Tuesday, September 30

Renewable Energy Endangered As Congress Ends

House-Senate impasse jeopardizes extension of expiring renewable energy tax credits in final four days.

Last week the Senate passed the first ever clean energy bill with a presidential veto-proof majority, a well constructed renewable energy bill that ensured the stable growth of the wind industry and solar power and other renewable energy sources.

They were able to bypass the Republican clean energy filibuster only by attaching it to essential must-pass bills on disaster relief and an AMT extension, allowing some dirty energy breaks along with the clean energy provisions, and by not hitting up oil companies to fund it.

But Friday, against dire warnings from Senate leaders not to mess with even a word of the bill's fragile construction, the House disentangled the must-pass AMT and disaster relief provisions from the renewable energy extensions, and removed the dirty energy provisions (which could have been stripped out later under carbon legislation) and passed the bills separately.

Even though the House approved a stand-alone package of renewable energy tax incentives extensions by a vote of 257-166 it was obvious that this stand-alone, fully paid for strategy (the solar credits alone have been tried 5 times now) would die in the Senate.

The House plan was fully offset at the insistence of House Democrats, and the Senate package was only partially paid for as part of a delicate bipartisan compromise that allowed the bill to advance after months of stalemate.

By rearranging the renewables and the essential must-pass bills into completely separate votes, while these all passed the House easily, the House destroyed the chances of passage for the renewable provisions apon return to the Senate for the final version.

Now, over a weekend session primarily to deal with Wall Street woes, both Houses worked on finding a new combination that might work. House Democrats last night added the lure of funding for rural counties to try to end the impasse, but Senate tax leaders quickly called the House proposal inadequate.

While some lawmakers have pushed the House to include the county funding, this and other changes to the House plan do not appear to have appeased senators who say, with some experience in their multiple previous attempts, that their year-end tax package is the only one that could have won the needed 60 Senate votes.

The two versions of the energy bill, HR 6049 and HR7060 will have their final chance this week, but there is little chance of resolution of these essentially irreconcilable differences. With just four days left, the 110th congress, which began on such high hopes for clean energy, could end leaving unresolved a standoff that has delayed billions of dollars in incentives for alternative power, energy-efficient buildings and other technologies.

Related stories:
House Fully Funds Renewable Energy Act, Possibly Sinking It
On 9th Attempt, Senate Passes Clean Energy Provisions

Graph showing effect of expiring PTC

For Matter Network