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Renewable Energy Tax Credits Extended 5 Years, But At What Cost?

Originally published on the ECOreport.

Less than one week after the strongest climate agreement ever, House Speaker Paul Ryan has brought forward a spending package that could end the annual struggle over renewable tax incentives. Wind and solar would receive 5-year extensions. The price: cutbacks to the IRS, Obamacare, the EPA, and lift the ban on the exporting of American crude oil that has been in place since 1976. Are the Republicans exacting too great a cost?


What The Republicans Want

The Republicans intend to exact a heavy price for their cooperation. On his website, Ryan boasts this omnibus bill has provisions to:

  • increase funding to the military
  • prohibit new funding for Obamacare
  • “The bill contains no funding for new or expanded EPA programs, holding the agency to its lowest funding levels since 2008 and its lowest staffing levels since 1989.”
  • “The bill maintains important pro-life provisions, including the Hyde Amendment, and prohibits taxpayer funding for abortion.”


Though Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s website claims, “Democrats did not allow 99% of the republican riders,” a quick perusal of the legislation reveals:

    • 245 references to spending on the military
    • references to restrictions on payments to medical insurance
    • references to the amounts available and expiration dates for funding the EPA
    • statements like, “None of the funds appropriated by this title shall be available to pay for an abortion, except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term, or in the case of rape or incest.”

Lifting the Ban On Oil Exports

The provision that is getting the most attention is lifting the oil export.

Ryan boasts, “Domestic energy production is booming in the United States, and lifting the ban will help create jobs, grow our economy, and promote greater exploration of our natural resources.”


This threat of expanding the oil sector concerns Bill McKibben, of, who wrote:

“Lifting the export ban is bad policy in a dozen other ways: it makes a mockery of our repeated paeans to ‘energy independence,’ and it will cost union jobs at refineries, and it will cover yet more of our nation with oil rigs, and it will increase the danger from oil trains rolling through poor neighborhoods. But what makes the plan to lift the ban especially galling is that the administration and congressional Democrats insist they’re getting a reasonable deal because the Republicans will concede tax breaks for solar and wind producers in return. But the logic of the Paris accords—with their theoretical commitment to a world that will warm just 1.5 or two degrees—means that we don’t get to keep making this kind of tradeoff. Yes, we have to promote clean energy. (And the polling data shows we can do that if we make a stand—even Republicans, by large margins, love solar energy). But we also have to stop the expansion of fossil fuel. If you just say ‘we’re going to do both’ then there’s no way to make the climate math work.”

A Good Compromise? Or Not?

Solar Energy Industries Association President Rhone Resch is for this amendment, which he believes can add another 140,000 jobs and allow America’s solar capacity to grow to 95 gigawatts (95,000 megawatts).

The solar tax incentive would continue until 2022, though in decreasing amounts:

  • 30% until 2019
  • 26% in 2020
  • 22% in 2021
  • 10% in 2022

The 2.3-cent per kilowatt-hour credit for wind power would also be extended in decreasing amounts:

  •  20% less for facilities which start construction after December 31, 2016, and before January 1, 2018
  • 40% less for facilities started after December 31,
    12 2017, and before January 1, 2019
  • 60% less  in the case of any facility the construction of which begins after December 31, 2018, and before January 1, 2020.


Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid tweeted, “The omnibus deal isn’t perfect, but a good compromise for the American people. It could have been a lot worse if it weren’t for our efforts.”

He believes there are only two options:

      1. Pair oil export ban with policies to reduce carbon emissions
      2. Pass government funding without oil/renewables

Photo Credits: “114th United States Congress” (Public Domain); “Paul Ryan–113th Congress–” (Public Domain); “Bill McKibben at RIT-3” by Hotshot977 (CC BY-SA 3.0); “Harry Reid official portrait 2009” (Public Domain).

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Written By

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the Cortes Currents (formerly the ECOreport), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of British Columbia. He writes for both writes for both Clean Technica and PlanetSave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over 2,000 articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.


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