Last night the Senator Harry Reid introduced a bill designed to extend the Bush-era tax cuts—the ones that Washington has been abuzz about all week. The bill (pdf) is in line with a deal that President Obama made with Republicans, which would extend the tax credits to the wealthy, as well as the middle class, in exchange for a package of incentives that Democrats want, including a payroll tax reduction and an extension of unemployment insurance benefits. It also includes something the original deal didn’t have—an extension of a popular grant program for solar, wind, and other renewable energy projects.
The program, established under section 1603 of the Recovery Act of 2009—and often referred to as the 1603 grant program—gives grants instead of tax credits that had been previously authorized to renewable energy project developers, which makes it much easier to get financing. The program had required construction to start on renewable energy projects by the end of this year—a deadline that came too soon for many projects mired in lengthy approval processes. Without the new extension of the grant, financing for renewable energy projects would be cut in half, according to one estimate (pdf).
The bill also extends almost a dozen energy-related incentives programs, including production credits for biodiesel, tax credits for energy efficient home manufacturers, and ethanol subsidies.