Environment

Congress Steals from the Clean and Gives to the Dirty

Reality BaseBy Melissa LafskyJun 24, 2008 3:44 PM

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Earlier this month, Senate Republicans blocked a proposal to tax the windfall profits of the five largest U.S. oil companies. The GOP's filibuster of the bill, which would have rescinded $18 billion in tax breaks for oil companies, not only lessened the chances of Big Oil footing some of the bill for record high gas prices, it also meant the likely death of tax breaks for another cause: growth and development of wind, solar, and other alternative energy sources. Existing tax breaks have been crucial for alternative energy providers, allowing them to raise the capital they need for growth. But while most members of Congress express continued support for the tax breaks, and even take occasional action to safeguard them—the Senate voted overwhelmingly in April to give the breaks a one-year extension—they'll nonetheless expire by the end of this year. Last week, the breaks lost another battle when Republicans blocked yet another Senate vote, this time on a proposal to raise the $18 billion for alt-energy tax credits by closing a tax loophole for hedge-fund managers. We're at a point where wind, solar, and other alternative energy providers are finally finding their legs in the market. Meanwhile, the experts point ever-ardently to the fact that continued development of alternative energy is crucial for fighting climate change—not to mention helping out all those consumers buckling under oil prices. This is a perfect opportunity for Congress to step in and bolster scientific advancement for the greater good, rather than bog itself down in partisan agenda. If we can't even manage to keep tax breaks for alternative energy alive, we'll be in pretty rough shape when it comes to even greater changes looming on the horizon. At the very least, there's the issue of jobs at stake, with American Wind Energy Association reps predicting a loss of up to 116,000 jobs in wind alone should the credits expire. Which, given our current employment numbers, is hardly a goal to shoot for.

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