With his Solyndra investigation winding down, a key House Republican is turning his sights on another controversial renewable energy project in an effort to paint the Obama administration as allowing political support for clean power to trump safety concerns. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) says he wants to know more about the approval of the Cape Wind project, which aims to erect 130 turbines off Massachusetts’ shore in what would be the first such wind farm in federal waters.
The ongoing campaign to extend a tax break vital to the wind industry is experiencing something of an identity crisis. On the one hand, the credit has broad bipartisan support and efforts to extend it have been championed even by some freshman Republican lawmakers swept into office on the tea party-backed wave two years ago. On the other, congressional Democrats and the Obama administration are increasingly pointing to inaction on the credit to attack their political rivals and draw contrasts aimed at highlighting GOP support for the oil industry.
The Obama administration today announced a major advancement of its efforts to expand wind-generated electricity with the completion of environmental reviews of the largest proposed wind farm in North America and of a plan to begin tapping into the vast wind resources off the Atlantic Coast.
The Obama administration has taken the first major step toward approving a wind farm project in California that would cover nearly 3,200 acres of already-disturbed desert flatlands, avoiding culturally significant landscapes that have slowed other renewables projects in the state.
Towers are beginning to take form as construction progresses at Maine’s newest wind farm. All of the tower sections have arrived by ship from Denmark and will be delivered over a matter of weeks to the site of the $76 million Bull Hill project in central Hancock County, about 18 miles northeast of Ellsworth.
Big oil and natural gas companies vastly outspend and outman the renewable fuels industry on Capitol Hill, but the general gridlock in Washington gives advocates of wind, ethanol and other new-age sources an edge in the growing battle to overhaul U.S. energy policy. “This Congress seems unable to make a national energy policy,” said Bruce Babcock, an Iowa State University economist. “The renewable fuels have an advantage in that they are part of current law, and it’s always easier to maintain current law than it is to change it.”
In the latest black eye for the Department of Energy’s controversial loan guarantee program, Colorado-based Abound Solar is preparing to shut down less than two years after being approved for a $400 million loan. The Abound loan had been offered to aid the construction of manufacturing plants in Longmont, Colo., and Tipton, Ind.
A renewable energy advocacy group has launched a Web portal aimed at disseminating information about wind, solar, biomass and other alternative fuels while also refuting what it characterizes as lies and misinformation being peddled by opponents of renewable energy.
After a federal appeals court upheld Obama administration greenhouse gas regulations yesterday, attention turned to what remaining legal options are left available to the challengers. The choice is straightforward: Ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to rehear the case or immediately seek Supreme Court review. A three-judge panel of the appeals court yesterday denied or dismissed challenges to four rules that are key to the administration’s effort to regulate greenhouse gas emissions (Greenwire, June 26).
House Democrats today introduced a bill that would extend a key wind industry tax break for one year and make up the proceeds by eliminating an incentive that allows large oil companies to deduct foreign tax payments from their domestic tax bills. While there is substantial bipartisan support for extending the wind production tax credit, the effort has struggled to gain traction in a polarized Congress. A broader effort to tie the PTC to eliminating oil company tax breaks fell short in the Senate this year, when S. 2204, a bill from Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), failed to overcome procedural hurdles.