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MT Energy Survey: Ditch the Oil and Gas “Tax Holiday”

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 By Deborah Smith/Elizabeth Grattan, Contact
October 24, 2008

Billings, MT – Montanans want wind and solar energy development rather then fossil-fueled or nuclear power plants. A new survey, for the Civil Society Institute and the Northern Plains Resource Council, found 72 percent of respondents say it's time to end the "tax holiday" for oil and gas producers, a step which would bring the state up to $60 million dollars extra yearly. The survey also found that, while coal-to-liquid production is often mentioned in Montana, most people don't want it in this state.

Beth Kaeding, with the Northern Plains Resource Council, says Montanans understand that it's an expensive technology, economically and environmentally.

"That's not only because of the impacts to the land where the coal is strip-mined, but also because of the amounts of water needed to turn coal into liquid fuel. Water in Montana is scarce."

About three Montanans out of four say it's time for the state to end tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. Doing so would not hurt oil and gas companies, according to Kaeding. Those companies, she says, are posting record profits at a time when school budgets are being depleted by rising energy prices.

"This money could be put to better use by Montana's school system. Montana's schools today are struggling to make ends meet."

Two-thirds of those surveyed said they would support a five-year moratorium on new coal plants if there were increased investment in renewable energy and conservation. That opinion was expressed by a majority across party lines. Only one-third of Montanans said independence from foreign energy means primarily focusing on more oil and gas drilling and on nuclear power.

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