In the News

Limited time on the congressional calendar will make it difficult to pass meaningful clean energy measures but expected legislation to extend tax credits for wind and solar energy could provide a vehicle for other clean energy initiatives, according to leading House members participating in a clean energy forum Tuesday.

The upcoming debate on extending tax breaks expiring this year, including those for wind and solar, should be the best opportunity for passing other clean energy measures, said U.S. Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

U.S. Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) listed several pending clean energy bills, including legislation he cosponsored supporting baseload renewable energy, but didn’t express much optimism on any of the measures passing Congress. “I do think there’s room for progress,” he offered.

The two House members were appearing at Politico’s final session of its Reinventing American Energy series, this one titled Clean Energy’s Future in Congress.

The panelists, which also included Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Alex Flint, executive director at the Alliance for Market Solutions, agreed that a bipartisan consensus is growing in Congress on the need to act to help curb climate change and reduce carbon emissions, with an expanding number of Republicans acknowledging the issue.

“There is definitely an opportunity here,” said Reed. “Many folks on the Republican side recognize that the climate is changing and we must do something about it. Many of us on the Republican side are willing to step up and lead on this issue to get something passed into law.” But Reed emphasized that any action proposed by Congress to encourage clean energy and reduce carbon emissions will require support from the market and must recognize that government policies on energy create costs and burdens on “real people.”

“We have to have a balanced approach to this,” Reed added.

Ekwurzel said the increasing average temperatures on earth and climate disasters show the need for coordinated action. “There’s a lot of debate over the cost of action, rather than the cost of inaction,” she added.

Peters, a member of the House Budget and Energy and Commerce committees who sponsored a bill to slow climate change by regulating black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons, and methane, said a carbon tax needs to be considered to encourage consumers towards clean energy action. “Everyday decisions are affected by incentives,” said Peters, “price incentives would cure human behavior.” He said measures could be used to “cushion the blow” for consumers who need it most. “The energy problem is going to cost a lot of money. The sooner we start the easier it will be,” Peters stated.

Flint agreed a carbon tax “needs to be considered as part of tax reform,” adding his support for an “economy-wide carbon tax.”

In opening remarks, Amy Farrell, senior vice president of government and public affairs for the American Wind Energy Association, which sponsored the forum, said there are three things that will drive where we go on the clean energy debate: congressional action or a lack thereof, industry innovation, and the business climate. “The real question now is when something will pass (Congress) and what it will look like, rather than whether something will pass,” said Farrell. “If legislation stalls, what can we do to ensure progress.”

She said the tariff imposed by the Trump administration has been detrimental to the renewable energy industry because they have increased costs of parts and essential materials.

She said Congress can help in expanding green energy by ensuring that wind and solar have parity on tax incentives with other energy sources, by passing policies that support the construction of new electricity transmission and other infrastructure, and by pushing FERC to reform its interregional citing process. “The reality is we already have the tools we need to power more of our world with clean energy,” said Farrell.