Congress Could Pass Renewable Energy Tax Credits This Week

WASHINGTON, DC, September 22, 2008 (ENS) - There is an old saying, said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus on Thursday, "If it were not for the last minute, a lot of things would not get done. Well, God willing, we are nearing the last minutes of this Congress. And, God willing, we are close to getting a lot of things done."

One thing that the Senate is expected to accomplish quickly this week, before Congress recesses for some election campaigning, is pass an extension of tax credits for renewable energy, including residential and commercial solar projects.

Then the plan is to send it quickly to the House of Representatives where the solar industry hopes it will pass quickly without changes before the final gavel bangs on Friday. Then the bill can go to President George W. Bush for his signature.

If this speedy trip through the legislative process does not happen, the renewable energy tax credit will expire at the end of December.

Although bills to extend the tax credit have failed the last eight times they were introduced, it appears that this ninth time Senate Democratic and Republican leaders have agreed on a compromise. The Baucus-Grassley Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 (H.R. 6049) would extend clean energy tax incentives and be fully offset by incoming revenues.

Solar energy investment tax credits would be extended for eight years, for both commercial and residential, and the $2,000 cap would be completely eliminated for residential installations.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, says his state will benefit if this tax credit extension is enacted.

"Nevada will benefit particularly from the eight-year extension of credits for residential and commercial solar projects." said Reid. "The agreement will create tens of thousands of jobs in Nevada and more than a million nationally, and provide for a two-year extension of the production tax credit for electricity produced by geothermal."

"It also extends tax incentives for energy-efficient homes and appliances, includes a new tax credit for purchasers of plug-in hybrid vehicles and extends for two years the deduction for state and local sales taxes, which will benefit residents in states such as Nevada that don't impose an income tax.

An unprecedented coalition of more than 200 businesses, construction companies, environmental organizations, investors, labor groups, nongovernmental organizations, trade associations and utilities have joined forces to call for Congressional action to extend the renewable energy and energy efficiency tax credits before the culmination of the September legislative session.

Gregory Wetstone, senior director of governmental and public affairs for the American Wind Energy Association, said, "We join a long list of organizations from across the political spectrum in supporting this long term extension for clean energy tax credits. We look forward to working closely with the Senate Finance Committee, and Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle, in the effort to move this critically important measure forward into law before Congress leaves for the election.”

Speaking to reporters on a teleconference call today, John Stanton, vice president of government affairs with the Solar Energy Industry Association seemed hopeful. "We have a willingness to put partisan differences aside, a willingness to find revenue offsets to allow a $17 billion tax credit package to be fully paid for without antagonizing the Republican minority in the Senate," he said.

Stanton introduced a report analyzing the economic impact of an eight-year tax credit extension from 2009 through 2016. Prepared by Navigant Consulting of Burlington, Massachusetts, the analysis shows that the extension could drive 19,000 megawatts of additional solar energy installations.

Extending the tax credit could result in increased investment of $232 billion and create an additional 276,000 direct jobs between 2009 and 2016, mainly in the construction and installation industries, the report shows.

While consensus appears within reach, Stanton says supporters hope for a unanimous consent agreement. That would mean presidential nominees Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Barack Obama would not have to come off the campaign trail and return to Washington for a vote lest they be viewed by the voters as not supporting renewable energy tax credits.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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