White House touts green energy credits
Credit: By Ben Geman and Andrew Restuccia | E2 Wire | thehill.com 22 May 2012 ~~
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State of play: The White House is pulling out all stops – or at least, plenty of stops – to build pressure on Congress to extend expiring tax credits that are vital to the wind energy industry.
President Obama will ramp up his call for extension of the production tax credit in a speech at an Iowa turbine blade maker on Thursday.
Ahead of the speech, the administration brought top White House energy aide Heather Zichal before reporters Tuesday to warn that lots of jobs are on the line if Congress doesn’t re-up the credits, which are expiring at year’s end.
She noted that the credits have support across the aisle and among business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.
“[T]oday, the wind industry supports tens of thousands of jobs all across the country. While these are encouraging trends, it also means that thousands of jobs including those in the supply chain are at risk if Congress fails to act in renewing the credits,” she said.
New wind-power installations have dropped sharply when the credit has been allowed to lapse (the last time that happened was in 2004).
“This year it was a banner year for wind production, but without an extension of the production tax credit, we concede job losses up to 37,000,” Zichal said.
The administration is also pushing for another round of a stimulus-law program that provided $2.3 billion in tax credits for manufacturing green-energy-related equipment, an initiative commonly known as the 48C program after its place in the tax code.
The White House dispatched Zichal and other top officials, including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, to meet Tuesday with wind energy developers and supply chain manufacturers to discuss the wind credit and the 48C program.
Look for more high-level focus on green energy this week ahead of Obama’s speech.
Chu issued a statement Tuesday highlighting the opening of an expanded DuPont solar manufacturing plant in Circleville, Ohio, that received $50 million in tax credits.
The expansion created several hundred construction jobs and 70 permanent jobs, according to DOE.
“The Circleville plant expansion exemplifies American ingenuity and manufacturing leadership in clean energy technologies – creating jobs and producing clean, renewable power for our country’s homes and businesses,” Chu said in a statement.
The Energy secretary also plans to tour a DuPont R&D facility in Delaware Wednesday, where the emphasis will be on areas including advanced biofuels.
Zichal said the White House is looking for ways to move the credits on Capitol Hill – and soon.
“We are working every day with our legislative team to continue the dialogue with the Hill and find vehicles to move this as quickly as possible,” she said Tuesday.
But the White House faces headwinds.
While the wind energy credit has repeatedly won extensions ahead of its expiration, GOP election-year attacks on the White House green-energy agenda could create bigger hurdles this year. And proposals to expand the 48C program have sputtered in recent years.
Thune outlines conditions for extending wind tax credit
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters Tuesday that, to extend the production tax credit, the wind industry might also have to find a method for eventually phasing it out, and that the costs of the tax incentive might have to be offset.
“There are a number of us up here who are supportive of the wind industry and the production tax credit, but also recognize the need to do this in a fiscally responsible way that reforms the existing credit,” Thune, the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, told reporters. “And I think that’s hopefully the direction in which this is headed.”
Thune added that the production tax credit would likely need to be dealt with in a package extending a slew of expired or expiring tax provisions.
Lawmakers in both parties and both chambers are discussing how to handle the so-called tax extenders, but Thune said Tuesday that work could be finished before the November elections.
Terry Royer, CEO of Winergy Drive Systems Corp. – one of the execs who met with administration officials Tuesday – said today that the tax credit doesn’t need to be extended indefinitely.
His Illinois-based company manufactures gearboxes for wind turbines.
“I think there’s a time horizon. You know, is it three, four, five years? But after that I think it’s good. If you look at the trajectory we’ve scaled up and the cost that we’ve brought down through the supply chain and the efficiencies gained with the turbines, I think we’re in striking distance, but it’s hard to predict,” he said at a White House press briefing.
Jaczko holding press conference
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko will make his first public appearance Wednesday since announcing his intention to resign.
Jaczko will hold a press conference at 9:30 a.m. in Charlotte, N.C., after speaking at the Nuclear Energy Institute’s annual Nuclear Energy Assembly.
Reporters are sure to press Jaczko for more details on the timing of his decision, which came amid criticism of his leadership from his colleagues and Republicans in Congress.
Jaczko did a slew of phone interviews with various news outlets, including The Hill, Monday evening after announcing his plan to step down.
In his interview with The Hill, Jaczko said the criticism of his tenure as chairman did not affect his decision to resign.
“The timing was right. It was just a feeling that now was the right time to make the announcement,” he said, adding that he made his decision within the “last couple of days.”
Jaczko, a physicist and former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), was nominated to the commission by former President George W. Bush in 2005. President Obama nominated him as chairman in 2009.
The commissioners’ behind-the-scenes squabbling over policy and personality matters has tumbled into the spotlight in recent months.
The four other NRC commissioners, two Democrats and two Republicans, wrote a letter to the White House last year alleging that Jaczko was causing “serious damage” to the agency that could harm the body’s ability to protect health and safety.
The letter was released publicly shortly after an NRC inspector general report exposed major tensions within the agency. The report quoted anonymous NRC staffers who alleged that Jaczko created a tense atmosphere at the agency and, in some instances, berated employees. Jaczko strongly denies those allegations.
Check E2 Wednesday morning for updates from Jaczko’s press conference.
NRDC to examine heat-related deaths
The Natural Resources Defense Council will release a report Wednesday called “Killer Summer Heat,” which quantifies the potential health effects of climate change-related temperature increases.
The study projects “a total of more than 150,000 additional heat-related deaths through the end of this century across most major cities,” according to an NRDC statement.
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