When President Obama focused heavily on energy issues in his State of the Union address earlier this week, he echoed themes many governors have been pushing forward in their annual “state of the state” speeches this month. Governors from resource-rich states like Alaska, Virginia, West Virginia and Colorado all have devoted substantial sections of their annual addresses to traditional energy this month. The governors — both Democrats and Republicans — have called for increases in traditional and renewable energy development, and many have taken jabs at the federal government for stifling development.
Just how much natural gas is trapped underground in the United States? The difficulty and uncertainty in predicting natural gas resources was underscored last week when the Energy Information Administration released a report containing sharply lower estimates.
The top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday said she sees a bumpy road for passing a clean energy standard this session. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) also blamed the president for failing to actively promote his proposal to generate up to 80 percent of the country’s electricity from low-carbon sources by 2035, despite calling for it in his past two State of the Union speeches.
Gov. Matt Mead says he’s given up hope that the Wyoming Legislature this year will roll back state tax increases on wind energy production and construction of wind energy projects. Wyoming began imposing a $1 per megawatt hour tax on wind energy production in January. This month, the state also began imposing sales and use taxes that generally exceed 5 percent on equipment used on wind energy projects.
A Michigan factory that made luxury yachts before the recession and diversified to add wind energy products when times got tough was touted by President Barack Obama at his State of the Union Address as an example of an industry creating forward-thinking jobs — with a little help from the government.
The wind industry renewed its call today for Congress to quickly extend a lucrative tax credit, pointing to new data that show a spike in development in 2011. The pressure comes as lawmakers begin negotiations to extend the Social Security payroll tax holiday — a package supporters see as a potential vehicle for the production tax credit. Set to expire at the end of this year, the credit grants companies that produce electricity from wind, solar, geothermal and certain plants a 2.2-cent-per-kilowatt-hour subsidy for the first 10 years of the facility’s operation.
Failing to extend the federal production tax credit, a financial mechanism meant to leverage renewable energy industries, would be a disaster for wind energy producers, industry leaders said Tuesday. Moreover, because of the relatively long business cycle required to secure permits, order materials and manufacture components used to build wind turbines, it is imperative that Congress act immediately, and not in the eleventh hour before the credit expires, they said.
Assisted by technological innovation and years of subsidies, the cost of wind and solar power has fallen sharply — so much so that the two industries say that they can sometimes deliver cleaner electricity at prices competitive with power made from fossil fuels. At the same time, wind and solar companies are telling Congress that they cannot be truly competitive and keep creating jobs without a few more years of government support.
The nation’s second largest developer of wind projects, Iberdrola Renewables Inc., laid off 50 workers this week, placing some of the blame on the federal government for the move.
The petitioners in a pair of ongoing federal cases involving imported Chinese renewable energy products today cheered the tough stance President Obama took on unfair Chinese trade practices during his State of the Union address last night. “I will not stand by when our competitors don’t play by the rules,” Obama said last night. “We’ve brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate as the last administration — and it’s made a difference.”