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Congress Must Support the Clean Energy Workforce

By Bob Cleaves
The main focus of the Biomass Power Association is securing the extension of essential tax credits that are set to expire at the end of this year. In 2004, Congress awarded five-year production tax credits to biomass facilities to spur investment and help ensure the continued viability of the biomass power industry. The purpose of these tax credits was to increase investment in renewable energy sources that improve the environment and benefit the economy. Those purposes remain critical today.

Currently biomass power generates more than half of the total renewable energy produced in the U.S. Much of this production is the direct result of the 2004 tax credits, which are set to expire Dec. 31 of this year.

The truth is that these existing production tax credits remain the lifeline of the biomass power industry and are vitally important to its survival. If Congress does not extend these crucial tax credits, more than half of the existing biomass power facilities could be forced to shut down, and thousands of jobs would be lost.

Congress is determined to pass an Energy Bill that creates jobs and reduces America's dependence on fossil fuels. Biomass power addresses both concerns by creating thousands of jobs and increasing production of clean, renewable electricity. But we can't take our eye off the needs of existing facilities while looking to develop new opportunities for growth in our industry.

Rural communities across the country rely on biomass power plants to boost their local economies. The impact of closing as many as half of today's existing biomass facilities would be felt by the hard-working families in rural America who make their livelihood by producing clean energy. In these economic hard times, the last thing Congress should do is abandon the clean energy workforce of America's heartland.

In addition, many southeastern states lack sustainable sources of wind and solar power. Electricity from biomass is the only way these states can achieve a meaningful mandate for renewable electricity. Failing to extend these tax credits would deal a devastating blow to the biomass power industry and mark a major setback in building a green energy economy.

Recently, the BPA joined with the RES-Alliance for Jobs to support an aggressive federal renewable electricity mandate of 25 percent. Losing these tax credits would not only discourage future investment in biomass power, but it would also virtually eliminate any chance at meeting the goals of a new federal renewable electricity standard.

What's worse is that these tax credits were awarded to biomass power at half the rate of competing renewables like wind and geothermal-leaving biomass at a serious competitive disadvantage. Both wind and geothermal were granted 10-year terms for their production tax credit and at twice the rate of biomass. If Congress is serious about moving America's economy towards clean, renewable energy, then policymakers need to stop picking winners and losers and give biomass power the same tax credits as other renewables.

Both Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., have sponsored amendments (S. 870 and H.R. 2528) designed to provide an additional five years of tax credits to these biomass power facilities. The BPA will continue to urge support for these tax credit extensions and to ensure that biomass power plays a major role in building tomorrow's green energy economy.


Bob Cleaves is president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association. To learn more about biomass power, please visit www.USABiomass.org.
 

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