Retirement Funds at Stake in 'Clean Energy' Bill, Conservatives Warn

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

( - A vote to raise taxes on domestic energy production will not only increase America's dependence on foreign oil, it also will lower the value of millions of Americans' retirement funds by sending oil companies' stock prices lower, a taxpayer watchdog group is warning.

Americans for Tax Reform said it will consider a vote for the Clean Energy Act of 2007 (H.R. 6) to be a vote for a tax increase. The House is expected to vote on the legislation Thursday.

"Almost all large oil and gas companies are publicly-traded entities, whose shares are owned by millions of investors through their 401(k) plans, retirement plans and pension funds," ATR said on its website. "Taxing away the earnings of those companies negatively impacts the ability of hard-working Americans to achieve a more financially secure future."

Moreover, a vote for H.R. 6 will violate ATR's Taxpayer Protection Pledge, signed by 197 House members and 43 senators, the group said.

In signing the pledge, lawmakers have promised to "oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits," unless those scaled-back deductions and credits are matched dollar-for-dollar by lower tax rates.

ATR said H.R. 6 "clearly violated the pledge," because it eliminates certain tax deductions without an offsetting tax cut somewhere else.

ATR noted that the bill - in effect, a tax hike on oil and gas companies -- "simply takes the increased revenue and shifts it into a fund dedicated for new pork-barrel spending: namely, an all-new "Strategic Energy Efficiency and Renewable Reserve," which supposedly would invest in alternative energy.

ATR said it will be watching the votes of lawmakers who signed its Taxpayer Protection Pledge, including Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), Rep. Ben Chandler (D- Ken.), Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.), and Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.).

"Fifteen days into the 110th Congress, tax and spenders are already trying to shove a tax hike down our throats," said ATR President Grover Norquist. "I don't think this was the bold 'change' Americans voted for," he added.

Americans for Tax Reform quoted the Wall Street Journal as saying that the biggest beneficiary of the Democrats' Clean Energy Act would be OPEC:

"This is a lengthy, complicated bill, the Wall Street Journal said, "but the central idea is simple: Raise taxes on domestic oil producers and then spend the money to subsidize ethanol, solar energy, windmills (so long as they're not on Cape Cod), and so on.

"But if you increase the cost of domestic oil production by $10 billion, you are ensuring that U.S. imports of OPEC oil will rise and domestic production will fall," the newspaper said on Wednesday.

Subscribe to the free daily E-Brief.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.