Americans have long poked fun at their mellow neighbors to the north, but now politically progressive Canada has good reason to thumb its nose right back at the United States.

The province of British Columbia has made concrete headway in the quest for a green-energy incentive tax, an endeavor that the U.S. government has debated but so far has failed to approve.

British Columbia will introduce a carbon tax on all fossil fuels, including gasoline and coal, in an effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by one-third by 2020, the government’s finance bureau announced Wednesday (see Clean Break post).

The agency said the tax is expected to generate more than $1.8 billion in revenue during the next three years, much of which will be returned to low-income British Columbians, as well as most individuals and businesses, via lower tax rates.

"The principle is simple," B.C. Finance Minister Carole Taylor said in a written statement. "Tax carbon-emitting fuels to discourage their use and give money back to people, back to businesses, so they have control."

"They can make their own choices about how the tax affects them," she said. "At the same time, by making greener choices more commercially viable, it will stimulate innovation and open up new economic opportunities across British Columbia."

The B.C. government also will hand out $100 checks to all denizens to encourage them to adopt green living principles.

Meanwhile, U.S. renewable-energy companies are contemplating the expiration of federal tax incentives at the end of this year (see Solar Sharpens Weapons for Incentive Battle).

The House of Representatives has introduced another bill attempting to roll back incentives for fossil fuels in favor of eight years of tax credits for clean energy, but it's unclear if anything has changed since the Senate failed to end a filibuster on a similar idea in December.

Clean-energy advocates were disappointed when a portion of the energy bill, which passed at the close of 2007, was scratched; it would have included $21.5 billion in renewable tax credits over the next decade, partially paid for by a repeal of $13 billion in tax subsidies for oil and gas producers (see Senate Rejects Green Incentives to Pass Energy Bill).

And in early February, the Senate fell one vote short of the 60 votes necessary to extend renewable tax incentives for clean-energy technologies for one year (see Renewable Tax Incentive Still At Risk).

But individual states, as well as countries outside the United States, are pushing for policies to promote the use of clean energy.

For example, the California Public Utilities Commission last week announced a "feed-in tariff," similar to the well-known tariff in Germany, that would support the development of up to 480 megawatts of renewable generating capacity from small generators throughout the state.

The Golden State already had a feed-in tariff for large renewable projects, but the new decision also will provide a 10-, 15- or 20-year fixed price for small renewable-energy generators -- of up to 1.5 megawatts in size -- to sell electricity to utilities (see press release).

And on Thursday, the United Kingdom announced £400 million, or more than $593 million, in federal funding for clean-energy technologies over the next three years.

The Carbon Trust, a government-funded company that develops technologies such as offshore wind and marine energy, will get £47.4 million in funding, or about $93 million, and the government will also contribute £10 million, or about $19.6 million, toward the development of anaerobic-digestion technology to turn waste into renewable energy.