On July 30th, 2008, for the eighth time, legislators failed to extend renewable energy federal investment tax credits. Senate bill S. 3335 would extend the 30% business tax credit for installing solar energy systems through 2017. The bill also raises the homeowner tax credit cap from $2,000 to $4,000. You’d really think this would be a slam dunk, right? Wrong. I wanted to know why this didn’t pass, so I did a little more digging.
Above, you can see that a slim majority of senators voted to send the bill to the floor for debate and a vote. However, in order for the debate to commence, 60 senators need to vote ‘aye’. Clearly, 51 was not enough. Why didn’t more senators vote for this? What is going on here. Well, let’s take a closer look at who voted to bring the issue to debate by party this time:
Wow, huge split down the middle on party lines. As it turns out, the sole democrat who voted against the bill was Harry Reid. However, he voted nay when he saw the bill was not going to make it to debate as a procedural gesture so that he could bring it back after revisions on a later date.
Naturally, since my livelihood and the livelihood of the solar industry is linked to the fate of this bill, I wanted to see who those 5 Republicans were, and learn a little more about why they may have felt safe crossing party lines to vote ‘aye’.
Vote Solar has made a call to phone and email your state senators or chiefs of staff to get this bill moving forward. Though, part of me has felt that many Republicans are too tied to the oil, gas, and coal industries to even bother with them. As OpenSecrets.org reports, since 1990, oil companies have given 75% of their funds to Republicans (over $220,000,000).
Take a close look at the spreadsheet below. Listed here are all the Republican senators, the amount and percentage of total campaign contributions they received from the non-renewable energy industry in 2008, and their votes to debate this bill (source):
[iframe: width=”700″ height=”975″ frameborder=”1″ scrolling=”yes” src=”http://sheet.zoho.com/publish/danyull99/senate-republican-voting-on-solar-itc-renewal”]
Now, you can clearly see that the 5 Republican senators (Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Elizabeth Dole from North Carolina, Norm Coleman from Minnesota, and Gordon Smith from Oregon) approving the procession of the bill had a relatively small percentage of their campaign contributions coming from the non-renewable energy industry – confirming some of my suspicions.
Since we have 52 votes in tow at this point (including Harry Reid), 8 more Republicans need to cross party lines for anything to happen here. Instead of wasting our time with the senators that are near the bottom of the list, we should really be focusing on the senators near the top in more progressive areas of the country. These are the people we need to be hammering away at on the phones and emails. Senators near the bottom of this list most assuredly will not be voting for anything green unless they can drill for oil next in your back yard.
It looks like the oil and gas companies are siding with the McCain-Palin horse, but look at how they are hedging some of their bets with Obama-Biden too (Open Secrets):
Now, notice below both candidates abstained from this vote, but take a look at these 3 different funding sources for each of the following senators and their votes on this bill:
Look at the effect those Coal dollars had on Democrat Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia for example. Wow. He must have had a tough time getting up in the morning to look at himself having to abstain on this vote. Understandably, West Virginia is a heavy coal state and even though he’s a Democrat, he has to tread lightly. Even though clean coal is complete and utter BS, Jay has got some constituents to look after and some lobbyist money to honor. Hopefully, you find these contributions as enlightening as I did.