SCENARIOS-Obama October energy surprise before Nov election

Tue Oct 5, 2010 8:33pm GMT
 

 By Tom Doggett
 WASHINGTON, Oct 5 (Reuters) - The Obama administration could announce
several energy initiatives this month to try to influence the mid-term
congressional elections on Nov. 2.
 An October surprise on energy policy could help Democrats keep
congressional seats, especially in the House of Representatives, where
Republicans have a chance of taking majority control.
 It would also show voters that the administration is taking some action on
energy issues after Congress failed to pass a  comprehensive climate change
bill this year.
 The following energy initiatives could be viewed as positive to local
voters, with the White House hoping it would tip the vote toward Democratic
candidates in close races.
 ENDING OFFSHORE DRILLING MORATORIUM EARLY: LIKELY
 U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar could announce he's lifting the ban
early on offshore deepwater drilling that is set to expire Nov. 30. In place
since shortly after BP's massive oil spill, lifting the ban would bring hope to
thousands of idled rig workers and to the thousands of onshore workers who
support offshore drilling. This would help Gulf Coast Democrats although the
administration would still be vulnerable to criticism that it dragged its feet
on lifting the drilling ban that hurt local economies almost as much as the
spill.
 HIGHER ETHANOL BLENDED GASOLINE: LIKELY
 The Environmental Protection Agency could boost the amount of ethanol
allowed in gasoline to 15 percent from 10 percent. Having higher
ethanol-blended gasoline, known at E15, would appeal to corn growers because
most U.S. ethanol is made from corn, which would provide a boost to Midwest
Democrats in the nation's cornbelt.
 AWARDING ENERGY LOANS, GRANTS: SOMEWHAT LIKELY
 The Energy Department has billions of dollars left in alternative energy
grants and loan guarantees to award. Still on the list is Chrysler's loan
request for up to $8 billion to build more energy efficient vehicles. While
providing Chrysler with a multi-billion-dollar loan may not play well
nationally because it would be viewed as another government bailout, the
assistance would be welcomed at the local level in Democratic congressional
districts that have the company's vehicle assembly plants and parts suppliers.
 The department also has several pending loans requests for wind, solar and
biofuel projects. Awarding those loans could win over environmental voters who
were going to skip voting because they are upset with Democrats for failing to
get a climate change plan through Congress.
 RELEASING WINTER BILL PAYING FUNDS: SOMEWHAT LIKELY
 The federal government has a multi-billion-dollar fund to help low-income
people, the disabled and the elderly pay their heating and cooling costs. Obama
could release program money to the states so the funds will be in place and can
quickly be distributed to needy voters to help pay their winter heating bills.
(Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Alden Bentley and David Gregorio)





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