Schumer: Dems to Aim at Gas Prices

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    Sen. Charles Schumer says Democrats will come up with a plan to reduce gas prices and conserve more fuel in time for the summer.

    Senate Democrats this summer will roll out their recipe for dealing with high gasoline prices, emphasizing conservation and alternative energy to wean the nation off oil.

    The plan will come up sometime after the Memorial Day recess, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer told reporters Wednesday.

    “In June and July, we will be introducing legislation that will promote conservation, that will promote alternative energy and that will do many things to reduce the price,” said Schumer, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat. “That is a long-term issue.”

    He declined to offer specifics, although he noted that he and others have called for tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to put more oil on the market and reduce prices in the short-term.

    “But the only way that we’re going to get the price down at the pump — you know it and I know it — is by having a long-term plan to reduce our dependency on foreign oil and on the Big Five oil companies,” he said.

    Republicans have focused on pumping out bills that would increase domestic oil and gas production to help lower prices. House Republicans are set to approve three bills this month to expedite and expand offshore drilling.

    Schumer and four other Senate Democrats spoke Wednesday at an ExxonMobil gas station on Capitol Hill to make the argument that Exxon and the four other biggest oil companies should give up billions of dollars in annual tax incentives. The lawmakers stood in front of a sign promoting prices well over $4 a gallon.

    On Tuesday, Democratic leaders unveiled a plan that would repeal $21 billion in incentives for the five biggest oil companies over 10 years and use that money to help lower the federal deficit. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to hold a procedural vote on the measure May 18.

    “If that doesn’t pass, we are still going to try to make this part of our deficit reduction package,” Schumer said. He cited “widespread” support among Democrats for the plan.

    But Reid is unlikely to get the 60 votes needed to bring debate on the measure to a close, given opposition from many Republicans and oil-state Democrats.

    Democrats acknowledge that that bill would not lower gas prices, but they have rejected critics’ arguments that repealing the incentives would hurt production and raise prices. The Democrats point to the companies’ healthy first quarter profits as evidence that they don’t need the help.

    The heads of ExxonMobil, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Chevron and BP America are scheduled to defend the incentives at a Senate Finance hearing Thursday.

    This article first appeared on POLITICO Pro at 3:07 p.m. on May 11, 2011.