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The U.S. Senate has voted to reject an amendment to S.1813, the Surface Transportation Bill, that would have extended several important renewable energy incentives - including the production tax credit (PTC) for wind power - for one year.

The measure, introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., also called for an extension of the Section 48C advanced energy manufacturing tax credit, which expired in 2010, as well as an extension of the Section 1603 cash-grant program.

Although the vote on the measure was even at 49-49, the amendment required 60 votes to pass, and was, therefore, not agreed to.

The news comes as a disappointment to the wind industry, which was hoping for a boon in an uncertain economic climate.

"We are disappointed that tens of thousands of American jobs are being put in peril by partisan gridlock in Washington,” Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, said in a statement. “Despite the partisan vote on these broader energy amendments, the fact remains that the wind production tax credit enjoys bipartisan support in the House and Senate."

Bode also stressed the urgency for Congress to take action on extending the PTC.

“The clock is ticking, and the stakes for a timely extension of the PTC could not be clearer,” she said. “We stand to lose one of America’s best new sources of American manufacturing jobs. With every day that goes by, layoffs are occurring and further job losses - and even plant closings - will accelerate with each month we near expiration in December.”

It could have been worse
Despite the Senate’s failure to extend critical renewable energy incentives, the outcome could have been disastrous. Another measure voted on by the Senate today, introduced by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., sought to repeal all energy-specific tax credits, including those for wind power.

Even worse, the measure - also a proposed amendment to the transportation bill - would have made the PTC expire retroactively on Jan. 1, 2012, meaning tax credits already awarded this year would have been repealed.

The Senate defeated DeMint’s amendment - which was a companion to a measure proposed in the House by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan. - by a vote of 26-72.

Moreover, the Senate voted on a third amendment to S.1813 that also had the potential to dramatically alter the U.S. energy landscape. The measure - introduced by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and presented in opposition to Stabenow’s amendment - would have extended tax credits for the oil and gas industries, as well as approved the Keystone XL Pipeline and opened up other areas for domestic oil and gas production.

Roberts claimed the measure would lower gasoline prices - an assertion that has questionable backing.

“My amendment includes many of the expired energy tax incentives as well as increases energy production incentives,” Roberts said in a statement. “With spiking gas prices hammering families and businesses, this is precisely the time to have policy that will increase energy supply. To begin addressing the oil supply issues, my amendment would cut red tape and open up more federal land for oil and gas exploration and drilling."

The Senate also voted down Roberts’ proposal, by a 41-57 vote.


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