The only thing that's startling about this is that people are startled:
Size of Proposed Tax Breaks in Energy Bill Startles Experts
Policy analysts across the political spectrum yesterday denounced the energy bill that Republicans in Congress hope to push to approval this week, saying it represented micromanagement of the economy and would open vast new opportunities for tax cheating.
Many experts said they were taken aback by the size of the proposed breaks, estimated by Capitol Hill staff members at $25.7 billion over 10 years. That is more than three times the $8 billion in tax incentives that the Bush administration said last year in a letter to Congress that it wanted for energy producers....
Energy companies would receive three-fourths of the incentives, or $17 billion, with provisions intended to encourage developing oil, gas, coal and nuclear power....
--New York Times
OK, maybe this rises to the level of "startling": Some of the tax breaks are, basically, on the honor system.
In most instances, utilities could simply declare their eligibility for breaks, and the Internal Revenue Service, which is battling a growing tide of corporate tax cheating, would have at most three years to identify scofflaws. No money for additional enforcement would be provided.
Oh, and (not startling) the bill gives businesses a tax break you could get -- but won't:
The measure would also grant substantial relief from the corporate alternative minimum tax, which seeks to assure that all profitable companies pay taxes and which companies widely denounce as unfair. Congress has for years resisted taking similar steps on individuals' alternative minimum tax, which as middle-class taxpayers' incomes increase can deny them the standard deduction and personal exemptions for themselves and their children.
Liberal groups, naturally, find all this sleazy and irresponsible, the article says. The libertarians at the Cato Institute find it an affront to laissez-faire free-market principles. And plain old conservatives? Here's what apparently offends them most:
...Charli Coon, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group in Washington, said, "Congress should not be determining the energy winners and losers nor the appliance winners and losers."
"If people want to pay extra for an energy efficient appliance," Ms. Coon said, "they should," without tax credits' influencing their decisions.
Yup -- the bill throws a bone to ordinary citizens (you get a tax break if you buy an energy-saving fridge) and that's what Heritage's spokesperson singles out.