The controversial bill, stymied by factional opposition on many previous occasions, has finally passed, primarily thanks to an increase in emphasis on US energy security in the face of a volatile global geo-political situation.
One of the pivotal issues that had crippled previous attempts to pass the bill, the inclusion of lawsuit protection for manufacturers of the toxic chemical MTBE, was finally removed, and the contentious plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was also omitted to ease its passage.
Solar energy received a big boost with the increasing of federal investment tax credits for commercial solar installations to 30%, up from 10%, for two years, with no cap on the credit, and a 30% tax credit for all domestic solar installations, also for two years
The wind energy sector also breathed a collective sigh of relief as the coveted wind power Production Tax Credit has been extended another two years.
Ethanol received a major boost with the act providing credit for ethanol made from non-traditional feedstocks like wheat straw and corn stover, in addition to requiring that the amount of renewable fuels – such as ethanol – blended with gasoline increase from four billion gallons in 2006 to 7.5Bg in 2012.
It also provides $US200 million yearly until 2015 to update the Biomass Research and Development Act, with the goal of rapidly boosting the production of bio-based fuels at competitive prices and developing a broad range of bio-based products that replace petroleum-based products.
In addition, the act establishes a reverse auction to spur production of the first billion gallons of ethanol from cellulosic biomass and the creation of a bioethanol industry, considered essential to reaching the alternative fuel production targets needed to enhance domestic US energy security.
The bill has been received with sharp criticisms from environmental groups, which claim the wins for renewable energy are eclipsed by intensive pork-barrelling for established energy industries such as oil and coal.
"If I was a homeowner and flipping through a newspaper story on the energy bill, I would get pretty depressed at the $US14 billion ($A18.4 billion) of giveaways for industries that, frankly, are enjoying record profits," said executive director of the Solar Energy Industries Association.
"But the one provision in the bill that all Americans can take advantage of right away is to install solar on their roofs."