Hillary urges tax on oil profits

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Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday called for a two-year tax on oil company profits to help amass $50 billion for the creation of an energy research fund, saying dependence on foreign oil weakens national security.

“We need to reform our energy taxes so that large oil companies who reap huge benefits from unexpectedly high energy prices over the next two years will be required to pay a portion of their profits into the strategic energy fund,” the New York Democrat said while outlining her energy plan at the National Press Club.

Mrs. Clinton said the goal would be to cut the consumption of foreign oil in half by 2025, and that the repeal of oil company tax breaks also could generate money for the fund.

“Right now, instead of national security dictating our energy policy, our failed energy policy dictates our national security,” said Mrs. Clinton, a potential 2008 presidential candidate who is up for re-election this year.

Mark Kibbe, a senior analyst at the American Petroleum Institute, said the plan would repeat mistakes.

“Her proposals would wreak havoc on the economy,” Mr. Kibbe said. “With these forced investments, you’d be taking money out of the pockets of companies who are already making huge investments in research.”

Republicans said Mrs. Clinton does not speak with authority on the issue, citing her votes against legislation that would promote increased energy exploration, including drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

“Voting against meaningful legislation that would increase domestic production is harmful enough, but adopting the energy policies of the 1970s is a price Americans cannot afford,” said Republican National Committee press secretary Tracey Schmitt.

In a speech interrupted by two anti-war protesters, Mrs. Clinton showed a change in stance by proposing an increase in the production of ethanol, a fuel produced by corn, sugar and other biodegradable products.

Senate records show Mrs. Clinton has voted against the increased use of ethanol at least 17 times since 2002. Responding to a proposal that mandated increased ethanol use in 2002, Mrs. Clinton said: “Make no mistake about it, this is tantamount to a new gas tax.”

The promotion of ethanol is considered a standard move for presidential candidates because it is produced mainly in Iowa, an important state in the presidential nominating process.

President Bush has advocated the expanded use of E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline that can fuel some vehicles.

Security guards quickly hustled from the room the two persons protesting the Iraq war. Mrs. Clinton voted to authorize the war in 2002 and has been criticized for refusing to call for a quick pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq.

When asked whether she regretted backing a congressional resolution supporting the war, Mrs. Clinton said: “I regret the way the president used the authority he was given.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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