“Public sentiment is driving this issue right now,” said Paul Tonko, a Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Congressman Paul Tonko, a Democrat representing New York, says he’s optimistic about the prospects of targeted pieces of clean energy legislation moving through Congress in the coming months, including an extension of tax credits for both solar and wind.
In July, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House introduced legislation that would extend the solar Investment Tax Credit for five years at its full 30 percent value. Democrats introduced companion legislation in the Senate, but neither bill has advanced.
“We’ve had several communications with the chair of the Ways and Means Committee; we’ve talked to members [and] we’ve talked to staff. They are very open to the push that we are making,” he said in an interview on the event’s sidelines.
Tonko said he has urged Democratic House leadership to include tax policy updates in any agenda they put forward, and so far the response has been positive.
“I think the odds are good,” he said. “They really want to do a green tax policy package.”
Numerous polls show that Americans widely support the deployment of renewable energy. A Gallup survey from March, for instance, found that 80 percent of respondents believe the U.S. should put more emphasis on producing domestic energy from solar, and 70 percent believe there should be greater emphasis on wind.
Last fall, the Yale Program for Climate Communication released a report that found nearly 80 percent of respondents support offering tax credits for rooftop solar and just over 70 percent support providing incentives to individuals for the purchase of an electric vehicle.
Recent youth climate strikes have amplified calls for accelerating the deployment of renewable energy resources and increasing government spending on green energy plans.
“The majority leader decides what we can vote on,” Romney said at the Clean Energy Week summit. “If it’s something maybe three or four of his members would find uncomfortable for [their] reelection campaigns, then it may be something he doesn’t want to put on the floor.”
“So the politics have to change,” he continued. “You have to have a stronger…perspective [that] this is something that will affect your reelection.”
“Those are two models that create incentives for innovation,” he said. “For me, that’s how I look at these different ideas related to the climate. It’s not just [whether it] will make America emit less CO2 and methane, but [also whether] it will lead to the adoption of technology around the world. Because that’s the only way we’re going to get the curve of CO2 and methane…to come down.”
In the House, Rep. Gaetz placed the blame squarely on Democratic leaders for not advancing legislation that both parties already agree on. For instance, he sees no reason why Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on investing in the electrical grid to support the deployment of all available clean energy technologies, including nuclear and hydropower.
“This is a distinct departure from the crony-capitalism policy of using government as a venture capitalist, ingrained with a specific company or a specific business model,” he said. “An electric grid is a platform that can be used by all innovators.”
“It’s so frustrating to me to see the polar ice caps melt while this town remains frozen,” he added.