Beer, Rich People, and Racing Horses All Made Out Better Than Renewable Energy in Congress' Budget

Illustration for article titled Beer, Rich People, and Racing Horses All Made Out Better Than Renewable Energy in Congress' Budget
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The House approved a 1.4 trillion spending package on Tuesday, which extended a slew of expiring and expired tax breaks. Lots of environmentalists are pissed because it barely did anything for renewable energy. Tax breaks for onshore wind energy got a yearlong extension, but offshore wind and solar didn’t get shit.

Well, we at Earther are here to tell you that it’s okay! Because even though our representatives didn’t prioritize renewable energy—the thing humanity needs more of to get out of the climate crisis alive—they boldly fought to preserve other crucial tax breaks.

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Tax breaks for craft distillers, for instance, got a much-needed yearlong extension. Since the United Nation’s climate talks ended on Sunday without delivering any ambitious new targets, my existential dread has been through the roof, and all these crazy stories about Australia’s deadly bushfires and record-breaking heatwave haven’t been helping—I know I’m not alone! I generally think the best way representatives could ease our collective climate anxiety is by facilitating the transition away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. But honestly, I could also really use a drink. So yes, tax breaks for liquor distilleries, breweries, and wineries, please.

I could also use a reliable way to get away really fast if I’m in the middle of a crazy flood—the kind happening far more often due to climate change. The problem is, cars emit tons of greenhouse gases. Even electric cars can run on fossil fuels depending on the source, so they’re not perfect! That must be why representatives didn’t extend any tax breaks for electric car owners, and instead decided to prioritize tax breaks for racehorse owners. I’m looking forward to riding away from a 100-year flood in style, on horseback. Thanks, Capitol Hill!

But say you’re not into horses because you just love the feeling of driving. You’re in luck. Biodiesel made out pretty well, too! The bill extended a $1 per gallon tax credit through 2022. And thank God it did, because yes, burning biodiesel produces carbon emissions similar to those of regular fossil fuels, and yes, producing it comes with great costs to air, water, and land. But consider: entering climate hell is a small price to pay for Republican Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley being really happy.

The bill approved Tuesday also provides big tax cuts for super wealthy Americans, and permanently cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. The tax cuts for individuals expire in 2026. Middle-class and low-income Americans also saw tax cuts, though they were comparatively modest. This all makes sense when you consider the super rich and corporations are both leaders when it comes to climate change and also that rich people are famously hit first and worst by the impacts of the climate crisis. Right? Seriously, it’s great to have someone finally thinking of the forgotten billionaire class and ensuring they have the financial resources available to protect their beachfront mansions from rising seas.

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The day before they approved these tax breaks, Congress approved a $738 billion Pentagon budget that includes provisions for the Space Force and U.S.-Mexico border wall on Monday. The military is the world’s single largest institutional emitter of greenhouse gases. I can’t exactly explain why a Space Force or a racist border wall that could do irreparable ecological damage are more important than transitioning off of fossil fuels to avoid reaching a level of global warming that the United Nations says would be “destructive.” But I’m sure the folks on Capitol Hill have the answer.

Staff writer, Earther

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DISCUSSION

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Elections have consequences. Two or three generations from now our present day environmental activists can get their kids/grandkids into congress to shitcan the electoral college.

Until then, renewables folks should embrace Great Plains/Midwest wind and biofuels. Renewable technology folks have put most of their focus on electric vehicles and solar, eschewing biofuels (and to a some extent wind power). It’s as if the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) don’t want anything to do with the National Corn Growers Association.

The thing about biofuels (mostly ethanol and biodiesel) is that burning them essentially recycles or moves carbon around - unlike fossil fuels. It also should be pointed out that US burns about 1 million barrels of ethanol per day (10 percent of gasoline consumption). That means that 2 million barrels/day of crude oil doesn’t have to get refined. About half a barrel of crude turns into gasoline.

So the following statement made by Dharna:

The bill extended a $1 per gallon tax credit through 2022. And thank God it did, because yes, burning biodiesel produces carbon emissions similar to those of regular fossil fuels, and yes, producing it comes with great costs to air, water, and land.

...is exactly what the American Petroleum Institute (API) says and has been saying since the late 1980s/1990s.

I’m not going to defend biofuels here. There’s a lot of messed up stuff to consider. But for every study done on biofuels being as impactful as fossil fuel on climate change - there’s another study saying that biofuels are much less impactful.

You know who’s going to win this biofuels argument? Both the API and corn/soybean producing states. Trump is boosting exports of ethanol/biofuels to China and boosting exports of crude oil and refined products.

The silver lining to all this is solar is getting so cheap it should continue to deploy and even deploy like a motherfucker at both utility scale (bigass PV solar plants on even bigger-ass acreage of land) and distributed (rooftop solar). Also, Tesla has sold so many EVs that they’re maxed out on federal credits.

The sort of renewables winner is land-based wind. And that means the Middle West and Great Plains states, i.e. how the electoral college is won. Which brings us to what’s now needed. Transmissions. Miles and miles of high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission. Also what might help is that Exelon/ComEd play nice with wind.