Good Riddance, Max Baucus, You Anti-Solar Tool!

  • Published on December 30th, 2013

By Chip MartinSolar Bomb Thrower

I can’t believe my friends at Important Media let me in here. After all, with all the great writers they have working for the network (including the great Zach Shahan, Jeremy Bloom, and Scott Cooney), why would they want a bomb thrower like me to enter into their highly intellectual, reasoned debate?

But let me in they did. I’m not sure they knew what they were in for, but they will soon find out.

My background is simple: I’ve been writing since for 32 years (since Hector was a pup, in other words) and am a lifelong progressive activist. For the past four years, I’ve become particularly interested in the solar industry and have watched from afar as the Republicans (obviously in the pockets of Big Oil et al) have single-handedly tried to destroy clean energy, with a particularly venomous focus on solar.

And who can blame them, really? After all, the solar industry is full of hippies and counterculture revolutionaries — you know, the cool kids who used to pick on them in high school. And since we have yet to dispense with the culture wars of the 1960s (because it was likely the last time the aging Baby Boomers actually felt alive), we have these old animosities flaring again. God, I hate refighting battles where the matter has already been settled, but until the old warriors die, we’re stuck doing it.

Which leads me, in a roundabout way, to the subject of this post: the odious Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana).


Since the election of President Barack Obama, Baucus has been one of the major thorns in the president’s side every time he tries to do anything remotely progressive. Whether it’s his ridiculous opposition of the Affordable Care Act (he’s the reason the public option was eliminated and the United States was “treated” to a watered down version of Romneycare) or his inexplicable vote to defund renewable energy funding, Baucus has been one of the most strident opponents of solar energy and other self-sustaining energy sources, despite his crowing to the contrary.

His latest salvo was the reforms to clean energy tax breaks, which will serve only to confuse solar consumers more than they already are. Politico reports (emphasis mine):

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus on Wednesday proposed consolidating or wiping out scores of tax breaks the government offers to promote clean energy and efficiency — a radical makeover that would offer incentives for natural gas, nuclear power and other low-carbon sources while junking other benefits popular with consumers.

It’s hard to understand why Baucus would do something like this, given that Montana stands to benefit from the creation of wind jobs in particular, until you read further in the story (which, I’ll admit, is hard to do. I’m not a big fan of Politico) (again, emphasis mine):

Wednesday’s is the fourth proposal Baucus has offered in the past month proposing to recast an entire segment of the tax code in a bid to bring down corporate tax rates. He hasn’t said how much of a rate cut companies would get in return for giving up their myriad specialized breaks, but has said he’d like to reduce it to below 30 percent.

Oh…..right. Baucus still believes in the magical unicorn of trickle-down economics, a blot on U.S. politics since the days of St. Ronald Reagan. Cut rates for corporations, and jobs will follow. We know how well that turned out under George W. Bush — but I digress.

Thank God for Rhone Resch, executive director of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) for not letting this nonsense go unchallenged:

While we appreciate efforts by Chairman Baucus to make the convoluted U.S. tax code simpler and fairer for everyone, we’re very concerned that reducing the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and dramatically altering the way companies depreciate their assets could jeopardize future clean energy development in the United States. At a time when we’re searching for creative ways to reduce carbon emissions, fight climate change and improve U.S. competitiveness, the continued development of a strong, viable solar industry in the U.S. is critically important. Today, solar is one of the fastest-growing industries in America, employing 120,000 workers and generating more than 10.3 gigawatts (GW) of clean electricity – enough to effectively power 1.7 million homes. And smart, effective policies, like the solar ITC, are helping to power record growth in the solar sector. We look forward to working with both the Senate and House to find common-sense ways to reform the tax code, while continuing to incentivize the kind of growth needed in America to ensure prosperity for future generations.

Allow me to be blunt: Baucus’ proposals would be a windfall for the nuclear and natural gas industries (and, amazingly, some coal-fired plants — I threw up in my mouth a little when I read that part of the story) and would effectively neuter truly renewable industries like solar and wind. This is a gob-smackingly stupid idea, but given that Baucus proposed it, I can’t say I’m surprised.

I was heartened, then, to see that President Obama nominated this anti-solar tool to become the new ambassador to China, where perhaps he can do what he can to aid the Chinese solar industry in the way he’s done to the United States.

But let’s not get too ecstatic: When he retires, the new chairperson of the all-powerful Senate Finance Committee will be the equally odious Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), so don’t expect things to change much.

To the battlements, people — renewable energy will need our help. It’s a fight we can’t afford to lose.






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