Dems are Moving for the Wide Open Terrain of Boosting Green Energy

The Washington Post reported today that the Dems are poised to roll back subsidies to the oil industry and plow the money into tax breaks for renewable energy sources right after their 100 hour push. That is a win-win-win strategy that almost can’t go wrong with the public at this point. After years of Republicans outright denying global warming and supporting policies that exacerbate it, the Dems have a rare opportunity to move fast into the wide-open terrain of boosting green energy.

It is also a progressive position that a wide array of Americans increasingly support. Going down this path won’t evoke much controversy. And there is a highly developed body of progressive policies that can be quickly instituted on a national level.

With that in mind, the New York Times also had a great article today showing the consequences of wise progressive policies already instituted in California. A long article in the House&Home section looked at the solar panel craze now happening across California – partly because of landmark legislation passed a year ago. Here’s an excerpt from the story that gives you the gist:

The vogue began in earnest a year ago, when the state legislature approved the California Solar Initiative, one of the most ambitious solar programs in the world. The legislation took effect at the start of this month but was preceded by a stopgap measure with similar terms that ran throughout 2006, offering homeowners a rebate on top of the federal tax credit of up to $2,000 that has been available nationwide since 2006.

The theory was that supplanting the year-to-year incentive programs in place since 1998 with the long-term certainty offered by the initiative’s 10-year, $3.2 billion program of rebates (one-third of which would likely go to homeowners) would stimulate the development of a robust solar sector — which could then be weaned from subsidies as its growing scale brought down prices.

If it works as planned, said J. P. Ross, the policy director for Vote Solar, an organization that advocates for large state-level solar projects, the initiative will stimulate the installation of 3,000 megawatts of solar electrical generating capacity in the state over the next decade. That would be an increase by a factor of more than 20, Mr. Ross said, equivalent to 30 small natural-gas-fired power plants.

Given the enthusiasm homeowners have shown for the initiative, filing nearly twice as many plans for solar systems with the California State Energy Commission in 2006 than in previous years, this goal may not be far-fetched.

Other states are considering the future of their solar programs (several states in the Northeast and the Southwest have less ambitious ones in place, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut), and they are closely watching California’s.

I might add that Congress could take a close look at what’s happening here and boost the fledgling national solar incentive program and  help spread this kind of change across the country.

Peter Leyden