The House of Representatives passed a tax extenders bill this afternoon that includes a two-year extension of wind energy tax credits.
While the vote shows movement on Capitol Hill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she may not have the Democrat votes needed to pass a budget bill, which includes incentives for both wind and solar.
The omnibus spending bill would fund the U.S. government through 2016, and provide a multi-year extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind and the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar. These measures are favorable to Democrats, but come in exchange for lifting the 1975 crude oil export ban -- a move championed by Republicans.
The business community rejoiced at the news of a possible tax credit extension. Solar stocks saw double-digit growth yesterday after a yearlong decline. If the ITC passes, the U.S. solar market could grow by more than 50 percent through 2020.
Pelosi said she supports the budget deal, calling it a “bipartisan victory.” But she added that Republicans caused a major disruption by injecting the oil export ban into the debate. Many Democrats and environmental groups view lifting the ban as a subsidy for big oil and an enormous threat to the global climate.
Here’s what Pelosi told reporters today, according to The Huffington Post:
The California Democrat sent a shiver through the Capital when she gave a resounding "No" when asked if she's confident she has the votes within her Democratic caucus to help push the omnibus spending bill over the finish line.
Republican leadership knew they weren't going to be able to count on House Democrats to help pass a more than $600 billion tax extenders package, which became a key piece in weeks-long negotiations between the two parties over the omnibus. Instead, the understanding among Republican and Democrats in the House was that Pelosi and her caucus would help carry the spending bill -- a more bipartisan product than the extenders package.
"We are talking it through," Pelosi said of conversations with her caucus over the omnibus. "Members are reviewing it. There are people who have very serious concerns."
The problem, Pelosi said on Thursday -- just one day before the House is set to vote on the must-pass legislation -- is "then along came Big Oil."
The omnibus bill keeps EPA funding level and does not block the Obama administration from moving forward with its international climate funding pledge, despite Republican threats to cut it. Still, environmentalists haven’t been won over.
Bill McKibben, founder of the climate activist group 360.org, recently wrote that lifting the export ban is the carbon equivalent of the annual emissions of 108 million new cars, or 135 coal-fired power plants.
“If you were wondering how seriously world leaders took the obligations they imposed on themselves in Paris over the weekend, the early returns would indicate: not very,” he said, referring to the recent climate summit.
Oil Change International estimates that U.S. oil production could increase by 467,000 barrels a day, while the American Petroleum Institute estimates the increase could be up to 500,000 barrels a day.
“This is a powerful reminder of just how powerful Big Oil and the Koch brothers are,” Radha Adhar, a federal policy representative for the Sierra Club, told ThinkProgress.
But according to energy experts, lifting the ban would have a minimal impact on overall emissions.
Michael Levi, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, calculated that the policy would produce an additional 10 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year over the next decade. That amounts to just 0.2 percent of annual U.S. emissions.
Environmental regulations that are already on the books “dwarf the impact on carbon emissions of allowing oil exports,” Levi wrote.
The House is scheduled to vote on the omnibus bill on Friday morning. If both parties can whip up the votes, both the tax bill and the spending package will head to the Senate before reaching the president's desk.
In October, the Obama administration threatened to veto a standalone bill that would have lifted the oil export ban. But the president is unlikely to reject a must-pass budget deal.