SCENARIOS-Obama October energy surprise before Nov election
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)