How We Can Change Our Tax Policy to Save the Environment (Rep. Earl Blumenauer)

Our current tax policy values wasteful and dirty energy generation over clean, renewable technology. This session, Congress has the ability to reform our tax system to spur innovation, save energy, and make our communities more livable.

I am currently working on several pieces of legislation to use the tax code to promote carbon neutral and environmentally positive policies.

Last month, I introduced H.R. 1772, the Rural Wind Energy Development Act. This legislation would provide an investment tax credit to help individuals offset the high upfront cost of installing a small wind turbine, which creates clean, renewable energy.

This tax credit would be available to homeowners, farmers, and small businesses. It would allow these individuals to generate their own power, independent from the electric grid. They would be able to cut their energy bills and, at times, put power back into the grid. We already offer an investment tax credit for homeowners who install small solar systems; its success can be seen in the increasing number of solar panels that have been installed. This bill would simply expand that to include wind.

It is exciting to have strong support for H.R. 1772, which currently has 23 bi-partisan co-sponsors, including the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.).

I have also introduced the "Bike Commuter Act," H.R. 1498, which addresses not the production of energy but the use of oil. This bill would extend the transportation fringe benefit to people who bike to work, rewarding commuters who burn calories instead of gas.

Currently, employers can offer a transportation fringe benefit to their employees for certain costs incurred while commuting to work. Employees who take advantage of this benefit may receive a tax-exempt benefit of up to $215/month for drivers participating in qualified parking plans or $110/month for those who use transit or vanpooling. My legislation aims to balance the incentive structure by extending the transportation fringe benefit to include bicycling.

With over 50 percent of the population commuting 5 miles or less to work, incentives for bicycle commuting have great potential to reduce single occupancy vehicle trips. I believe this is the type of message that Congress should be sending to our communities through the tax code: that we support efforts to reduce energy consumption, ease traffic congestion, and encourage healthy activities as part of our daily routines.

This Congress is doing more than any before it to address climate change and energy independence. I am eager to continue working to pass and implement meaningful policies that take on the global warming challenge.