Muckraker: Grist on PoliticsThe House approved legislation today that renews billions of dollars in tax breaks for wind, solar, biomass, and other renewable energy sources, and extends a proposed new tax credit for biofuels derived from sources other than corn.

“The Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008” (which is a much better name than it had last week, when it was the “Energy and Tax Extenders Act”) was approved by a vote of 263-160. The total package, which also includes tax breaks for education and business expenses and an expansion of the refundable child tax credit, is worth $54 billion.

“As we debate this legislation, American families are paying record prices at the pump — yesterday the cost of a barrel of oil passed $129 for the first time in history. Today, I believe it went past $130,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the House floor today. “This legislation invests in the future and the ingenuity of the American people to create and deploy cutting-edge renewable technologies that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

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The bill includes a six-year extension of the investment tax credit for solar energy; a three-year extension of the production tax credit for biomass, geothermal, hydropower, landfill gas, and solid waste; and a one-year extension of the production tax credit for wind energy. There are also incentives for the production of renewable fuels such as biodiesel and cellulosic biofuels, incentives for companies that produce energy-efficient products, and incentives to improve efficiency in commercial and residential buildings.

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Congress has been trying to get these tax credits for clean energy through for a year. The bill is likely to face tougher opposition in the Senate, and the president has already threatened to veto it. But in a press conference today after the House passed the bill, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Jim McDermott (D-Wa.), and Richard Neal (D-Mass.) expressed hope that it might still have a chance, citing rising fossil-fuel prices and the need for long-term solutions.

“One of the critical problems we’re facing today is energy prices, and the problem is we don’t have enough choices for consumers,” said Blumenauer. “We’ve squandered American leadership in renewable energy — the United States was a global leader 30 years ago and we’ve lost that leadership internationally to other countries that are moving forward more aggressively.”

Blumenauer predicted that without these tax extensions, the United States could see “almost 20 billion in lost investment” in renewables, as well as up to 150,000 lost job opportunities in the green energy sector. He said that the potential to address energy concerns and create economic growth might help it win support in the Senate.

“We’ve got 23 Republican senators who are looking down the barrel at reelection,” said Blumenauer. “I think people are going to be looking for opportunities to look like they’re being bipartisan and trying to solve problems as we get closer to the election.”

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McDermott added that he hoped the movement in the House would “jump-start” negotiations within the Senate about how to support renewable energy.