Next week, the Senate plans to consider the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008, a hodgepodge of subsidies and tax credits that reflects the vacuum of long-term strategic thinking in U.S. energy policy.
The bill is a classic Senate Christmas Tree, bedecked with tax breaks and loopholes for just about every energy-related industry under the sun.
Unbelievably, the renewable tax credits get another anemic extension — one year for wind (and "refined coal") and two for other renewables. The cycle of short-term, political-whim-based, industrial policy has constrained growth in renewables for years, but it seems to work for those with the whims.
There are also favors for building efficiency, plug-in hybrids, carbon capture and sequestration, oil shale, tar sands, coal-to-liquid fuels, cellulosic ethanol, bicycles, enhanced oil recovery … the list goes on.
Is the good stuff worth the bad? A sizeable coalition of environmental groups says no. The National Wildlife Federation concludes that “the increased global warming pollution and destruction of important wildlife habitat that would result from the oil shale, tar sands, and CTL provisions in H.R.6049 outweigh the benefits of [the bill’s] clean energy incentives.”
The real tragedy isn’t just that the bad goodies outweigh the good goodies, but that even now, in the midst of converging energy supply and climate crises, all we can manage is another goodie bag. Where is the vision, the sense of direction, the performance standards and metrics? What’s the goal? Anything beyond getting through another election?