Senate to Vote on Renewables as Early as Today [update]

  • Published on June 10th, 2008

Senate Fails to Move on With renewable energy production tax credit

[UPDATE 1: The Consumer First Energy Act which would impose a ‘windfall profits tax’ on big oil companies, and the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act both failed to move on. The second of those two contained a one year extension of the Production Tax Credit. The votes were largely along party lines. Kate Shepard at Grist provides a good review of the two bills in this report.]

The PTC has been the single biggest policy driver of renewable energy development in the U.S., and the short one and two year extensions (as well as the absence of those extensions) have produced a ‘feast-or-famine‘ cycle of renewable energy growth in the United States, where all new development is virtually frozen in place, awaiting a tax incentive. As it currently stands, the PTC will expire at the end of 2008.

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), studies show that 116,000 jobs and more than $19 billion in clean energy investment are at risk from a failure to extend the PTC and other renewable energy tax credits.

Thus far, the biggest hangup for extending the renewable energy tax credits has been the question of funding. Ironically, the Democrats have become the party of fiscal responsibility in Congress, and do not want to pass the bill without a way to pay for it.

Last week at WINDPOWER 2008, I had the opportunity to sit down with Greg Wetstone, Senior Director of Government and Public Affairs for AWEA, and Tom Gray, the Deputy Executive Director. The pair told me that the tax credit issue was really one of fiscal ideology. And that unfortunately, many in Congress had been using the renewable energy tax credits as a “political football.”

Both Gray and Wetstone expressed concern that a lapse in the PTC would have a detrimental effect on the installation of new wind energy projects, especially considering wind developers are currently in the planning stages for projects that would not go online until 2009 or 2010. According to Wetstone:

“This really has to happen by the August recess…If it drags out beyond that and gets done in some kind of lame duck [action] – or doesn’t get done – I think it’s a major problem for the industry, and a major embarrassment for the Congress.”

Considering the popular support for policies that promote renewable energy development, it seems odd that Congress continues to drag their collective feet on passing the PTC. The results of a recent poll show that a vast majority of Americans, across all political parties, overwhelmingly support development and funding of solar energy. Ninety-one percent of Republicans, 97 percent of Democrats and 98 percent of Independents agree that developing solar power is vital to the U.S.

The tenuous position of the PTC was a hot topic at last week’s WINDPOWER 2008 in Houston. At the event, virtually all of the industry leaders, advocates, and public officials I spoke with strongly voiced support for passage of the tax credits. And nearly all of them were maintained that we need the stability of a long term renewable energy policy, as opposed to the one and two year extensions the Congress has favored more recently.

If you want to continue to see sustained growth in renewable energy in this country, I suggest you contact your Senator to urge passage of the PTC today!

Other Posts on the U.S. Senate and Renewable Energy Policy:

Senate Passes Renewable Energy Tax Credits. Shouldn’t I Be More Excited?

Consumer-First Energy Act of 2008 Lacks Support

74 Percent of GOP Senators Doubt Human Causes of Global Warming

Photo © Stephen Meese |

About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.


  • Rod, you make a valid point. And there are data sets out there that ask about consumers' "willingness to pay." Unfortunately, I don't have any of those at this moment, but I can try to look into it.

  • Tim:

    As the father of daughters, I learned long ago not to ask them if they like a particular toy or clothing item without first asking them how much they were willing to spent to purchase it.

    Do you know of any polls that ask Americans how much they are willing to spend in order to support various energy research and development projects?

    What has the response been to the "green electricity" programs where people have to voluntarily pay a higher price for electricity produced a certain way?

    Getting affirmative response to feel good questions about renewable energy development is one thing. Determining the price that people would be willing to pay out of their own pocket is closer to showing Congress what their choice should be. Remember, all taxes have to come from somewhere.

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