Lawmakers Must Take Broader, Long-Term Approach to Clean Energy

The Senate this week exercised good sense by approving and sending to the president a package of tax credit extenders that benefit the wind and biofuels industries. Unfortunately, while a welcome development, the legislation is once again a temporary measure and falls far short of the long-term, comprehensive energy plan that would instill investor confidence and create a long-term policy platform that would significantly boost our economy, enhance our energy security and improve our environment.

The package adopted by the Senate at least implements, if only through the end of this year, the kinds of provisions long supported by 25x’25 stakeholders as critical to America’s role as a clean energy technology leader. The bill revives and makes retroactive a wind production tax credit – 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour for 10 years for wind facilities that begin construction before the credit’s expiration date. And it restores a cellulosic biofuel producer tax credit of $1.01 per gallon and a biodiesel and renewable diesel credit of $1.00 per gallon.

This month’s passage of the extension measure (the House approved the bill on Dec. 3) is the latest in a series of “stop-and-go” actions to which Congress has subjected virtually all of the policies that sustain efforts to move the nation on the path to a clean energy future. Lawmakers over the past decade have repeatedly allowed the policies, funding mechanisms and use obligations to expire, only to revive them later.

This inconsistent handling of clean energy policy by Congress is short-sighted and damaging. It creates an uncertain environment that chills investment in technologies that can change the way we produce and use energy.

Such erratic treatment of these important policies puts at stake some large economic potential for rural America. From starches, crop oils and animal fats to cellulose and methane, America’s farms, ranches and forests are capable of supplying much needed bioenergy feedstocks without compromising their ability to feed and clothe much of the world. Our rural areas are also a bountiful source of wind, water, solar and geothermal power and a highly effective sink for carbon. And all the while, they can provide needed environmental services such as protecting and improving soil, water and air quality, enhancing wildlife habitat and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The new, 114th Congress can maintain and build on that economic potential by agreeing on a stable, long-term, comprehensive energy plan and policy platform that creates new markets for renewable energy solutions from the land. And it’s time for all renewable energy stakeholders to engage with policy makers to bring about a secure framework for new and innovative means of production.

Such a plan enhances predictability and will build confidence among investors. With financial backing and the strength, creativity and productivity of entrepreneurs in the bioenergy, wind, solar and other renewable energy fields, America’s farmers and foresters will rise to the challenge of not only feeding the nation, but providing much of its energy. The key to success is giving the markets and innovators the lead to blaze new paths that a comprehensive energy plan can provide.

The alliance urges lawmakers to be consistent and fully committed to a long-term vision of a new energy future. It’s important that in addition to the tax incentives needed to maintain production of renewable energy resources, the new Congress should provide the broader clean energy guidance that will enable the sustainable development of clean energy solutions from the land.

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