Will Congress Extend the Renewable Energy Tax Credit?
Three years ago I would have never believed that in December 2011 our country would still be running without a federal energy policy. It has been clear for so long that we need to transition to cleaner, renewable sources of power and pass legislation mandating a renewable portfolio standard (RPS)—requiring a certain percentage of the nation's electricity to be generated by renewable energy sources—and put a cap on carbon.
Years ago it seemed inevitable that we would finally move in the right direction and create a sustainable energy system. But we find ourselves in the same position as we did this time last year, without a RPS or carbon tax, and hoping Congress will extend the renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) before it sunsets at the end of the year. The PTC allows companies who invest in renewable energy to receive a grant in lieu of a tax credit. The grant is highly desirable for companies that don’t have taxable income to offset the tax incentive.
The PTC extension is necessary to help level the playing field between the fossil fuel industry and renewables. Since the fossil fuel industry is so highly subsidized by the federal government, and externalizes its costs, it is impossible for solar, wind and other renewable industries to compete without incentives. According to a report—60 Years of Energy Incentives—by the Management Information Services (as summarized in the chart below), shows that the largest beneficiaries of federal energy incentives have been oil and gas producers, receiving more than half of all incentives provided since 1950. The fossil fuel industry as a whole, has received more than 70 percent of all incentives throughout the last 60 years.
If the PTC extension is not renewed, it will greatly reduce the number of renewable energy projects installed in the U.S. and put us further behind other nations in the manufacturing of renewable energy technologies and commitment to reducing carbon emissions.
According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), facing the threat of the PTC expiring, wind project developers are hesitant to plan future U.S. projects and American manufacturers have seen a marked decrease in orders. Job layoffs have already begun. The wind industry is facing the recurrence of the boom-bust cycle it saw in previous years when the PTC was allowed to expire. In the years following expiration, the number of annual installations of wind projects dropped by more than 70 percent, resulting in significant job losses.
AWEA points out that the wind energy industry has lowered the cost of wind power by more than 90 percent, has fostered economic development in all 50 states and currently powers the equivalent of 10 million American homes. The PTC has been instrumental in helping the wind industry achieve these breakthroughs. Experts say that if we keep the PTC in place, more than 500,000 jobs will be created in the next 20 years. By then, wind will generate 20 percent of America’s electricity.
In the House of Representatives, Congressmen Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) have introduced HR 3307, the American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension Act of 2011. This bill proposes to extend the PTC for four years.
In the Senate, legislators are discussing tax legislation that's expected to be passed before the end of the year. Renewable energy advocates are encouraging Senators to include the PTC extension in this tax package.
Now is the time to urge Congress to take immediate action to pass a four-year extension on the PTC. You can send an email to your elected officials by clicking here.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.