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Senate committee advances sweeping energy tax incentives bill along party lines

The Senate Finance Committee passed a bill that would create an emissions-based, technology-neutral tax credit for clean energy production while repealing federal incentives for fossil fuels.

In a 14-14 vote along party lines, the committee advanced the Clean Energy for America Act, a bill sponsored by Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore. The proposed legislation would create a credit for all zero-carbon or net-negative-emission technologies.

The committee also approved three amendments to the bill, including one to exclude Chinese-produced electric vehicles from eligibility for the electric vehicle tax credit. Another amendment would "restrict goods produced by forced labor and child labor," according to a committee document.

During a May 26 committee markup, Wyden said there was a "hodgepodge of 44 different energy tax breaks for a host of fuel sources and technologies" in the federal tax code, contending that these hurt innovation and market competition. Such tax breaks provide long-term or permanent incentives to some fuels or technologies while others rely on short-term extensions, the chairman said.

The Clean Energy for America Act would replace the old system with a "free-market, technology-neutral system in which reducing carbon emissions becomes the loadstar of America's energy future," leveling the playing field for large fossil fuel companies and renewable energy startups alike, Wyden said. Such legislation could serve as the "linchpin" of clean energy efforts in President Joe Biden's infrastructure and jobs plan, the committee chairman said in a release.

Wyden noted that the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group representing investor-owned utilities, has supported his bill.

"The more carbon you cut, the cleaner and more efficient you are, the larger the tax break," Wyden said.

Republicans on the committee largely condemned the bill, saying it would threaten fossil fuel workers' jobs and make the U.S. more dependent on foreign adversaries for energy and mineral resources.

"Most, if not all, of the members on my side of the dais cannot support a bill that eliminates all provisions related to fossil fuels and essentially prevents bipartisan technologies ... from qualifying," said Ranking Member Mike Crapo, R-Idaho. "I am willing to work on constructive proposals to modernize and innovate our nation's energy production, but not at the expense of millions of good-paying American jobs."