Senate Nixes Clean-Tech Investment Incentives

from the ouch-that-hurts dept

The clean-tech sector — along with every other sector, company, and person who uses energy — suffered something of a setback today at the hands of the United States Senate. By a vote of 40-59, federal tax incentives for clean-tech investments will be left to dry up at the end of next year. Using the 2007-2008 Senate math that most of us missed in 8th grade civics class, it now takes 60 votes to get anything done, including an extension of current renewable energy investment tax credits set to expire. These tax credits have played a big role in the surge of investment into wind, solar, and other clean energy technology. The votes of 40 Senators certainly don’t reflect the feelings of their constituents (Americans are almost unanimous in their support for developing new sources of renewable energy) but the issue is more complicated than 39 Republican and one Democratic congresspeople who are sour on solar. The clean-tech incentives ran into a roadblock when supporters insisted on — you’d better sit down for this — paying for them. Specifically, the tax incentives would be paid for through the year 2016 by repealing billions of dollars of long-standing subsidies to fossil fuel companies. The escalating costs of energy are being felt by Americans who are paying significantly more to fuel their car, heat their home, and keep their lights on. Higher energy costs will eventually work their way into just about every product that we purchase and every service that we have come to enjoy. A near-decade-long extension of the federal incentives would have significantly leveled the playing field versus legacy energy systems and paved the way for continued acceleration of investment into clean-tech. The sector has seen false starts before as incentives have come and gone. Today’s inaction dampens hopes that energy consumers will have alternatives any time soon, and leaves individuals, companies, and entire industries at the ongoing mercy of an aging and unstable fossil fuel infrastructure.

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Comments on “Senate Nixes Clean-Tech Investment Incentives”

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The Future Buzz (profile) says:


It’s amazing to me how incredibly backwards our government is. I hope that once this current batch of senators and congressmen retire, the new gaurd will usher in a more forward-thinking outlook for a sustainable future.

Everything right now is all about lobbying and who can I please at the current second. No one makes plans for future growth and investing in the health of the planet.

While global warming is an issue that may or may not be a threat right now, it is certain we cannot rely on our current energy sources forever.

Shame on the Senate for voting this down.

Shaun says:

It is similar in Australia where the fossil fuels industry (literally) gets billions of dollars in subsidies for infrastructure. At the verry least this needs to be evened up to give clean-tech an equal advantage, in reality it would work so much better to have these subsidies transfered in whole to the clean-tech sector. If you are trying to reduce your reliance on a sector such as the fossil fuel industry the last thing you should do is subsidise them.

The same goes with nuclear which is another non-renewable resource. Without subsidies, including the provision of insurance by the government at no cost, the nuclear industry could not survive. This is another area where the subsidies currently in place should be instead transfered to the clean-tech sector. Note that Australia does not have nuclear energy industry, just one small reactor for medical and research purposes but our previous prime minister John Howard (who you may or may not remember as one of George Bush’s bootlickers) was verry keen on nuclear power despite the opposition of the vast majority of Australians. In reality the only reason anyone would want a nuclear power industry is to gain the capasity to build nuclear weapons.

Paul` says:

Re: Re:

“In reality the only reason anyone would want a nuclear power industry is to gain the capasity to build nuclear weapons.”

If we wanted nukes we would buy them from the US, or Pakistan or India or France or any number of other countries. We sell half of them their uranium so it’s not like they wouldn’t sell us bombs.

On topic though, it’s no surprise that this vote ended up like this when the US Government is in the pocket of the oil companies.

natural energy economy (user link) says:

Natural Incentives

This is a new one for for me. A free market can’t support wind and solar power development? Not when the Gov is subsidizing fossil fuels.

Energy has a value wherever it comes from, and development costs are computed to make a decision. Opinions aside, let it run naturally! Find new ground when the river runs low.

Looks like active opposition–spending money on one side or the other. Yow.

darkbhudda says:

All this ignores the fact that environmentalists are fighting clean power sources These are common comments:

Hydro – dams destroy the environment.

Solar – you need lots and lots of land, preferably arid desert. Wildlife has adapted to the desert, huge honking arrays of power cells are going to create massive shadows across the desert. Not to mention all the toxic chemicals needed for the batteries and the manufacture of the solar panels. There isn’t enough suitable land.

Wind – kills birds and ruins the landscape. Not to mention that the amount of CO2 generated in their manufacture is more than is saved over their entire life time.

No “clean” powersource has the environmentalists’ seal of approval.

“Today’s vote is out of step with Americans across the political spectrum who overwhelmingly support clean, home-grown renewable energy”

Only because they believe everything they’re fed by the media who are too lazy to do any more research than clicking on Greenpeace’s website.

Today’s inaction dampens hopes that energy consumers will have alternatives any time soon, and leaves individuals, companies, and entire industries at the ongoing mercy of an aging and unstable fossil fuel infrastructure.

The infrastructure is unstable precisely because of political interference. When was the last time they built a new power plant? 30 or 40 years? Rather than building vastly cleaner and more efficient power plants they have to continually patch up the existing ones.

Matt Bennett says:

Ok, Wow, what a politically biased article!

First of all, “Support for development” and “subsidies for” are very different things.

Second, Subsidies are Bad. Yeah, sure, the fossil fuel subsidies are very bad. But so are subsidies for clean-energy. As Mike is always so fond of saying, if the market is robust enough, no government hand-outs would be needed.

And Third and most importantly, I followed your link to (nice, unbiased source I suppose, though actually they seem to state just the facts), the bill includes “a 36 billion gallon renewable fuel mandate” which I presume refers to ethanol. Of course, ethanol for gas is looking more like a horrible idea, even to environmentalists, as it seems to take at least as much gas to produce a gallon of ethanol as is replaced. Mostly, all it does is make Iowa corn growers happy (which is a problem as Presidential Candidates have to pander to them for Caucus season) and it makes almost all agricultural products more expensive. (the almost 20% in food costs in the past year is almost solely due the increase in the cost of corn due to ethanol production, with a small increase due to transportation costs)

This is not Objective writing. It is not Critical writing. It is not Intelligent writing.

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