10 Incentives Congress Must Renew to Ensure a Clean Energy Future
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden has officially begun consideration of legislation to reinstate a suite of tax credits that big polluters and their allies succeeded in getting Congress to let expire, including vital, commonsense policies that promote clean energy.
These tax credits grow the economy by cutting pollution and their absence in the committee’s initial bill draft belies the broad, bipartisan support renewable and energy efficiency continue to attract. As final legislation takes shape, Congress should remain clear just what is at stake: clean energy is central to meeting our obligation to defend the next generation from the dangerous pollution that threatens our climate, health, and economy. The nation’s tax code is an important tool and it should be used to promote progress, not turn back the clock on our children’s future.
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Continued support of America’s critical renewable and energy efficient tax policies – and for a period longer than what unfortunately has been traditionally limited to a one-year extension-- also will provide the market signals and stability necessary for significant job creation and technological advances to further advance a clean energy future. It’s time to stop permanently subsidizing big polluters and instead double down on using our tax code to support clean energy.
Below is a list of the clean energy credits that Congress must ensure are included in any final package:
Support for wind and other renewable energy:
- The Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit (PTC) offers a per-kilowatt-hour tax credit for electricity generated by qualified energy resources, including wind and geothermal. It has played a valuable role in advancing wind power and nurturing an industry that now provides jobs to more than 80,000 Americans. In 2012 alone, the tax credit helped the wind industry catalyze $25 billion in private investment in our economy. More than 70 percent of U.S. congressional districts have either a wind project or wind-related manufacturing facility, bringing local economic development to the region.
- The Business Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is a crucial strategy to launch the U.S. offshore wind industry, although it also applies to other resources like solar and geothermal. Considering that the Atlantic coast in particular has strong winds with an estimated potential of more than 1,300 gigawatts of energy generation, harnessing just 52 gigawatts offshore could power about 14 million U.S. homes and create more than $200 billion in new economic activity along the coast. Solar projects and other technologies supported through the ITC should also be eligible if they begin construction prior to the end of the credit period.
Key credits for energy efficiency, our cleanest, cheapest energy resource, should be refined and extended:
- The Deduction for Commercial Buildings (179D) allows private building owners and public building designers who cut energy use by 50 percent, compared with what would be consumed if the building were constructed under the 2001 building code, to take a tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot. The savings are accomplished through changes in the lighting, heating, cooling, and ventilation systems, or in the building envelope—insulation, external windows and doors and/or roofing material. With more than 4.8 million commercial and other nonresidential buildings in the United States, the energy-saving potential is huge.
- The Credit for the Construction of Energy Efficient Homes (45L) provides a $2,000 tax credit to builders who achieve a 50 percent reduction in heating and cooling energy use compared with a home built to the 2006 code. Studies since the 1980s have shown energy efficiency can increase a home’s value by roughly 9 percent.
- The Credit for Residential Energy Efficiency Improvements (25C) offers homeowners a tax credit for 10 percent of the cost of energy efficient building envelope improvements and replacement equipment that meet certain criteria, with a $500 maximum over the life of the credit.
- Credit for the Manufacture of Energy Efficient Appliances (45M) offers a per-unit credit to builders of high-efficiency dishwashers, refrigerators, and clothes washers, according to energy savings. Enacted with industry support, this incentive boosts U.S. manufacturing as well as energy efficiency. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers says 40,000 jobs are affected by this incentive: at least 17,000 direct manufacturing jobs and 23,000 support jobs.
Incentives to help grow the alternative-fuels sector:
- The Second-Generation Biofuel Producer Credit (Section 40) provides a $1.01 tax credit per gallon of cellulosic or algal biofuel production. Although it could benefit from several changes, the credit is the bedrock tax incentive for potentially sustainable alternatives to petroleum.
- The Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit (Section 30C) helps individuals and businesses invest in recharging infrastructure that supports electric vehicles. Ideally, a multi-year extension would provide the necessary certainty to reinforce private investment across the electric and fuel cell vehicle markets.
- The Incentive for Fuel Cell Vehicles (26 USC 30B), which expires this year,provides a substantial tax credit to defray the cost of new fuel cell vehicles. Because it is performance-based, it provides a greater incentive for light duty fuel cell vehicles that achieve greater mileage performance. These vehicles represent an opportunity to shift the transportation sector from petroleum to hydrogen.
Commuter Transit and Parking Benefits
- Monthly commuting costs are reduced by excluding them from federal taxation. Drivers benefit from this provision via cheaper parking at their sites of employment. Providing this benefit for transit and vanpool users as well puts them on par with drivers and delivers an effective incentive for choosing these cleaner and more energy-efficient means of transportation, benefiting communities and the environment as well as workers.
In short, we need every wind turbine, solar panel, electric vehicle, and energy-efficient heater if we’re going to cut the carbon pollution driving climate change and to move the U.S. closer to a more stable and prosperous future. Both chambers of Congress should follow Chairman Wyden's lead and waste no time reinstating the full suite of clean energy credits.
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A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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