Reports spinning in the blogosphere have indicated that renewable energy provisions are in danger of being removed from the energy bill by congressional leaders, who are willing to cede the bill’s better provisions in order to get it passed. All this is occurring while numerous energy issues have surfaced and are bubbling around the Senate Farm Bill.
This is where it gets a little tricky. Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) wants to migrate two of his favored energy provisions -- the ethanol mandate and $50 billion in nuclear power loan guarantees -- into the more viable farm bill. Big-Ag has been lobbying heavily in support of the restructuring, but opponents fear that transferring the ethanol mandate to the farm bill would weaken bipartisan support for the energy bill and doom it to failure.
But also buried away in the farm bill is the often overlooked small wind tax credit. This year, identical bills were introduced in the Senate by Salazar (D-CO) and Smith (R-OR) and in the House by Blumenauer (D-OR) and Cole (R-OK) that would provide an investment tax credit of $1,500 per ½ kilowatt of capacity for small wind systems. This incentive could make small-scale wind energy generation viable for many, but it would not create the same kind of explosive growth in large-scale wind installations that an RPS or feed-in tariff would.
Late Tuesday, Blog for Rural America reported that the Senate Ag. Committee had agreed upon a list of amendments, and that debate on the farm bill should proceed in the morning. The first thing to be debated in the morning will most likely be the hotly contested Dorgan-Grassley amendment that would close loopholes for corporate farmers and put a 'hard cap' on farm subsidies at $250,000. Roughly half of the suggested $1.15 billion savings would be spent on social programs like emergency food assistance and food stamp enhancements. The rest of the money would be invested in programs for beginning farmer development, rural microenterprise assistance, farmers markets, organic certification cost share, community food grants, grasslands reserve, and farmland protection.
Not willing to give up hope for a more robust renewable energy program, Congressman Mark Udall (D-CO) has said that he will meet with Speaker Pelosi on Wednesday to talk about the future of the wavering energy bill. Co-chair of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, Udall is also meeting with senators to share his experiences with Colorado's successful Renewable Electricity Standard. Udall is positioning himself to run for the senate seat being vacated by Republican Wayne Allard, so he will do whatever he can to keep renewable energy targets in the energy bill – he could certainly use a legislative victory to earn some political capital to spend in the upcoming campaign.