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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Repeal energy bill to pay for Katrina

With Congress and President Bush faced with a pledge to rebuild the Gulf Coast areas destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, the debate is turning to finances.

The president says no to new taxes, and he still wants Congress to make his tax cuts permanent. So, he's suggesting spending cuts in current programs as a way to finance the $200 billion bill.

But like others in Washington, he's not willing to spell out where he would cut to slow the national debt that is nearing $8 trillion.

One place Congress could take a big chunk out of spending is to repeal the energy bill passed this summer. It was an unrealistic approach to a serious problem. It makes no sense to subsidize an industry that is taking in record profits.

Congress could roll back the $14.5 billion in tax breaks that go to energy companies as incentives to bring in new oil and gas fields and build more nuclear plants. Oil prices jumped to $63 a barrel the day Congress passed the bill, and today they are near $70.

The bill also exempts oil and gas producers from many provisions of the clean-water laws, which protect the public from corporate rape of the environment. The bill also opens the way for more consolidation of public utilities, thus lessening competition and ensuring higher prices.

The energy bill is one example of where Congress can find the money to pay for the rebuilding. There are others, too. But Congress must have the will to chase the lobbyists out of the Capitol and start cutting.

The president needs to remember the Yoga Bera-like comment he said in a radio address May 12, 2001, about energy.

"Over the long term, the most effective way to conserve energy is by using energy more efficiently."

He might try that same philosophy on spending and taxing and ask Congress to repeal the energy giveaways.

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