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August 7, 2008 / Mridul

US: $100 Billion For Nuclear Waste Storage But No Tax Credits For Solar Energy

The White House says that $96.2 billion dollars would be needed for storing nuclear waste at the Yucca mountain facility through the time it is sealed in the year 2133; that’s a 67% rise in costs from the 2001 estimate of $57.5 billion dollars. The Yucca mountain facility would start storing the nuclear waste generated from the nuclear reactors from 2020 so that still turns out to be less than a billion per year for the next 113 years. But while the Congress is happy to support such a massive increase in cost estimates it has turned a blind eye to other cleaner and safer sources of energy production.

Congress has turned down a proposal to extend tax credits to businesses and home owners who opt to install solar energy equipments. The Jobs, Energy, Families and Disaster Relief Act of 2008 would have provided tax benefits of up to 30% to businesses and home owners but the bill was turned down by the Congress. Not only solar power but the proposed bill would have extended tax incentives for a wide range of renewable energy options.

The bill also would have extended a tax credit for wind-generated electricity through 2009, as well as credits for biomass, geothermal, small irrigation, hydropower, landfill gas and trash combustion facilities through 2011.

A number of other provisions were included in the bill, including the allowance of tax credits for investment in advanced coal electricity and coal gasification projects; income and excise tax credits for biodiesal and renewable diesel through 2009; And a tax deduction for energy efficient commercial building expenditures extended through 2013.

But a big majority of the Republicans didn’t think that power generated from these endless energy resources would help America achieve energy independence and killed the bill. According to them drilling for oil on the environmentally critical coastlines would be a big step towards energy independence. Apparently freedom from foreign oil has completely overshadowed the need for freedom from fossil fuels.

It won’t be surprising if the storage costs rise even further as officials noted inflation as the main culprit for the 67% rise within a span of just seven years but the tax credit bill faces no such funding problems even if the raw material and installation costs rise; the tax credits for consumers has been capped at $2,000.

One of the major proponents of the bill was Colorado Senator Ken Salazar whose office released information about the potential consequences of the failure of the bill.

Failure to extend solar and wind tax incentives could result in the loss of nearly $19 billion in capital investment and the loss of more than 116,000 jobs in 2009.

It should be noted that such incentives have fared successfully in many countries around the world especially Germany and Australia which also allow consumers to sell surplus power generated to the main grid at prices above the market prices – called the ‘Feed-In tariff’ system.

In this time of grave energy crisis the Congress should have looked to provide relief to the consumers directly and such a move would have tremendously boosted America’s position as a leader in the renewable energy sector. Maybe the Republicans were fearful that environmental groups would rally for such a system in the US also thereby spelling doom for the big power companies.


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