Senate Democrats

Twelve Times and Counting: Bush Republicans Turn Their Backs on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

Senate Democrats have worked tirelessly throughout the 110th Congress to support renewable energy and energy efficiency.  We have succeeded in passing historic energy efficiency improvements for automobiles and light bulbs, significant increases in our nation’s use of biofuels, hundreds of millions of dollars of mandatory funding for advanced biofuel development, and the appropriation of $786 million more for energy efficiency and renewable energy research and development than President Bush requested in his Fiscal Year 2007 and 2008 budgets. 

While these achievements are vital, they represent only the first steps needed to help move our country away from the failed Bush/Cheney energy policy.  One of the most critical steps Congress must take to support renewable energy and energy efficiency is the passage of tax incentives that will spur additional investment in these areas.  Bush Republicans have unfortunately opposed these efforts, choosing instead to protect taxpayer subsidies for the oil companies even though these profits are at record highs. Most recently, Republicans chose to protect hedge fund managers and securities brokers rather than address our nation’s energy crisis.  The Bush Republican opposition to renewable energy and energy efficiency hasn’t been limited to their opposition to tax incentives. They have gone as far as to call for our nation to curtail its use and development of renewable fuels, strenuously opposed efforts to increase our nation’s renewable electricity generation, and blocked legislation that would have doubled the resources that low-income families have to cope with rising energy costs.

Senate Democrats remain committed to enacting these tax credits, but Senate Republicans will have to decide whether or not they prefer the status quo or change. Democrats remain hopeful that they will make the right choice and help move our country away from the failed policies of the past.  This Fact Sheet describes the legislation blocked by Bush Republicans in the 110th Congress that would have promoted renewable energy and energy efficiency, Bush Administration regulations that would stifled renewable energy and energy efficiency, and details the efforts by Bush Republicans to curtail our country’s use of biofuels.

Renewable and Energy Efficiency Legislation Blocked by Bush Republicans

The following chronological list represents both the notable bills that Senate Republicans have blocked that would have promoted renewable energy and energy efficiency or Bush Administration regulations that would have stifled renewable energy and energy efficiency development.

  • June 21, 2007.  The vast majority of Senate Republicans blocked the passage of an amendment (Senate Amendment 1704) to the Energy Bill by a vote of 57 to 36 (60 votes needed to end the filibuster).  This $30 billion proposal was blocked by Republicans because it offset the cost of the renewable energy tax credits by eliminating subsides to the oil and gas industry, including:
  • An extension of the renewable energy production tax credit for five years;
  • An extension of the 30 percent investment tax credit for solar energy and fuel cells, as well as the ten percent investment tax credit for microturbines, for 8 years.
  • An expansion of the deduction for energy-efficient commercial buildings for five years.
  • Creation of a new consumer tax credit for plug-in electric vehicle.
  • December 7, 2007.  The vast majority of Senate Republicans blocked the passage of H.R.6,the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, because it contained a renewable electricity standard.  This legislation would have established a15 percent renewable electricity standard by 2020, which would have spurred nationwide investment in renewable energy.  The 15 percent renewable electricity standard would have increased our nation’s renewable electricity generation by 91,000 megawatts.
  • December 13, 2007.  The vast majority of Senate Republicans blocked the passage of H.R.6, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007,by a vote of 59 to 40 (60 votes needed to end the filibuster).  This $20 billion proposal was blocked by Republicans because it offset the cost of the renewable energy tax credits by eliminating subsidies to the oil and gas industry.  The legislation included:
  • An extension of the renewable energy production tax credit for two years;
  • An extension of the 30 percent investment tax credit for solar energy and fuel cells, as well as the ten percent investment tax credit for microturbines, for 8 years
  • New Clean Renewable Energy Bonds to provide public power providers, governmental bodies, and cooperative electric companies with access to federally-assisted bonds to finance renewable energy projects; and
  • A new consumer tax credit for the purchase of a plug-in electric vehicle.  The base credit amount is $3000, rising to $5000 based on battery size.
  • February 7, 2008.  During the Senate’s consideration of the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, Senator Reid attempted to add renewable and energy efficiency tax incentives reported by the Senate Finance Committee to the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008.  Senator Gregg, on behalf of the Senate Republican leadership, objected to this request.  This legislation included:
  • An extension of the renewable energy production tax credit for one year;
  • An extension of the energy efficiency residential property tax credit for two years; and
  • An extension of the tax deduction for energy efficiency commercial buildings for one year.
  • May 29, 2008.  The Bush Administration’s Department of Interior announced it will not accept applications to build solar energy plants on federal lands until it completes a two year study on the impacts of solar energy development.  Under pressure from Senator Reid, the Department of Interior reversed its decision on July 2, 2008 and decided instead to continue accepting applications while it completed the study.  The reversal is significant because the decision could have significantly discouraged the development of future solar energy plants.
  • June 6, 2008.  The vast majority of Senate Republicans blocked the consideration of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008by a vote of 48 to 36 (60 votes needed to end the filibuster.  The legislation contained a low-carbon fuel standard that would have been harmonized with the renewable fuel standard and saved an estimated:
  • 5 million barrels of oil per day by 2020.  This is equal to nearly 85 percent of the daily oil imports from OPEC in 2007.[1] (See Appendix 1 for a chart that compares the amount that oil imports would be reduced by from the Climate Security Act versus drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf.)

The legislation would have also invested a projected:

  • $190 billion in funding through 2050 for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy worker training and a Climate Change Worker Assistance Program;
  • $150 billion in funding through 2050 for renewable energy facilities;
  • $92 billion in funding through 2050 for a program to assist in deploying zero or low carbon electricity generation technology; and
  • $51 billion in funding through 2050 to encourage the construction of highly efficient commercial buildings and energy efficiency retrofits.
  • June 10, 2008.  The vast majority of Senate Republicans blocked the consideration of H.R.6049, the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008, by a vote of 50 to 44 (60 votes needed to end the filibuster). The legislation was blocked by Republicans because it offset the cost of the renewable energy tax incentives by delaying the implementation of favorable interest allocation rules for multinational corporations andpreventing hedge fund managers from using offshore accounts to avoid paying income tax.  The legislation included:
  • An extension of the renewable energy production tax credit for wind for one year and the credit for other renewable energy systems like biomass and geothermal energy for three years;
  • An extension of the 30 percent investment tax credit for solar energy and fuel cells, as well as the ten percent investment tax credit for microturbines, for 6 years
  • Extensions of the deduction for energy efficient commercial buildings for five years and the credit for energy efficient appliances for three years; and
  • A new consumer tax credit for the purchase of a plug-in electric vehicle.  The base credit amount is $3000, rising to $5000 based on battery size.
  • June 10, 2008.  The vast majority of Senate Republicans blocked consideration of S.3044, the Consumer-First Energy Act of 2008.  The legislation was blocked by Republicans because it would have imposed a windfall profits tax on the major oil companiesat a special supplemental rate of 25 percent.  Companies could avoid this tax by investing in clean, renewable energy.  The legislation would have eliminated the deduction for domestic production that allows the major oil and gas companies to reduce their taxable income from the sale, exchange, or other disposition of oil, natural gas, or any primary product thereof. Additionally, the legislation would have tightened the rules restricting the use of foreign tax credits on oil and gas-related income.  All revenue collected from the windfall profits tax and the elimination of unnecessary tax breaks would have been deposited into an Energy Independence and Security Act Trust Fund.
  • June 17, 2008.  The vast majority of Senate Republicans blocked the consideration of H.R.6049, the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008, by a vote of 52 to 44 (60 votes needed to end the filibuster). The legislation was blocked by Republicans because it offset the cost of the renewable energy tax incentives by delaying implementation of favorable interest allocation rules for multinational corporations andpreventing hedge fund managers from using offshore accounts to avoid paying income tax.  The bill included:
  • An extension of the renewable energy production tax credit for wind for one year and the credit for other renewable energy systems like biomass and geothermal energy for three years;
  • An extension of the 30 percent investment tax credit for solar energy and ten percent investment tax credit for fuel cells through 2014;
  • Extensions of the deduction for energy efficient commercial buildings for five years and the credit for energy efficient appliances for three years; and
  • A new consumer tax credit for the purchase of a plug-in electric vehicle.  The base credit amount is $3000, rising to $5000 based on battery size.
  • July 26, 2008. The vast majority of Senate Republicans blocked the consideration of S.3186, the Warm in Winter and Cool in Summer Act, by a vote of 50 to 35 (60 votes needed to end the filibuster).The legislation would have doubled funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) but was blocked by Republicans despite the pressing need to provide more resources to low-income families, the disabled, and senior citizens since they particularly ill-suited to deal with rising energy costs. These rising energy costs are expected to continue to put pressure on their budgets throughout 2008 and 2009 as the Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that:
  • Average U.S. residential electricity prices will increase by 5.6 percent in 2008 and 16 percent in 2009;
  • Average U.S. residential price for natural gas will increase by 16 percent in 2008 and 34 percent in 2009; and
  • Average residential price for heating oil will increase by 49 percent in 2008 and 63 percent in 2009.
  • July 29, 2008.  The vast majority of Senate Republicans blocked the consideration of H.R.6049, the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008, by a vote of 53 to 43 (60 votes needed to end the filibuster). The legislation was blocked by Republicans because it offset the cost of the renewable energy tax incentives by delaying implementation of favorable interest allocation rules for multinational corporations andpreventing hedge fund managers from using offshore accounts to avoid paying income tax.  The bill included:
  • An extension of the renewable energy production tax credit for wind for one year and the credit for other renewable energy systems like biomass and geothermal energy for three years;
  • An extension of the 30 percent investment tax credit for solar energy and ten percent investment tax credit for fuel cells through 2014;
  • Extensions of the deduction for energy efficient commercial buildings for five years and the credit for energy efficient appliances for three years; and
  • A new consumer tax credit for the purchase of a plug-in electric vehicle.  The base credit amount is $3000, rising to $5000 based on battery size.
  • July 30, 2008.  The vast majority of Senate Republicans blocked the consideration of S.3335, the Jobs, Energy, Families, and Disaster Relief Act of 2008, by a vote of 51 to 43 (60 votes needed to end the filibuster).  The legislation was blocked by Senate Republicans because it would have prevented hedge fund managers from using offshore accounts to avoid paying income tax and required securities brokers to report to the IRS the basis of publicly-traded securities in order to improve tax compliance.  The bill included:
  • An extension of the renewable energy production tax credit for wind for one year and the credit for other renewable energy systems like biomass and geothermal energy for three years;
  • An extension of the 30 percent investment tax credit for solar energy and ten percent investment tax credit for fuel cells through 2016;
  • Extensions of the deduction for energy efficient commercial buildings for five years and the credit for energy efficient appliances for three years; and
  • A new consumer tax credit for the purchase of a plug-in electric vehicle.  The base credit amount is $3000, rising to $5000 based on battery size.

Bush Republicans Attempt to Curtail our Nation’s Use of Renewable Fuels

Renewable Fuels Standard.  On May 2, 2008, Senators McCain and Hutchinson, along with twenty-two of their Republican colleagues, sent a letter to the Bush Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging it to waive the renewable fuels standard in the Energy Independence and Security Actof 2007.  On May 19, 2008, Senators Hutchinson, McCain, and ten other Republicans introduced legislation that would freeze our nation’s production of ethanol.  According to their press releases, these Republican Senators made this decision because of concerns they were having about possible impacts that our nation’s biofuels mandate could be having on food prices.

The decision by the group of Republican Senators came before the release of a new analysis from the Department of Energy in June which showed that the increased use of biofuels has reduced gasoline prices at the pump by between 20 and 35 cents per gallon.  Furthermore, the statistical analysis performed at the request of Senator Bingaman, the Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, found that our current biofuels policy can explain only between four and five percent of the approximate 45 percent increase in global food prices during the last year – far less than the 25 percent increase that Senators McCain has suggested.

The truth is that the proposal from Senators McCain and Hutchinson was an attempt by Senate Republicans to exploit misinformation on biofuels so their Big Oil allies could keep their market share in products with prices set by OPEC and Wall Street traders.  In response, Senator Johnson and others petitioned the EPA on May 6, 2008, to reject the proposal from the Senators McCain, Hutchinson, and their Republican colleagues.  The EPA is expected to decide on the request in early August.

Appendix 1




[1] Energy Information Administration, “Petroleum Net Imports by Country of Origin,” Annual Energy Review 2007.

Bookmark and Share