In a blistering attack, Nevada’s Republican senator John Ensign has launched an offensive against solar energy lobbyists, ahead of a crucial vote on renewable energy tax credits.
Breaking ranks with the the state’s increasingly important solar industry, Ensign said that efforts by the Solar Energy Industry Association to force his hand on tax breaks had in fact had the opposite effect of “personally alienating” him and other senators.
In a scathing letter, later released to the press, Ensign accused the lobby group of squandering goodwill by accusing him of favouring “billionaire hedge fund managers” over job creation in Nevada. Indicating the depth of his feelings on the issue, he went on to say “It is rare to have such overwhelming bipartisan support in today’s political climate but the solar industry had it and your association’s leadership squandered it.”
Nevada solar executives had privately become increasingly unhappy with the Senator’s record of voting against bills containing the tax credits. Ensign said that he opposed the bills because the funds for tax breaks would have been raised by increasing the burden on the oil and gas industry. Earlier this spring, he co-sponsored an alternative approach, calling for tax credits without the corresponding offsets. It made it through the Senate by a vote of 88-8, but has become bogged down in the House.
Last Tuesday, the senate voted to block progress on the Consumer First Energy Act and the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act. However, with a new vote expected this week, the rift is likely to dismay observers hopeful of progress on the hotly disputed tax credits bill. A block would be particularly damaging to the renewables industry, which wants to make investment decisions against a background of long-term stability in renewable energy policy.