Proposed legislation in the U.S. Senate may help the renewables sector.
U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and John Ensign (R-NV) have introduced renewable energy legislation that could be a boon for businesses that produce renewable energy technologies, lead to green job creation, and help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
The Feingold-Ensign Support Renewable Energy Act, if signed into law, would ensure all forms of renewable energy meet a new federal requirement, called the renewable electricity standard (RES). Current RES proposals in Congress require utilities to use a certain amount of renewable energy, but limit the types of renewable energy that would qualify. This bill would allow all forms of renewable energy to qualify, such as small-scale renewable technologies that directly use renewable energy like solar water heating, geothermal heating, or alternative lighting technologies.
According to Feingold, as Congress considers reforming American energy policies, instead of picking winners and losers, it should be encouraging all types of renewable energy.
"A host of Wisconsin businesses have been working to advance innovative technologies, such as solar water heating or solar light pipes that can help increase our use of renewable energy,” Feingold said. “Our bill would help these innovative businesses create jobs and boost Wisconsin's economy, while helping reduce our dependence on fossil fuels like foreign oil."
According to Ensign, creating jobs for Nevadans is a priority in these troubled economic times, and so is lessening America's dependence on foreign oil.
"Our bipartisan legislation will do both,” Ensign said. “Create jobs for Nevadans, as well as promote our nation's energy independence.”
This fix to the renewable electricity standard could help stimulate local economies, the Senators say, as utilities would likely partner with local businesses to supply the renewable energy. The bill would also spur more construction jobs, particularly in roofing and plumbing, to install new renewable energy systems across the country. Additionally, the bill also would help to reduce stress on the electricity transmission grid by encouraging renewable energies that do not have to go through the grid. The bill is endorsed by eight Wisconsin organizations/businesses.
The bipartisan legislation is the newest addition to Feingold's E4 Initiative, an effort he launched in 2008 to help create jobs and enhance economic development while addressing our nation's energy challenges. Since launching the E4 Initiative, Feingold has already had some key victories including:
- Expanding the types of projects eligible for the Qualified Energy Conservation Bond program to help energy efficiency and support green jobs
- Prioritizing federal research funding for energy, water quality, and domestic security and transportation projects
- Helping move new energy technologies to market.
According to Feingold’s website, the Senator believes the United States needs to enter a new era with its energy policy
Feingold states the country faces significant energy challenges including rising gas prices, reliance on foreign oil, and over consumption of energy. As a result, a new form of policy is required to deal with this unique set of challenges:
“We need an energy policy that takes us in a new direction. I strongly support legislation to promote renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, and encourage innovative approaches to our energy needs. These actions will bring down gas prices in the long run, reduce our dependence on oil, and improve our national security by making us less dependent on potentially unfriendly nations. The pursuit of new energy solutions will also stimulate significant job creation, providing new opportunities for rural communities and urban centers alike, while protecting the natural world for future generations.”
Feingold's bi-partisan partner, John Ensign has a similar energy vision for the United States. A critical component to Ensign's vision is renewable energy. As a result, Senator Ensign has already authored a renewable energy bill. In October 2009, legislation authored by Senator Ensign and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) was passed. Their bill extends crucial tax credits, and also encourages clean energy production from renewable sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower facilities.
According to Senator Ensign, studies have displayed that Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit for renewable energy projects, which were extended by Ensign-Cantwell legislation, have the potential to generate 120,000 jobs as well as bringing US$20 billion in investment to the United States.
In 2004 there was a 77% drop in installed wind capacity after production tax credits expired for the wind industry; Ensign cites this as a primere example for why government incentives are so necessary for developing these nascent commercial energy industries.
Senator Ensign's plan for renewable energy is to “encourage the development of renewable energy and expand energy efficiency in buildings, homes, and appliances." Both he and Senator Feingold hope the rest of America's elected federal government share their energy vision.
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