Senator Baucus will find a way to extend a 30% cash grant program for wind power, he told NAW (North American Windpower) this week. The tax credit known as Section 1603 has done more than any Federal policy in the US in the last 30 years to jump start wind projects – and solar and geothermal projects as well. After the tax equity market vanished in 2008, the cash grant has done more than anything else to keep capital-intensive wind projects moving.
It might seem unlikely that this can be passed now, but when this Senator says he can find a way to do this, there is reason for hope.
After all, it was Baucus, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in 2008, that inserted the extension of tax credits that were about to expire, into the Bush bank bailout bill.
At the last minute, Baucus managed to insert it into the final version of the must-pass $700 billion bank bailout bill that was passed at the end of the Bush administration, during a time when the nation risked complete financial meltdown.
If you remember, the bank bailout became a must-pass bill. When the House voted it down on the first try, the Dow Jones slid 700 points in a day. After that Republicans and Democrats voted for it.
While the renewable measures were derided at the time as “pork” and “Christmas tree trimmings” the fact is that this nation needs renewable energy for its future energy security and renewables have received only a fraction of the subsidies that fossil energy gets. And direct renewable energy policy has been thwarted by the minority filibuster for a decade.
Building on that provision, the next year, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Democrats extended the tax credits by making them available as cash grants – and added a three-year extension of the production tax credit, which expires at the end of 2012. But that was during a brief three month 60 vote majority.
What Baucus did, was under the filibuster rule we have now. So, if there is one person who has proven himself capable of nimbly taking advantage of a crisis to insert good renewable energy language at the last minute into the sort of must-pass legislation that the minority can’t filibuster, it is clearly Senator Baucus.
No bloviating for months about contemplated energy bills, which have the effect of waving a red flag in front of a bull. Just quietly wait, then pounce, as the opportunity arises.
Fortunately, as it happens, we have exactly that kind of must-pass legislation coming up. The Bush tax-cuts-for-the-rich bill is one bill that will actually come up for a vote, because the Republicans won’t filibuster this one!
So, in this filibuster-proof bill, just as on the previous one, there could be an opportunity to quickly slide in good energy legislation the country needs.
It is too bad that energy policy has to be done by slipping it into non-energy bills. With peak oil and climate change breathing down our necks; how sad that this once promising nation is now incapable of passing good renewable energy policy to safeguard our future in a straightforward manner, like a sensible developed nation.
But there might be some reason for hope for passing this particular chunk of it now.
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