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U.S. Chamber of Commerce Continues to Trivialize Renewables

Jeff Siegel | Friday April 16th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Karen Harbert, the president and CEO of the Institute for 21st Century Energy (which is an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce), met with the House Ways and Means committee this week, where she cited the Chamber’s support of the 8-year renewable energy tax credit extension, noting a phase out over four years.

I think I smell something fishy, and it ain’t salmon!

Certainly we’re happy to see the Chamber of Commerce offer any kind of support for renewables. But as far as I’m concerned, the Chamber’s support of a long-term, sustainable clean energy economy is questionable.

Here’s why. . .

First off, let me share with you this quote from Harbert:

Once a technology has realized the milestone of commercial deployment, it is incumbent on the government to allow American consumers, through the market, to determine whether such technology merits their purchase or not. Subsidizing a technology in perpetuity is a wasteful use of tax dollars and does not ultimately further the country’s energy security.

I couldn’t agree more. However, I’ve yet to see anything from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that calls attention to the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been ponied up, courtesy of the taxpayer, to keep the fossil fuel machine humming.

Harbert wants to wave this 8-year renewable energy tax credit extension flag, complete with a phase out plan over four years. Well, where the hell is the phase out for oil, coal, and natural gas?

When the Chamber decides to support phasing out all subsidies for fossil fuels over a four-year period, you let me know.

Harbert said she advocated for policies that don’t single out certain industries for incentives at the expense of others. So by focusing on a four-year phase out of renewable energy tax credits, but not saying a single word about fossil fuel subsidies, isn’t that really what she is advocating? Policies that do in fact single out certain industries for incentives at the expense of others?

But wait, it gets better.

Harbert also called for more access to offshore oil and gas resources.

Certainly, you’ll get no argument out of me on that. And it would be naïve of anyone to believe we can get by without tapping some of our domestic resources. But that doesn’t fix the subsidy problem.

Any new oil and gas development will certainly be subsidized. And it would definitely take more than 4 years to get to that oil – so phasing those subsidies out over 4 years wouldn’t work. But it is OK to phase out subsidies for renewables when we know it’ll take decades to get this stuff built out and integrated?

Listen, I’m not saying we should be subsidizing this stuff until the end of time. That’s not a rational solution to anything. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce lives in a glass house here. Don’t sit there and trivialize renewables and call out subsidies when you’re advocating expanding oil, gas and nuclear–all things that are already heavily subsidized, and will continue to be subsidized well into the future.

Now in all fairness, I’m not criticizing everything that comes out of this Institute for 21st Century Energy. While I fully admit that its motives are questionable for a number of reasons (just look at the website and evaluate it honestly), the Institute does seem to put quite a bit of emphasis on energy efficiency and infrastructure development–two necessities for a new energy economy.

But don’t urinate on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

Harbert’s latest testimony was not meant to support a long-term sustainable solution to our energy woes. It was nothing more than another attempt to downplay the potential of renewable energy while singing the praises of the energy sources that do NOT provide long-term sustainability and do NOT come without heavy subsidies attached.

That’s the truth. And when it comes to real energy security and real energy solutions, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has very little credibility at this point.


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