Vitter asks OMB to detail energy revenues vs. spending, tax breaks

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), the ranking member on the Environment and Public Works Committee, has asked the Office of Management and Budget to calculate how much revenue the government receives from various energy sources — such as oil and gas revenues — compared to what it spends through grant programs and tax benefits to energy providers.

Vitter’s letter to OMB Director Sylvia Burwell presents several arguments on behalf of fossil fuels, saying those sources generate more revenue for the federal government and receive less support on a per-unit-of-energy basis than renewable energy. But Vitter said an updated accounting from OMB is in order.

For example, he contrasted a recent proposed lease sale for solar energy development on public lands that attracted zero bids with an offshore drilling lease sale that brought in more than $145 million.

“It’s important to look toward the success stories that will bring stability and create jobs, especially from domestic energy production,” Vitter said in a statement. “But in order to gain a clear perspective, we in Congress and the American public need to see the latest numbers that the Administration is using to justify its major energy policy decisions. We need to better understand which energy sources help bring in revenue and which ones are costing the government and taxpayers. My request to OMB will help us to do just that.”

The letter requests a variety of figures outlining lease payments, bonus bids, royalties and other sources of revenue paid by oil, gas, coal, wind, solar and other forms of energy. The senator also requested figures on what has been paid via tax benefits or grants to renewable sources

Vitter also asked for the top 15 companies or venture capital firms that received grants, loans or subsidies for renewable energy projects under President Obama.

The request comes ahead of potential debate over tax reform that could have wide-ranging impacts on the energy industry. Among the key issues likely to be addressed in the next year are the fate of the production tax credit, which expires in December, and a decision on whether to continue providing lucrative permanent benefits to the oil and gas industry, including their ability to deduct “intangible drilling costs.”