Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.
Despite encouraging news from the warfront, the U.S. economy remains on hold. Part of corporate America's response is to hold back on spending. So job creation, factory orders, industrial activity and sales of durable goods have been lagging.
But the nation's financial markets continue to anticipate a post-war recovery. Stock indices have strengthened as the war has progressed. And the nation's policy-makers appear to be intent on developing domestic sources of energy. To that end, Rural America may well play a key role. Some components of that effort, though, may generate as much controversy as energy.
Two weeks ago, the Senate appeared to have quashed the idea of drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge with a 52-48 vote. This week, the House Resources committee resurrected the measure. Linked with the proposition of drilling holes in ANWAR, was the thorny notion of waiving federal royalties for developing oil fields offshore of Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico. At the same time, the House Energy Committee approved a measure that would require gasoline refiners to use 5 billion gallons of ethanol each year by 2015.
Meanwhile, across the hall, the Senate Finance Committee, headed by farm-state lawmaker Charles Grassley, began work on a measure that would make tax credits available for the production of alternative energy. The credits would be applicable to wind, bio-diesel, methane, and ethanol. The bi-partisan Senate legislation further proposes that all the excise tax money paid by ethanol producers go directly to the Highway Trust Fund. Currently, the full amount is deposited in the government's General Fund where a small percentage is taken to pay for leaky underground storage tanks and the remainder is transferred to the Highway Trust Fund.