Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman on Thursday said he would oppose any plan that would seek to levy a tax on oil companies to help pay for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) this winter.
"That is not something that I would be in favor of. That would be the equivalent of some kind of windfall profits tax," he said during the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's fourth post-hurricane hearing exploring energy recovery efforts and needed policy changes.
He noted that LIHEAP is one of a number of initiatives that is being discussed "at the current time" by the White House. Bodman said he expects a proposal to be issued in the "relatively near future."
LIHEAP, which has been funded mostly by the federal government, provides grants to states to assist low-income customers and senior citizens in paying their energy bills during the winter heating season.
The House has approved $2 billion for LIHEAP in fiscal year 2006, the same amount as sought by the White House, while the Senate so far has earmarked about $2.2 billion for the program. The House Energy and Commerce Committee late Thursday was considering increasing the House's allocation for LIHEAP by $1 billion as part of its budget reconciliation package. Energy industry representatives say the allocations fall far short of what will be required to assist the needy with the anticipated higher heating costs this winter.
In a related development on Capitol Hill Thursday, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) called on the executives of nine leading energy companies to contribute a portion of their quarterly profits to assist low-income customers and senior citizens in dealing with higher heating bills this winter.
Reed's plea came a day after the Senate rejected for a second time an amendment to provide additional funding for LIHEAP. The proposal would have provided $2.9 billion on top of the $2.2 billion already earmarked by the Senate.
Reed urged ExxonMobil Corp., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips, Sunoco Inc., Valero Energy Corp., Marathon Oil Corp., Amerada Hess Corp., Tesoro Corp. and CITGO Petroleum Corp. to contribute to the LIHEAP program this winter.
"Energy companies are earning record profits this quarter. Therefore, we urge you to act as good corporate citizens and invest earning profits into programs, such as fuel funds, that will provide energy assistance to low-income Americans," he said.
"U.S. oil companies' profits for the first nine months of this year increased by more than 35% over last year. Contributing just 10% of your company's profits to assist low-income families faced with high energy burdens will have a substantial impact this winter."
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