Senate passes energy bill

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

The U.S. Senate has passed what it called a “winning” energy bill which had strong support from the business community. Other observers, however, believed it shortchanged renewable energy sources.

Senators slashed tax credits for utility companies that would permit them to buy renewable fuels. The bill would require production of up to 10 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources by 2019.

The move to reduce the tax credit was sponsored by Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.), representing an oil-producing state. Nickles claimed the requirement for renewable fuels would cost utilities tens of billions of dollars and that customers would ultimately pay the costs.

His amendment chops the price of the credit to 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour from a peak of three cents. It was approved on a voice vote.

The bill passed on a vote of 88 to 11. One important provision is repeal of the 1935 Public Utility Companies Holding Act. That move opens the door for mammoth utility monopolies spanning several states.

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