Moniz Urges Renewal of Energy Tax Credits, Vows Continued Progress on Climate Change

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By Anthony Adragna

Oct. 30 — Renewing and maintaining stable renewable energy tax incentives will be crucial for the development of technologies needed for the U.S. to achieve a low-carbon economy, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said Oct. 30.

Moniz, speaking at the Washington Ideas Forum, said Congress should extend a number of tax credits, including the expired wind production tax credit, to boost investment in the renewable energy sector. Companies and investors have been hesitant to invest without long-term stability in the credits, he said.

“We need to extend those renewable tax credits and do it in a way where there is predictability on all sides,” Moniz said.

A number of tax credits for the renewable energy industry have expired. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promised in September to hold a vote before the end of 2014 on an $84 billion tax extenders package (H.R. 3474) that would retroactively extend more than 50 expired tax credits.

Impacts from the expiring and expired credits are already being felt. Faced with a credit expiring in 2017, for example, the solar industry has canceled at least two utility-scale thermal solar plants and has launched intense lobbying efforts to preserve the incentive.

No ‘War on Coal.'

President Barack Obama's administration remains committed to an all-of-the-above energy strategy that incorporates all potential fuel sources, including coal, and hopes to develop new technologies that will ensure a low-carbon economy, Moniz said.

“There isn't a war on coal,” Moniz said. “There is, make no bones about it, a fundamental commitment, that starts with the president, on moving to a low-carbon future.”

Addressing climate change around the world will not be possible without “technology solutions that are going to be applied globally,” Moniz said. The U.S. should continue to lead the world in developing such solutions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, he said.

Regardless of how Democrats fare the Nov. 4 midterm elections, Moniz said the Energy Department's work will continue largely unchanged.

“When it comes to the climate-action plan, which is our main guide for what we are doing, we are exercising all of those programs through existing executive authority,” Moniz said. “We will continue to aggressively pursue our programs with our executive authority.”

Energy Department officials enjoy good relationships with Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and expect to maintain good working relationships regardless of the election results, Moniz said.

Defers on Keystone, Crude Exports

Moniz declined to answer directly when asked for his opinion on two current energy issues—the fate of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline and whether to alter the country's 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports.

Asked about the Obama administration's position on the Keystone pipeline, Moniz noted that the final decision rests with Secretary of State John Kerry, who indicated Oct. 28 a decision might come shortly. 

Moniz said the administration continues to review the crude oil export policy, while noting that the U.S. remains a major oil importer. He suggested no decision on the policy was imminent.

“We're evaluating all of the factors,” Moniz said. “The arguments are a little overventilated there.”

Republicans have suggested they would make Keystone and crude oil exports two of their top energy priorities if they take back the Senate in the midterm elections.

Hagel Also Talks Climate

Moniz became the second member of Obama's Cabinet in as many days to speak of the urgent need to address climate change at the Washington Ideas Forum. A day earlier, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned that climate change poses immediate national security concerns.

“From my perspective, within the portfolio that I have responsibility for—security of this country—climate change presents security issues for us,” Hagel said. “This is critically important that we pay attention to this.”

Rising sea levels already pose risks to military installations and global security, Hagel warned, adding that many of those impacts are already being felt.

Those comments echo those of a major military report from earlier in October, which found climate change would exacerbate global instability, disease, poverty and conflict.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Adragna in Washington at aadragna@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com