Dem senator expects renewable credits to be extended

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) told a meeting of renewable energy officials Friday that the tax credits that incentivize renewable energy production and investment, which expired at the end of last year, are likely to be renewed.

“I think that there’s highly likely to be an extension,” Whitehouse said at an event hosted by the American Council on Renewable Energy, referring to the production tax credit and the investment tax credit. He added that long-term extensions of the credits are not likely unless they’re part of a large tax reform measure.

“There’s very strong bipartisan support for it,” he told industry representatives. “I’m relatively optimistic. It doesn’t mean that you guys shouldn’t be all in to make sure it happens.”

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Whitehouse is a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the tax-writing Finance Committee, has said his panel will consider renewing an array of tax breaks that expired last year, and that he supports extending the renewable energy credits. The credits incentivize wind power, biofuels, hydropower and solar power, among other forms of energy.

Wyden’s House counterpart, Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), will similarly consider tax extenders soon, he said.

“I think you can be optimistic without holding back on your energetic advocacy,” Whitehouse said.

Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, was less optimistic at the ACORE event.

“I don’t think that these changes will happen automatically,” Levin said, noting Republican opposition to the tax breaks.

“We haven’t made … a case for the renewables,” he said. “I think you’d be surprised at the lack of information that exists within the ranks of Congress.”

Whitehouse also advocated for a tax on carbon emissions, which would help the renewable energy industry.

“We have to get a carbon fee,” Whitehouse said. “It makes perfect sense, particularly if it is revenue neutral.”

Traditional energy producers could even endorse a carbon fee if it is presented as an alternative to stricter emissions regulations, he said.