The U.S. Senate is expected to introduce a bill that will provide support for renewable energy.
WASHINGTON, DC – The bill should create program to award grants to homeowners who install renewable energy sources such as solar panels, wind energy, biomass, agricultural waste products or geothermal systems to power lights and heat homes. It should also expand existing tax credits for electricity generated by renewable resources to include biomass, agricultural and animal waste, incremental hydropower, geothermal, landfill gas and co-generation. It should also offer tax credits for certain distributed power and combined heat and power systems used by businesses. The wide-ranging Republican bill is designed to help the United States electricity market, improve energy efficiency and boost conservation by homeowners. The focus of the 258 page report is on incentives to expand oil and natural gas production, and rumours of the content have been leaked to the news media. The bill is expected to require the Department of Energy to submit annual report to Congress evaluating regional reliability of US electric grid and power supplies; require DOE to study “innovative financing techniques” to encourage new construction of electricity generation plants; reevaluate DOE’s proposal to construct a permanent nuclear waste repository in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain; create a new office within DOE to research treatment, recycling and disposal of high-level nuclear waste and nuclear fuel; and create a research program to show how clean coal technology can be used on a commercial scale. It should offer tax credits of up to $100 million for clean coal technology to generate electricity with reduced air emissions, and exempt a qualifying system from any stricter emission control requirements for ten years under the Clean Air Act. It should offer greater depreciation and expensing of fuel storage costs for nuclear power plants, and offer tax deductions for nuclear plant decommissioning costs. The bill is expected to provide homeowners with a tax credit of $50 for an energy efficient refrigerator and $100 for a more efficient clothes washers, and offer $200 million in annual grants to schools to improve energy efficiency through renovations or modifications. It should boost annual funding for federal weatherization program to $250 million annually, tax credits of $500 to $2,000 for hybrid vehicles, tax deductions for installing equipment to reduce energy used by commercial buildings and a retail sales credit of 25 cents per gallon of alternative fuels. Oil production in the U.S. would have to increase by several million barrels a day over the coming decade to meet the goal of reducing foreign imports to 50 percent of domestic supplies by 2010. Environmentalists warn the bill will be used by President Bush to allow drilling in Alaska wildlife areas, and to provide oil companies in the Gulf of Mexico with a break on federal royalties for their offshore drilling. The goal would require new supplies to come from renewable energy sources, too. The United States imported 55 percent of its oil, gasoline and heating oil last year, and imports will increase to 61 percent by 2010. The legislation will direct DOE to reduce dependence to 54 percent by 2005 and to 52 percent by 2008.