What the Mid-term Election Results Mean for Solar
What the Mid-term Election Results Mean for Solar
By Jamie Girard, SEMI Washington DC
It’s been a month since the historic elections of 2010 swept across the nation and knocked out the nascent Democratic majority from the House of Representatives, severely weakened the strength of Democrats in the Senate, and put a good scare into the White House about the President’s electoral chances in 2012. It’s an old saying around Washington that “elections have consequences,” so before the new Congress is sworn-in in January, it’s a good idea to think about what those consequences are for the US Solar PV industry.
Who’s in Charge?
The most immediate and apparent change that can be seen on Capitol Hill is who’s holding the gavels for the committees. While the Senate will remain the same for the most part, (i.e. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) remains at the head of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources), the House will be lead by a whole new cast of characters, each of whom has a different relationship with PV. Here’s a list of who will be the major players in the House:
- Dave Camp (R-MI), Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means: Rep. Camp has been a champion of the R&D tax credit in the past, and has introduced legislation to make the credit permanent. This is an important policy to have in place to keep the US competitive and innovating. As for energy tax policy, Rep. Camp has been supportive of tax incentives for renewable energy, but opposes increased incentives for renewable energy technologies at the expense of conventional energy sources like oil, gas, and coal. Rep. Camp voted against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), aka the Obama Stimulus Bill, as well as voting against H.R. 2454, the Waxman-Markey climate change bill.
- Fred Upton (R-MI), Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce: Rep. Upton is often considered one of the more moderate voices in the House Republican Conference, but has been touting his conservative credentials as of late in an attempt to shore up support for his ascension to chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Most recently Rep. Upton has called for the rescission of unspent stimulus funds, and in a more direct threat to the solar industry has come out as being opposed to a national renewable energy standard, saying that it “artificially props up the industry.” In addition, Rep. Upton has said:
“The subsidies [for renewable energy] were originally promoted as a way to get the renewables industry going, but they have become a crutch; the businesses are allowed to ignore the rules of survival in a competitive marketplace since they know that they will get their cashflow no matter what…Things have gotten so bad that many of these businesses will not survive without the handout.”
- Ralph Hall (R-TX), Chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology: Rep Hall is a former Democrat who switched parties in 2004, but still remains very popular with members on both sides of the aisle. The oldest member of the House of Representatives, Rep. Hall worked well with former Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) on many issues, but is known to refer to himself as an “oil and gas man.” As such, Rep. Hall has recently made statements challenging the science behind man made global climate change. Hall has been challenged for the chairmanship by prominent climate change denier, Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA), and as such may use his position as chair to give opportunities for climate change deniers to be heard, as well as performing oversight on the DoE and other science related agencies.
- Rep. Harold “Hal” Rodgers (R-KY), Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations; Rep. Michael Simpson (R-ID), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Interior and Environment; Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Water: The Appropriations Committee is responsible for funding the federal government, and the trio of Rodgers, Simpson, and Frelinghuysen will directly oversee the allocation of funds to the Departments of Energy and Interior, as well as the EPA. With Republicans in control of the House vowing to ban earmarks, as well as cut non-defense discretionary spending by 20%, it will be the job of these men to make the math work. One place they will certainly be looking to cut funding is anywhere the previous majority had been working to increase funding, including basic science research and funding to the DoE, if not also working to rescind unspent stimulus funds.
What to Expect?
With the aforementioned lawmakers running the show in the House, PV policy is going to be in a much different atmosphere in Washington that it has been in the previous few years. Overall, a divided Congress is the perfect recipe for gridlock, with both sides posturing to make the other side look bad, especially in the run up to the 2012 Presidential election. But it’s not all doom and gloom, as a divided government has historically been a time when great compromises can be made. Like the eight year extension of the investment tax credit (ITC) that happened under Democratic control of Congress with President Bush in the White House. With a supportive White House and taking advantage of the right opportunities, PV should still able to get the necessary government support with which to thrive in the US. As an example, the Department of Interior has announced that 3 GW of solar lease on public lands will be given out by the end of the year, with more expected to be released in 2011.
We Urge You to Get Involved
The PV Group staff in Washington, DC works specifically on these issues on behalf of our members, and maintains a PV Public Policy Committee that meets regularly to discuss these issues and how best to engage policymakers for the benefit of the PV industry. If you are interested in becoming more involved in PV policy or joining the PV Public Policy Committee, please contact Jamie Girard at 202-289-0440 or at email@example.com
SEMI PV Group, The Grid – December 2010