Whatever happens on Election Day, members of the 112th Congress will have to return to Washington following their victory parties or concession speeches with a full slate of legislative business to complete before the year is over, including deciding whether to extend a suite of renewable energy tax breaks that are now scheduled to disappear after Dec. 31. Expectations that the lame-duck session will be a busy one are growing on Capitol Hill, as activity is expected to soon wind down so members can focus on their re-election campaigns. But that doesn’t mean lawmakers are looking forward to the end-of-the-year rush, which will be accompanied by the bruised feelings that inevitably follow a hard-fought election season.
A legal petition aimed at reinstating a state rule for limiting noise at a controversial wind farm in Maine can proceed, a judge ruled on Friday, denying a motion from the farm’s developer, Fox Islands Wind, for dismissal.
The Interior Department released voluntary guidelines for wind energy developers today aimed at limiting bird kills and minimizing other damage to natural resources. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the “common sense” guidelines should steer wind projects away from places where they would have an outsized impact on wildlife and provide developers certainty and flexibility.
Amid intense lobbying from the wind and other renewable energy interests angling for an extension of coveted tax breaks set to expire at the end of this year and continued efforts to reinstate a key stimulus-funded grant program that expired last year, a Senate Finance subcommittee will hear from analysts and industry representatives about how the uncertainty around tax policy is affecting business. The Energy, Natural Resources and Infrastructure Subcommittee will consider the issue tomorrow, a day after the Senate votes on the latest effort to extend expiring measures like the production tax credit for wind. The Monday vote, on a bill from Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) that would extend the PTC while eliminating certain tax benefits for large oil companies, is widely expected to fail, but lawmakers say the issue of how to provide incentives for renewable energy likely will remain prominent on Capitol Hill for the rest of the year.
For the first time, the federal government on Thursday released an estimate of the number of so-called green jobs in the United States economy, saying that 3.1 million people are employed in the production of goods and services that benefit the environment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, a unit of the Labor Department, spent more than a year compiling its report, which found that green goods and services accounted for 2.4 percent of total United States employment in 2010. The study, based on a survey of employers and a relatively broad definition of the term ”green,” will provide a baseline against which future job growth or decline can be measured.
The desolate stretch of West Texas desert known as the Permian Basin is still the lonely domain of scurrying roadrunners by day and howling coyotes by night. But the roar of scores of new oil rigs and the distinctive acrid fumes of drilling equipment are unmistakable signs that crude is gushing again. And not just here. Across the country, the oil and gas industry is vastly increasing production, reversing two decades of decline. Using new technology and spurred by rising oil prices since the mid-2000s, the industry is extracting millions of barrels more a week, from the deepest waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the prairies of North Dakota.
While the legislative year is less than half over, some House Republicans already are looking ahead to the post-election “lame duck” session during which Congress will have to quickly decide whether to extend key tax breaks for renewable energy and how to address expiring George W. Bush-era income tax rates. “Some of us have already started thinking about it, and I think you’ll see a proposal next week during the budget debate that accommodates all of the things that would be on our plate in December,” Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) told reporters today.
n a perfect world, greenhouse gas emissions would be on the decline in the near future, with fossil fuels replaced by clean sources of energy like wind and solar. But current emissions are so daunting that the chances of the planet cleaning up its act in a timely manner are slim. “It’s such a big number that it’s sort of hard to grasp what it means,” said Ruben Juanes, a geoscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “With emissions as enormous as they are right now, even if we try to deploy alternate energy technologies as quickly as possible, there’s still going to be a huge source of emissions from fossil fuels that we’d better address.”
Deputy U.S. Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman toured the TPI Composites plant that makes wind turbine blades Wednesday, and talked up the need for Congress to extend tax credits for wind projects that will expire at the end of the year. Probably nobody among the 700-plus TPI employees at the plant would disagree with Poneman’s stance on the tax credit. Their jobs may depend on it.
A new study mapping out habitats in and around the waters off New York was released on Tuesday, bringing the state a step closer to determining the potential for wind energy projects offshore. The study is the product of a two-year joint effort by New York’s Department of State and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to identify critical bird and fish habitats to ensure that they are not harmed by future wind farms. Environmental groups say the prescreening will help save time and red tape and could attract developers and investors to wind projects by removing uncertainties about the environmental impacts at a given site.