WASHINGTON -- The Senate cleared the way Tuesday for a vote this week on a broad energy bill that includes more than $14 billion in tax breaks for both conservation and energy production.
The legislation had been before the Senate for close to six weeks, and Majority Leader Tom Daschle said it needed to be wrapped up. After several hours of negotiations with Republicans, he announced agreement to move ahead with a final vote, probably Thursday.
The Senate voted 86-13 to end debate Thursday on the 580-page bill. While a handful of amendments -- some controversial -- remained to be considered, the bill is expected to be approved. Afterward, it would have to be merged with energy legislation already approved by the House.
Senators from California and New York waged a last-ditch attempt Tuesday to remove from the Senate bill a provision that would require a tripling of ethanol use in gasoline. Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Charles Schumer of New York argued the ethanol mandate will produce gasoline shortages and price increases of 7 cents to 9 cents a gallon. Daschle, D-S.D., whose state would benefit substantially from the ethanol provision, called the price impact claims "dead wrong ... a myth." He cited Energy Department estimates that the ethanol would add no more than a penny a gallon onto the cost of fuel.
The energy bill had been on the verge of unraveling earlier in the day over an attempt to include a permanent repeal of inheritance taxes as part of the legislation. But Daschle defused the issue by agreeing to take up the matter this summer in other legislation.
Senators then agreed to add the $14 billion energy tax provision, which includes tax breaks for insulating homes and buying fuel-efficient hybrid electric-gas vehicles and benefits to help a wide range of energy producers.
Among major tax breaks in the Senate bill are:
$4.4 billion for oil and gas producers.
$3.2 billion for electric utilities that develop clean coal technologies and for nuclear power plants.
$4 billion to encourage energy conservation and efficiency and use of alternative fuels in vehicles.
$2.3 billion to encourage development of renewable fuels including wind, solar, geothermal and biomass sources.