The fate of tax extensions for renewable energy remains in question today, after the House approved a tax package that differed from the version passed earlier this week in the Senate.
To the delight of enviros, the House version strips out tax incentives for oil shale and tar sands development, as well as provisions to support coal-to-liquid fuels.
Both the the House and Senate versions include one year extensions of the production tax credit for wind and an eight-year extension of the investment tax credits for solar. They also include tax credits for plug-in electric vehicles (though the price figure is different in the two bills), and extend the tax breaks for residential solar.
The House version includes additional measures to pay for the entire package of tax breaks, though, which many Republicans have opposed. This has previously prevented the extensions from passing in the Senate. The White House has also threatened to veto the House bill, while offering support (albeit tepid) for the Senate version.
The Renewable Energy and Job Creation Tax Act of 2008 passed by a vote of 257-166, marking the sixth time the House has passed these extensions. The bill stalled repeatedly in the Senate, until a compromised version of the package passed earlier this week. At the time of passage, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) urged House members not to change the legislation, worrying that any changes to the package would bring about its demise. “If the House doesn’t pass this, the full responsibility of it not passing is theirs,” said Reid. “It’s not ours.”
But House Democrats are holding firm that theirs is the superior version. “This legislation also holds true to our commitment to fiscal responsibility,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a statement today. “By closing loopholes that allow corporations and executives to avoid U.S. taxes by shipping jobs and investment overseas and curtailing unnecessary tax subsidies for big, multinational oil and gas companies, we are ensuring that future generations don’t foot the bill for the progress we can make today.”
Other House Democrats insisted that this was not a dispute between party members, but rather a matter of Republicans blocking a better version of the bill. “This is not a House-Senate dispute. This is about Republicans taking hostage this renewable energy bill,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) on the House floor. “Their approach boils down to this: they absolutely refuse to let us take America forward into a less fossil-fuel dependent economy unless we borrow the money to do it.”
It’s not clear whether the two sides of Capitol Hill will be able to hammer out the difference between the bills before Congress wraps up for the year. It’s possible that the package could be taken up after the election in lame-duck session. If it remains unresolved, the tax credits for renewables will expire at the end of the year.