Securing the nation's energy future while, at the same time, protecting our environment has finally moved to the top of U.S. legislators' "to-do" list. In mid-January, the House passed the Clean Energy Act - a renewable energy bill designed to wean America off of oil and encourage the development of renewable resources. The legislation scraps nearly $15 billion worth of oil industry tax breaks that Congress had enacted in recent years. The tax money will instead be allocated to the promotion of renewable fuels, e.g., solar and wind; alternative fuels, e.g., ethanol and biodiesel; as well as to provide incentives for conservation.
Although the bill's future is uncertain in the Senate, where many Republican senators object to the curtailment of incentives for domestic oil drilling, its passage was lauded by House Democrats, including freshman Representative Jerry McNerney (D-CA): "This bill is a first step to diversify our energy sources." He added that Congress is following through on its "responsibility to make the environment livable for future generations."
Additional pending legislation includes an extension of renewable energy tax credits, originally set to expire in 2008, until 2016. The Securing America's Energy Independence Act would extend tax incentives for solar energy, fuel cells, solar hybrid lighting, microturbines, and geothermal energy. The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that long-term tax credits could spur the industries' creation of 55,000 jobs and encourage states to invest billions in renewable energy infrastructure as well.
And forward-thinking companies are also joining forces to help manage the nation's energy future. Companies like Alcoa, Pitney Bowes, and FedEx among others are uniting to explore the ways in which their firms can switch to renewable energy to power their facilities. Options including landfill gas, ethanol, and wind power are being investigated.
Utility companies are helping to foster these changes. For example, Georgia Power is using landfill gas at its DeKalb County generation facility; Nebraska Public Power District has installed 36 wind turbines near Ainsworth; FirstEnergy has a wind farm in Somerset County, Pa.; Ohio's Buckeye Power is involved in a unique solar-powered research project; Santee Cooper of South Carolina recently dedicated its first solar PV project; and the list goes on. Read about these efforts in our annual energy report on page 42 of this issue.
Energy diversification and security is also on the minds of many of the nation's newly elected governors. One of Area Development's staff writers recently obtained the new governors' views on energy as well as other issues important to their states, including education, healthcare, transportation, and technology. You can find the new governors' agendas beginning on page 48. These agendas are steps in the right direction. If America is to reduce its dependence on foreign oil and take control of its energy future, government, utilities, businesses, and other consumers must all work together for change.