House-passed energy bill might promote investment in hydro

The new Democrat-controlled House passed an energy bill Jan. 18 that would create a fund estimated at $14 billion for investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Staff said future legislation would determine whether hydropower would be among the renewables that would benefit.

The Strategic Energy Efficiency and Renewables Reserve is included in Title III, Section 301 of the Clean Energy Act of 2007 (H.R.6), sponsored by Rep. Nick Rahall II, D-W.Va. The House passed the bill and sent it to the Senate as part of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s accelerated agenda for the Democrats’ first 100 hours in power.

With a stated goal of reducing U.S. dependency on foreign oil, the bill would roll back some oil industry tax incentives and force oil companies to pay more drilling royalties, valued at $14 billion over 10 years.

The $14 billion would fund the renewables reserve to offset the cost of subsequent legislation to:
o accelerate the use of domestic renewable energy resources and alternative fuels;
o promote energy-efficient products and practices and conservation; and
o increase research, development, and deployment of renewable energy and efficiency technologies.

A spokeswoman for a committee that helped draft the renewables reserve provision said eligible renewables were not defined. The decision to be vague was purposeful, she said, explaining that language identifying the renewables would be addressed in other bills at the committee level. A number of committees could participate in deciding what renewable energy sources should be eligible, including Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, and Science and Technology.

Some lawmakers on record for hydro incentives

On the subject of possible hydropower incentives, 80 House members wrote President Bush in December, calling for full funding for the Advanced Hydropower Turbine Systems Program in his proposed budget for the Department of Energy. (HNN 12/21/06) The congressmen also sought substantially higher funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Also in December, 42 senators called for Bush to recommend extending the renewable energy production tax credit for five years, to 2013. Congress extended the credits, which include incremental hydropower, for one year, to Dec. 31, 2008. However, the senators said Bush should propose extending the credit further.

Bush to speak on energy independence

President Bush was preparing for his Jan. 23 State of the Union address, in which he is expected to touch on key energy policy points.

The president is expected to call for a massive increase in the use of home-grown fuel sources like ethanol, to reduce U.S. dependency on oil imports, and to tweak climate change policy.

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