In the final actions of the year, the House and Senate passed a spending bill with a big gift for Big Oil. By permanently lifting the longstanding crude oil export ban, Congressional Republicans made sure it will be Christmas all year round for their oil industry allies. But their gift-giving didn’t extend to renewables. Instead the wind and solar tax breaks are temporary – lasting only for a few years and phasing down beginning as early as the end of 2016. These energy provisions are a potential double whammy for consumers and the offshore wind industry in Massachusetts.
For consumers, the spending bill rolls back longstanding U.S. law and will allow the oil industry to sell American crude oil overseas for the first time in more than 40 years. Allowing American crude to be sold overseas to the highest bidder could be a disaster for consumers in our region.
Crude oil exports would raise U.S. oil prices and could cause the region to lose upwards of 55 percent of our refining capacity on the East Coast. This would make us more reliant on other regions of the country and foreign nations for our gasoline, heating oil and diesel fuels. The Department of Energy has said that losing these refineries on the East Coast could lead to “higher prices,” “higher price volatility” and the potential of “temporary [supply] disruptions” in our region.
Consumers are projected to save $700 this year on gasoline and $500 on heating oil because of low oil prices. That is a stimulus for working and poor families. Allowing exports could wipe out this economic stimulus for consumers in Massachusetts and across the country.
And for our clean energy economy in Massachusetts, these energy provisions could mean that we kill the offshore wind industry in our country before it even gets off the ground. Under this bill, the tax breaks for wind begin phasing out at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 2016. By the end of 2019 they will be completely gone.
That means that these tax credits, which are essential to make offshore wind economically viable in New England and up and down the East Coast, will phase down and expire before we are able to even get offshore wind deployed on a large scale. This could end our nascent offshore wind industry before it even truly begins.
In Massachusetts, we are the home to the “perfect storm.” We know the power of the wind off our coastlines. We are the Saudi Arabia of offshore wind in New England. But this could endanger that potential before it even starts spinning.
I will continue to fight in the Senate to reinstate these tax credits for our offshore wind industry, which has the potential to create thousands of jobs in Massachusetts and along the East Coast. And I will continue my fight to ensure that consumers in our region are protected from the price increases at the pump that could result from exporting American oil and undermining our East Coast refineries.
The energy provisions in the government spending and tax package are a poison pill in otherwise important legislation for students and hard-working Massachusetts families that I have long supported. Using this must-pass spending bill to jam through this massive, permanent giveaway to the oil industry is just plain wrong.