Bipartisan pair propose new energy tax bill

By Jim Roth | Phillips Murrah P.C. | The Journal Record

[ OCTOBER 25, 2010 – OKLAHOMA CITY, OK ] – Tax breaks for U.S. clean-energy projects could still be approved before the end of the year now that a pair of senators have proposed the second bipartisan effort to support the renewable-energy industry.

U.S. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee Ranking Member Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, have teamed up to introduce a package of tax incentives designed to support advanced energy technologies and strategies.

The bill focuses on building and industrial energy efficiency, domestic manufacturing, emerging clean-energy technologies and carbon reduction.

The senators, well-known for developing tax incentives for clean, renewable energy, are urging their colleagues to take up and pass their Advanced Energy Tax Incentives Act of 2010 (S. 3935) before Congress adjourns in December.

Their aim is to continue to ensure that the tax code contains well-designed incentives that will help the U.S. to transition to an energy-efficient economy.

The new bills represent a shift in the U.S. government’s approach to climate-change legislation after the Senate defeated proposals for a comprehensive climate change bill this summer.

The legislation:

• Enables home and business owners to defray upfront costs of investing in energy-saving technologies, including performance-based tax credits for whole home retrofits.

• Makes $2.5 billion in tax credits available to attract manufacturers of technologies that harness clean, renewable energy or enhance energy efficiency.

• Establishes a $1 billion tax credit program to enable domestic manufacturers to undertake energy-saving measures that advance their competitiveness

• Facilitates the growth of renewable electricity by creating a tax incentive for energy storage systems, which will enable utilities to deploy intermittent energy sources like wind and solar power while reducing energy demands during peak hours and contributing to an overall more reliable smart grid

• Retools the tax credit for carbon capture and storage (CCS) to give CCS projects greater financial certainty.

The act incorporates several bills the senators jointly introduced earlier during this session of Congress, as well as several new provisions.

Among these is a bill Bingaman wrote with U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, to create a national Renewable Energy Standard, a bill unanimously reported by the Energy & Natural Resources Committee to address issues related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The bill would also require energy firms to source 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2021.

A short lame-duck session planned for after the November elections will be all that remains between the expiration of critical clean-energy manufacturing tax credits and the continuation of America’s clean-tech momentum.

As it happens, October is National Energy Awareness Month – a national effort to underscore how central energy is to our national prosperity, security, and environmental well-being.

In honor of this event, the Obama administration has kicked off a month of clean-energy events and activities. Senior administration officials from across the federal government will be highlighting the work they are doing to position our country for a sustainable future, create new clean-energy jobs and lay the foundation for our long-term economic security.

The administration has begun installing solar panels and a solar hot water heater on the roof of the White House residence as part of a broader Department of Energy solar demonstration project. The move comes in the wake of a grass-roots campaign led by Bill McKibben, 350.org founder and brainchild of 10-10-10, a global day of practical action to cut carbon.

McKibben urged President Barack Obama to reinstall solar panels then-President Jimmy Carter put on the White House in 1979. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan removed the panels and let federal renewable-energy subsidies expire.

When McKibben heard of this decision to go solar, he said: “Today’s announcement that the Obamas will be taking their showers and cooking their breakfast courtesy of the sun could not have come at a better moment. It demonstrates the power of individual actions to carry political impact.”

Let’s hope this energy bill will finally get its day in the sun.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.