White House engaging lawmakers on energy tax code issues

While Zichal characterized Congress’ chances of taking up tax reform as “up in the air,” she said the White House is “standing by ready to engage.”

Zichal mentioned a few of the administration’s specific tax policy aims, but declined to elaborate beyond her public comments.

“I’m not in a position to go into detail on that right now,” she told reporters.

If Congress does dive into tax reform, many of the energy measures Obama prefers would likely run into opposition from fiscal conservatives.

Conservatives have pushed back against energy subsidies — especially for renewable energy — they say would expand the federal deficit.

They have been particularly critical of the production tax credit for renewable energy, which Obama wants to make permanent.

The credit subsidizes renewable energy generation from wind, biomass, geothermal and other forms of renewable energy.

The incentive currently faces expiration every couple of years. Renewable energy proponents say the uncertainty of congressional approval stunts investment.

Zichal said baking the credit into the tax code is a significant administration priority. She explained it would help reach a second-term goal to double renewable energy generation.

Zichal also said the White House is talking to lawmakers to “get their heads around” a pair of financing structures that the administration wants to open up to renewable energy projects.

Currently, Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) don’t apply to renewable energy projects.

The financing arrangements are taxed like a partnership but traded like a stock. They reduce capital costs for projects by spreading expenses across more investors and taxing the entity at one level instead of two.

“Because we view the tax code as an important way to actually affect energy policy, we’re doing a lot of groundwork right now to help provide technical assistance to some of the other members on both sides of the aisle,” Zichal said.