Hillary Clinton may want some of the comments she made in Vegas to stay in Vegas.
During a televised MSNBC debate, the New York senator, who voted against the Energy Policy Act of 2005, called the law a "Dick Cheney lobbyist energy bill" that gave enormous tax breaks to the oil and gas industry. As president, Clinton said she would invest $50-billion in clean, renewable energy.
"So that 2005 energy bill was a big step backwards on the path to clean, renewable energy," said Clinton. "That's why I voted against it. That's why I'm standing for the proposition — let's take away the giveaways that were given to gas and oil, put them to work on solar and wind and geothermal and biofuels and all of the rest that we need for a new energy future."
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who voted for the bill in 2005, had a different view.
"Well, the reason I voted for it was because it was the single largest investment in clean energy — solar, wind, biodiesel — that we had ever seen," Obama said.
While the Energy Policy Act of 2005 did give the oil and gas industry tax breaks and incentives to boost production, the law also mandated 7.5-billion gallons of ethanol and other biofuels to be blended into gasoline by 2012 — the largest such mandate ever enacted and one widely credited with sparking an ethanol plant construction boom across the Midwest. The law also funneled hundreds of millions of dollars toward biomass research and the production of biofuels derived from the leaves, stems and stalks of a plant rather than corn kernels used to make ethanol.
"It obviously wasn't (a step backward)," said Matt Hartwig, spokesman for the Renewable Fuels Association. "It created a meaningful market for renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel."
Clinton's comments are particularly interesting given that she returned to Washington from the campaign trail last month to vote for the passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act. The 2007 energy law raises fuel economy standards for the first time in 32 years and requires production of billions of gallons more ethanol and biofuel.
But Senate Democrats, facing a veto threat from the White House and opposition from oil-state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, did not succeed in rolling back oil and gas industry tax breaks to pay for $21.5-billion in incentives for alternative energies such as solar and wind. Obama voted for the bill, too.
Rolling back tax breaks for the oil and gas industry in this Congress, and with this administration, is as likely as winning big in Vegas. Clinton's best chance will come if and when she moves into the Oval Office. And despite being right when it comes to the 2005 Energy Policy Act's treatment of the oil and gas industry, we find her assessment of its impact on renewable energy False.