Energy policy makes strange bedfellows. President Obama calls for getting rid of government subsidies for the oil industry but turns around to call for more domestic production.
At least some members of the renewable energy community don't support proposals to eliminate federal subsidies or tax breaks on domestic oil production. They worry that approach is a slippery slope that could impact taxes on all types of energy production. Instead, they call for similar long-term tax credits for renewable energy.
At the Geothermal Energy Association's Geothermal Energy Forum & International Forum in DC on May 4, panelist Jonathan Weisgall of Mid-American Energy pointed out that the oil depletion allowance was approved in 1913 and is permanent. Renewable energy in contrast, gets only short, temporary provisions that typically expire or run up to the time limit before being renewed. This makes planning and investment iffy at best. Weisgall called for long term extension of the Production Tax Credit and a national Renewable Energy Standard, among other incentives, for renewable energy in order to give it a level playing field and to promote all domestic energy sources. [right, geothermal map of North America. By Dave Blackwell at SMU, published by AAPG]
Interestingly, he observed that in 2009-10, not a single coal-fired power plant began construction. For Mid-America it's because they cannot make the case to state regulators that a pulverized coal plant will be the best cost source of electricity over the next 40 years.
The rapid increase in natural gas supplies in the U.S. from shale units, and the rise of renewables that don't have the same environmental costs that coal has, are changing the marketplace.