Having failed to advance a sweeping climate and energy bill this year, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is pushing a narrower energy package that would extend tax incentives for renewable energy, natural gas vehicles and energy efficiency.
"While we continue the fight to bring comprehensive energy legislation to the floor of the United States Senate, it's essential that we take action to start moving in the right direction," Kerry said in a statement. "Providing incentives for clean energy production will drive our economy forward and take us one step closer to reducing our carbon emissions and ending our dependence on foreign oil."
Kerry's bill would offer tax incentives for energy-efficient homes and businesses, natural gas heavy vehicles, biodiesel, renewable diesel and energy appliances manufactured in the United States. It would also provide an additional $3.5 billion for renewable energy bonds and extend research and development tax credits retroactively for 2010 through 2012.
The Senate has tried to pass tax extenders legislation several times this year but has failed to find enough support. Most of the extensions proposed in Kerry's bill have already been introduced in various forms. The House passed a $115 billion tax extenders package in May.
Kerry may try to add the measure to a scaled-back oil spill response bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he plans to bring to the floor when the Senate returns in September from its monthlong recess.
"Senator Kerry is hopeful that energy tax provisions will be part of any energy package that moves this year," said Kerry spokeswoman Whitney Smith.
Democrats had initially planned to bring a broad energy package to the floor this year including controversial measures like a renewable electricity standard and limits on greenhouse gas emissions. But Reid stripped those provisions from the package he introduced last month, saying he could not muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
Kerry and other climate bill advocates say they are still hopeful that some sort of climate bill can clear the Senate this session. But with grim prospects for any controversial bills passing the chamber this year, some are setting their sights on moving smaller pieces of energy legislation before time runs out.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who co-authored a broad cap-and-trade bill with Kerry, said earlier this week that it will be tough to get 60 votes this year for a cap on greenhouse gas emissions.
"It's not impossible, but it's very hard," Lieberman said. "So I think recognizing that reality, there's a lot of other things we can do."
There is a "whole menu" of different energy provisions that could be taken up this year, Lieberman said, including a renewable electricity standard and several measures that are included in Reid's narrow energy package, like incentives for the Home Star energy efficiency program and incentives for plug-in and natural gas-powered vehicles.
Reid said earlier this week that there is a chance he will resurrect a broader energy package in September, but it is unclear whether even the scaled-back oil spill response bill will pass the Senate.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said yesterday that it would be "very difficult" to clear a package broader than a scaled-back oil spill response bill in September, and it may have only a slightly better chance in a lame-duck session (E&E Daily, Aug. 6).
RES lobbying continues
Meanwhile, a coalition of RES advocates is ramping up efforts to prod Senate leadership to adopt a renewable energy mandate in September.
Groups including the American Wind Energy Association, United Steelworkers, Xcel Energy Inc., Sierra Club and Environment America sent a letter today to Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urging the swift adoption of an RES.
"With the recent decision to delay the energy debate until September, the Senate has another chance to make a clear choice: it can maintain and create hundreds of thousands of good-paying, manufacturing jobs domestically or allow those jobs to move overseas," the groups wrote. "Failure to act will also cause us to miss an opportunity to increase revenue for America's farmers and ranchers and local economies. The outcome hinges on whether or not we pass a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) this year."
RES advocates have insisted that attaching the mandate could help build support for a broader energy and oil spill response bill, but Reid said recently that he does not have the 60 votes needed to pass the standard.
Click here to read the bill.
Reporter Katie Howell contributed.