No More Solar or Wind Tax Breaks. Thanks Congress

Our efforts failed… A new “scaled down” energy bill was passed through the senate last night and three of the most important items in the bill were taken out to appease oil funded republicans. Unfortunately our senators, democrats and republicans alike, failed our country and environment yet again by bowing to big oil and removing the most influential provisions and tax incentives this country has ever seen.

The tax incentives now set to expire in 2008 will end all federal tax credits on solar, wind and other alternative energy installations. No other tax incentive or provision has brought the solar industry closer to grid parity than this one and now it is gone. Grid parity is the point in which it will actually be cheaper to generate your own electricity on your roof than to buy from your local utility company. Now this idea is great for us, but bad for big business, (oil and coal) so of course, the lobbyist went to work on our republican senators and were apparently very affective at getting that tax break completely removed from the energy bill.

Second major blow to the renewable energy industry was the removal of the $22 billion dollar tax package designed to cut tax breaks for big oil companies and funnel the money towards the renewable energy industry. Of course this is bad for Big Oil considering how poor their finances are currently, (sarcasm: Big Oil showed record highs this year) so yet again the lobbyist went to work on our senators and “poof” the tax package is gone. Not only that, but Bush himself threatened to veto the entire bill if this tax package was not removed, showing yet again, a clear alliance with Big Oil and an unwillingness to do what is right.

Another major blow, was the removal of the alternative energy mandate which would have required all investor owned utility companies to get at least 15% of their electricity from alternative energy sources. Many utility companies complained that this would increase cost and again, “poof” another very influential and beneficial provision was removed from the energy bill.

Now many environmentalist (not me) are praising this bill because of the increase in the average MPG standard for automakers. However this small push for a 35 MPG standard by 2020 is nothing compared to the three provisions mentioned above. Not only that, but the bulk of this energy bill was aimed at increasing domestic biofuel production (like ethanol) by 36 billion gallons by 2022. Some people may think this is a good thing, but if you read some of my previous posts, you will find that ethanol and most other commercial biofuels are actually worse for the environment than gasoline. And although the 35 MPG is good, it is like putting a band aid on a gaping wound.

On a positive note, the senate did increase energy efficiency standards for government buildings and consumer products and appliances. This provision will help to reduce phantom loads of typical electronics which are responsible for about two thirds of household energy usage. This efficiency provisions could potentially save about 40,000 megawatts of electricity and is in my opinion the most significant provision in the entire bill.

In the end, the original bill, prior to the removal of the truly beneficial tax packages and mandates, was one vote short of being passed. I believe senator Richard Durbin summed up the evening best when he said:“The future just failed by one vote, the past was preserved the oil companies are now celebrating in their boardrooms. Not only do they have the highest profits in history, they continue to have a death grip on this Senate.”

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