A Leaner Energy Bill Aims for Success in 2004

In another tumultuous chapter of the Energy Bill, Senate Republicans have reworked the comprehensive energy legislation into a smaller, leaner bill that cuts in half the bill’s tax breaks and other business incentives, reducing them from US$31 billion to less than $14 billion over ten years, and leaving in place many items of importance to the renewable energy industries.

Washington D.C. – February 27, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] The new slimmed down Energy Bill (S. 2095) also eliminates the MTBE fuel additive manufacturer liability protection that had been so strenuously opposed by many members of the Senate. The contentious measure was a major reason for the bill’s failure to gain enough Senate support for passage last fall. Movement on the new bill will not come up until after the Senate discusses medical malpractice legislation, and will have to compete for space with a foreign sales tax bill and gun manufacturer liability legislation, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). However, when the bill does come up it, will go straight to the floor without going through the normal committee process. Whether it passes there or not, there are growing indications that the House of Representatives may object to any version of it. Pete V. Domenici, Senate Energy & Natural Resources Chairman, and principal architect of the Energy Bill, stressed maintaining job creation was one of his primary goals in trimming the bill down. “I was particularly concerned about protecting the new jobs created in the near-term,” Domenici said in a statement to the Senate. “We’ve done that. The tax incentives for renewable energy, coupled with the ethanol, clean coal and natural gas provisions create every single job the old energy bill would have created. They create them as swiftly as the old bill would have done.” The ethanol provisions could have a particularly positive job creation effect, he said. “We shaved off half the cost and still pump more than 800,000 new jobs into our economy,” Domenici said. “The ethanol provision alone will do more to bring new life to rural America than anything that has passed through Congress in the last two decades.” While Domenici may be quick to mention renewable energy, he doesn’t place much faith in them. With respect to rising natural gas prices, Domenici has a darker picture of the United State’s energy future. “The looming gas crisis has prompted the federal government to redo its 25-year energy forecast, sharply increasing its prediction of coal consumption in anticipation of tight natural gas supplies and ever-climbing prices,” Domenici said. “In the coming years, Americans may rely on coal more heavily than any time in the past 30 years. Wind and solar energies can’t begin to meet that demand, though their use will expand exponentially with the tax credits in my new energy bill. Rising coal consumption makes our $2 billion investment in clean coal technology critically important to our environment and our children.” In fairness though there are some very beneficial items in the slimmed down energy bill and every industry association is backing the legislation wholeheartedly. What the new bill has in store for each renewable energy industry is explored at more depth in the second of this two-part article on the comprehensive energy legislation that follows at the link below.
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