward energy independence and a moral victory for protecting the environment by encouraging production of clean alternative fuels

Americans are currently being asked to pay twice -- once at the gasoline pump and again through tax subsidies to the oil companies that have been raking in record profits. The bill would be financed by ending corporate welfare tax breaks for the five biggest oil companies. Rescinding tax breaks would amount to less than 2% of the profits of the Big Five oil corporations. Even if the companies were to pass along that entire cost to gasoline consumers, it would amount to about a penny a gallon.

By extending tax breaks for wind and solar energy, the bill also would prevent the loss of 16,000 jobs linked to those fast-growing industries. The 30% investment tax credit for solar projects would be extended eight years for commercial customers and six years for residential customers. The legislation would also shift $2 billion into clean renewable energy bonds, which would help finance renewable energy investments by rural electric cooperatives. It would also expand tax credits for purchases of plug-in hybrid vehicles and repeal the Hummer loophole that gives tax breaks on sports-utility vehicles.

The bill passed by a vote of 236-182. Arkansas Democratic Congressmen Marion Berry, Mike Ross, and Vic Snyder supported the alternative energy bill. Only our local Republican John Boozman voted for the big oil companies that are gouging the people for record profits and against support for sustainable wind, solar, and conservation policies.

Boozman is a tool of the big corporations and their apologists at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. On the day before the vote, the Chamber sent Boozman a letter telling him that it "strongly opposes H.R. 5351, the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008," and "the Chamber also opposes the proposed modification of the foreign tax credit rules for oil and gas companies." Then they threatened, "The Chamber may consider votes on, or in relation to, this issue in our annual How They Voted scorecard."

That got the attention of this bought politician who cares more about the favor of big corporations than he does about the needs of people in his district, because John Boozman has taken 96.7% of his campaign funds from business interests and 73.9% of all his contributions are from their special interest political action committees in the 2007-2008 election cycle. He did as he was told.

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