As we lamented a few days ago, the feds have been less than steadfast in their support for solar energy. We’ve launched Solar on the White House to call attention to a glaring disparity or two that the President could help rectify:
Between 2002 and 2008, the feds doled out $72 billion in subsidies to fossil fuel industries and $29 billion for renewables (half of which was for ethanol which is quite possibly even worse than oil).
The World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC) finance fossil fuel projects at five times the rate of renewables. Incredibly, World Bank and IFC investment in fossil fuels is on the rise, with a $3.75 billion new coal plant in South Africa just approved last month.
There are many measures the federal government could take to level the playing field for solar:
Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute calls for reducing income taxes and offsetting them with a carbon tax on fossil fuels. For example, were we to pay the “real cost” of burning gasoline (including the impacts on human health, the climate and the environment), we’d be paying $15 a gallon instead of $3. Even a modest increase in the gas tax of 40 cents a year for the next ten years would be, in Brown’s view, a good start and would bring us in line with Europe. Taxes on cigarettes work wonders-the states with the highest taxes have the fewest smokers-why not put proven public health policy to work to save the planet?
Most proponents of solar energy agree that feed-in tariffs are an effective incentive, as demonstrated in Germany, Spain, Ontario and good ole’ Gainesville, Florida. Rather than leaving it to local and state governments, the federal government could pass a law requiring all utilities to implement feed-in tariff programs or solar renewable energy credits (as New Jersey has done with enormous success).
The Recovery Act provides a 30% tax credit for solar panels and solar water heaters through 2016. This tax credit, needless to say, should be extended ‘till kingdom come.
Twenty-nine states have Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) which require utilities to meet renewable energy targets over the next few decades. A strong, uniform nationwide RPS would create and strengthen renewable energy markets and would help the United States curb its greenhouse gas emissions far more effectively than piecemeal state standards.
The government should pass the 10 Million Solar Roofs Act ASAP.
As the largest shareholder in the World Bank, the U.S. should use its leverage to direct the Bank to move aggressively toward renewables.
If you really want to geek out, the Solar Energy Industries Association has a bunch more bright ideas.
We launched Solar on the White House to call attention to the need to shake up our nation’s energy mix. We’re aiming for solar to become the clear favorite of the family-we’ve behaved well, and we deserve it. We ask you to support solar energy by signing and sharing the petition. And remember those cool Obama t-shirts during the 2008 presidential race? Well, we’ve got some equally cool Globama t-shirts so tell your friends who live in California that they can get a free Globama t-shirt when they request an iquote on solaronthewhitehouse.com.
We’ll keep you updated on the Solar on the White House campaign as well as renewable energy legislative developments right here.