Too clean to fail

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A battle is raging in Congress about the fate of the nation’s energy tax policies, and the first casualties were the suite of clean energy tax incentives for wind, solar and energy efficiency — along with the jobs, clean air and dollars saved that come with them. 

Armed with century-old subsidies, enormous political power and market hegemony, the fossil fuel industry successfully convinced Congress to pull the plug on clean energy tax credits as of Dec. 31, 2013. The consequences are clear. Jobs are being lost. Clean energy projects are being scuttled. Pollution is being dumped into our air that needn’t be. All while the dirty energy industry continues to harvest billions in permanent subsidies drained from the pockets of U.S. taxpayers every year. 

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That is just the way Big Oil and its lobbying front groups want it. They are keenly aware that more renewables and energy efficiency means burning less fossil fuel, cutting into their bottom line. Although there will be less pollution clogging our children’s lungs and heating up the planet, clean energy represents a threat to oil and coal’s supremacy. And that’s a scenario the fossil fuel interests are spending millions to avoid. They’re working hard to leverage their wealth and power to block congressional efforts to reinstate the expired tax credits that help Americans save more energy and get more of what we do use from clean, renewable sources like wind and solar. 

Simply put, the fossil fuel industry wants clean energy to fail. For the health of our families and communities, Congress must not let that happen. And the public wants Congress to act.

According to the April 2 Gallup poll, more than 64 percent of Americans favor clean energy over oil, gas and coal. Almost 60 percent believe our country should emphasize conservation to help meet our energy needs. Nearly 70 percent favor spending more government money on developing solar and wind power.

Americans want to break our addiction to fossil fuels by investing in the clean technologies of today and tomorrow. And for good reason. 

To turn the tide of dangerous climate change, we need every wind turbine, solar panel and energy efficiency solution possible. At the very least, we cannot afford to repeat the sharp decline in clean energy growth that happened the last time Congress let clean energy incentives lapse. The wind industry alone shed 30,000 jobs and new installations declined 92 percent.

In reality, however, a simple resurgence in clean energy’s growth rates won’t be enough. We need to dramatically increase them, and a tax code that continues to invest in clean energy is an essential tool to realize that goal. 

When Congress returns to work, our elected leaders must reject the fossil fuel industry’s protectionist agenda and act swiftly to give back what it took away. While these critical tax incentives to support clean energy have passed the Senate Finance Committee, other legislative hurdles remain. Every day of delay puts more jobs on the line and pollution in the air. 

We need Congress to act now. A cleaner future is too important to fail.   

Matzner is associate director of government affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council.