Energy tax may be employed to fight deficit, Bentsen says

January 25, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration is considering a broad-based energy tax to reduce the federal deficit and to conserve energy uses, according to Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd Bentsen.

Mr. Bentsen also said yesterday that, despite his past support for a gasoline tax, the new administration has not yet decided on that option.

"When you do a gasoline tax, you also end up with some inequities insofar as different regions of the country," he said, speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Many believe that the economy would benefit from so-called consumption taxes that make it costly for the nation to consume more than it produces, he said.

"I think that the general consensus among most economists is that we'll be moving more in that direction in the future," he said.

A broad-based energy tax "raises revenue [and] helps lead to some environmental objectives that we are trying to bring about by conservation of the use of energy," he said.

"At the present time, we're importing almost a billion dollars a week of oil and that certainly adds to our trade deficit . . . ."

Compared with specific taxes -- such as those on gasoline and oil imports, for example -- broader forms of energy taxes could mean taxing all forms of energy, either by levying a sales tax or by taxing the heat content of each fuel, measured in British thermal units.

Mr. Bentsen did not specify what approaches the administration is contemplating.

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., Mr. Bentsen's successor as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, agreed that an energy tax is likely.

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