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Gigawatts of Recovery Act Renewable Energy Endangered in Banana Republic Tax Deal

Image: GOP organizer Rush Limbaugh, who stands to make $2.6 million a year from the Republican tax bill.

This week, Republican Senator George LeMieux joined Democrats in a letter to Senate leaders asking that the Recovery Act provisions for renewable energy – due to sunset this month – be extended in the revised tax deal to be voted on this week. Senator Baucus already has the bill ready, because it was filibustered by Republicans on Saturday in order to get an extra income tax break for millionaires and billionaires. They will now get this new vote, this week.

Essentially, the Baucus language just crosses out Dec 31st, 2010, and replaces it with Dec 31st, 2011, giving utility-scale solar one year of grace, which is all it needs. However, it is not in the new tax cut deal, according to the SEIA.

The Recovery Act, or stimulus bill, contained $90 billion for renewable energy in the form of tax credits for investment, direct cash grants, and renewable energy loan guarantees (meaning no money is paid out unless renewable firms re-neg on private investors).

If it was all spent. Once it is all spent, a staggering 16 Gigawatts of clean, renewable, fuel-free energy will have been added permanently to the US grid, a unprecedented achievement. This is more than has been invested since the Carter administration, that began the global renewable energy industry. Earlier the Wall Street Journal described The Recovery Act investment in renewables by the Obama administration as on the scale of The Manhattan Project.

The deadline for the renewable energy funds in The Recovery Act was the end of this year.

The problem has been in getting utility-scale solar projects approved in time. It can take at least eighteen months to approve a utility-scale solar project. Although an unprecedented amount of solar has been begun, due to the Recovery Act, Gigawatts of solar hang in the balance, even with state bureaucrats working round the clock in a race to get projects approved in time. Geothermal has done better, getting almost 8 Recovery Act Gigawatts of geothermal up in time. Wind has until the end of 2011.

Unfortunately, renewable-friendly Republican Senator LeMieux is just a temporary seat-filling Senator, appointed by Governor Crist to keep the seat warm till Crist could take it, a bet Crist lost, so the Florida seat is to be taken in January by Tea Party candidate Mark Rubio.

Rubio will not buck the ostrich-like party line against renewables espoused by the McConnell-ruled Senate, with its iron grip on the filibuster button.

Next year, the Republican minority stranglehold on the Senate filibuster only increases, and no renewable policy will pass. It takes only 40 Republicans to shut down a vote, but last year there were several months where the balance of power was almost even.

Once Senator Franken finally was allowed to be seated, and before Senator Kennedy died, there were briefly 60 Democrats for a few months of parity. The Recovery Act was able to come to the floor for an up or down vote. But now Republicans will hold 46 seats, meaning that the two or three who previously sometimes voted with Democrats on renewable energy are no longer close to relevant.

The vast majority of voters do not understand how the filibuster works to make Republicans a Senate majority with 40 votes. New voters are thus so demoralized by what they see as Obama “weakness” in caving to Republicans on tax cuts for the rich will likely never turn out to vote again. Corporate media disinformation is growing. The Citizens United ruling means the richest energy industry will yet further control future elections.

So this week’s admittedly odious Banana Republic tax deal is probably the last chance for the USA to try to stay in the international clean energy race.

If the one year extension gets into the final tax cut deal. Even though it means shoveling $120 billion to the likes of Rush, Sara and Sean that they won’t spend wisely, I think it is worth it. Your congress member is at (202) 224 3121, if you want The Recovery Act renewable energy extensions in the bill.

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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Written By

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.


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