Time to Roll Back Oil Company Tax Breaks as Cost of Spill Racks Up

By: JAY REEVES, MIKE BAKER, JULIE PACE & GARANCE BURKE - Associated Press Writers
By: JAY REEVES, MIKE BAKER, JULIE PACE & GARANCE BURKE - Associated Press Writers

President Barack Obama says it's time to roll back "billions of dollars in tax breaks" for oil companies and use the money for clean energy research and development.

Obama spoke to an audience at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh Wednesday as the broken oil well in the Gulf of Mexico continued to spew oil unchecked.

He said the catastrophic Gulf oil spill shows the country must move toward clean energy by embracing energy efficiency, tapping natural gas and nuclear power and eliminating tax breaks for big oil.

Obama said that the Gulf spill "may prove to be a result of human error, or corporations taking dangerous shortcuts that compromised safety," but that deepwater drilling is inherently risky and America cannot rely solely on fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley is angry about U.S. Coast Guard decisions he says have left parts of the Gulf Coast vulnerable to pollution from the oil spill.

Riley told The Associated Press Wednesday that the Coast Guard wrongly decided to remove oil barriers from the Alabama and Mississippi coasts and take them to Louisiana when oil began hitting that state.

The governor says that decision means Alabama and Mississippi are now more vulnerable to the oil that's beginning to hit their shores.

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said earlier Wednesday the threat of oil was shifting east and that protective boom was being shipped there. He also says skimmer vessels would be working offshore to intercept as much oil as possible before it hits land.

Still, federal regulators have approved the first new Gulf of Mexico oil well since Obama lifted a brief ban on drilling in shallow water.

On Wednesday, the Minerals Management Service granted a drilling permit sought by Bandon Oil and Gas for a site about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

Obama has extended a moratorium on wells in deep water like the BP one that blew out in April and is gushing millions of gallons of oil. But the president quietly lifted a brief ban last week on drilling in shallow water.

The new permit allows drilling in a water depth of 115 feet. Bandon Oil and Gas first sought the permit in April, shortly after the Deepwater Horizon operated by BP exploded and sank.

However, Obama says the country's dependence on fossil fuels jeopardizes national security, the economy and the environment and must be ended.

The president said: "An America that runs solely on fossil fuels should not be the vision we have for our children and grandchildren."

Obama pledged to find the votes for Congress to pass a sweeping energy bill that's stuck in the Senate.

The president said that without a major change in energy policy America will continue to send money overseas for fuel.

Unfortunately, federal officials say cleanup costs for the catastrophic oil spill have topped $123 million.

That's more than the $121 million spent on the Exxon Valdez spill, though that amount hasn't been adjusted for inflation.

The National Pollution Funds Center says the money has been doled out to state and federal agencies directly involved in the cleanup. Those agencies include state National Guards, whose soldiers have built walls to protect shorelines from pollution, as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which projects the oil slick's trajectory.

Another agency is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which rescues oil-soaked birds.

The center administers a federal trust fund that collects a tax from the oil companies for use in cleanups.

©2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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