Obama, surrogates stumping for president’s clean energy agenda in days ahead

Source: John McArdle, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012

President Obama and his top energy and environmental surrogates are fanning out across the country over the next two days to promote the White House’s clean energy agenda and keep pressure on Congress to renew several key business tax breaks for the industry.

The main event will take place Thursday, when Obama will visit a wind manufacturer in Newton, Iowa. According to a White House release today, the president will use the opportunity to call for an extension of the production tax credit (PTC) that is set to expire at the end of the year. The White House has pointed to industry statistics that show that nearly 30,000 jobs could be lost next year if the PTC expires, including direct jobs as well as those in the manufacturers’ supply chain.

The PTC grants companies that produce electricity from wind, solar, geothermal and certain plants a 2.2-cent-per-kilowatt-hour subsidy. With the PTC expiration date looming, the wind industry has lobbied Congress to extend it sooner rather than later to ensure companies plan investments for 2013.

Extending the tax credit is one of several business tax cuts that Obama has pushed in his recently issued “To Do List” for Congress.

Another item on that list is the expansion of the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit, which provides a 30 percent investment tax credit for manufacturing equipment for renewable energy projects, batteries, electric cars, energy conservation technologies or technologies that capture and store carbon dioxide. Obama has proposed tripling the size of the federal government’s investment in the program by directing an additional $5 billion to the effort. The president also plans to pressure Congress to act on that proposal in Newton on Thursday.

With few must-pass bills left this Congress that could be used as a vehicle, it seems unlikely that any clean energy tax credit will get a vote in the House before the election. Members on both sides of the aisle have already acknowledged the PTC and other tax credits set to expire this year likely won’t be taken up until the post-election lame-duck session.

But that just gives Obama five more months to hammer congressional inaction.

“On Thursday the President will make clear the importance of these tax credits for American businesses and underscore the thousands of jobs that are at stake if Congress continues to fail to take action,” the White House said in a release today.

The White House release also noted that ahead of Thursday’s trip, top administration officials including Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese are meeting with wind energy developers and supply chain manufacturers to discuss the PTC and the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit.

Earlier today, Chu toured DuPont’s solar photovoltaic manufacturing plant in Circleville, Ohio, which is expanding.

“The Circleville plant expansion exemplifies American ingenuity and manufacturing leadership in clean energy technologies — creating jobs and producing clean, renewable power for our country’s homes and businesses,” Chu said in a statement released by the White House. “This is why President Obama has called on Congress to extend successful clean energy tax credits and invest in American clean energy companies.”

Chu is also scheduled to head to Wilmington, Del., tomorrow to tour DuPont’s clean energy research and development facility, where the company is conducting work on advanced biofuels. He’s set to offer remarks in the afternoon about clean energy and the need to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil.

In addition, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley will deliver a keynote address on clean energy job growth tomorrow morning at an event hosted by the Georgetown Climate Center and Quebec’s Washington bureau at Georgetown University’s Law Center.

“Sutley will discuss the role of Federal, state and local governments and stakeholders in promoting a built environment that ensures access to clean energy, clean water, education and health services, and in supporting clean energy to create jobs and grow our economy,” a CEQ release said today.