The Hill: Alaska senators press White House on energy

Alaska's senators both criticized President Obama's energy policy this week - one gently, the other, not so much.

Sen. Mark Begich (D), in a letter to Obama Tuesday, urged him to "reconsider" proposals in the fiscal year 2011 budget request that would repeal billions of dollars in tax incentives for oil producers. The oil industry is a major part of Alaska's economy.

"These important incentives have been part of our tax code for decades, and their repeal threatens American jobs and domestic energy production at a time when we need them both," Begich writes.

That was the only criticism -- elsewhere the letter urges Obama to support provisions in Senate energy legislation aimed at spurring construction of a long-delayed pipeline to bring Alaskan natural gas to markets in the lower 48 states. It also praises Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for doing an "excellent job" managing Alaskan offshore areas.

Begich's colleague, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), was tougher on the White House this week.

Murkowski took to the Senate floor Thursday and made lengthy remarks alleging the White House fiscal year 2011 budget request doesn't match Obama's pledges of support in the State of the Union speech for nuclear power and oil-and-gas development.

"During his State of the Union Address, the President called for tough decisions to be made regarding new development. I had actually hoped he meant that his agencies were preparing to push forward with a plan that would allow America to develop more of its resources," said Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

"But it appears I was mistaken. Instead of seeking to increase production, the budget request includes at least 21 new taxes and fees for the oil, natural gas, and coal industries - 21 new taxes and fees. Collectively, these increases would raise producers' costs of business by an estimated $80 billion," she added. "That is going to translate into higher energy costs for consumers, fewer jobs for the American people. We cannot forget what basic economics tells us: When you tax something, you get less of it. So we will probably become even more dependent on foreign energy as well."

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Source: By Ben Geman. Originally published by in The Hill on February 12, 2010.