RENEWABLE ENERGY:

Senate Dems seek expansion of solar tax credits in jobs bill

Five Senate Democrats urged President Obama and the Senate leadership today to expand solar-technology tax credits in a jobs bill that Congress may take up before the end of the year.

The lawmakers sent letters to the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) saying a solar provision would create 7,200 jobs in manufacturing and another 2,700 in construction.

Specifically, the group is asking that equipment and facilities for manufacturing solar components be covered under the same 30 percent solar investment tax credit that currently applies to solar-technology purchases and installation.

"The tax credit will spur investment in solar energy, which creates more jobs per megawatt of energy produced than any other form of energy," the lawmakers' letter says. "What's more, the impact of the legislation would be immediate, with firms having an incentive to make their investments early in order to capitalize on the refundable credit."

The letter is signed by Sens. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

The senators write that they see their proposal as building on the billions of dollars already invested in renewable energy through the stimulus law, while adding that additional steps are needed to insure U.S. global competitiveness in the field.

"While the recovery package has been a good start, there is more we can do to create jobs while positioning the United States as the leader in the technology that will power the 21st century global economy," the senators write. "It is with considerable dismay that we note that the United States is falling behind other countries in this critical competition."

Several top lawmakers -- particularly on the House side -- and some members of the administration have in recent weeks floated the idea that a jobs creation package may be needed to address the country's high unemployment rate. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) recently told reporters that House leaders would like to move such a package before Congress adjourns for the year.

So far, lawmakers have not settled on specific provisions for the legislation, and with just a couple weeks left before the Christmas break, it is unclear if lawmakers will be able to move such a bill this year.

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