BETC backers plot future

Saving Oregon's Business Energy Tax Credit program from axe-wielding legislators isn't going to be easy, but it's also not impossible.

That’s the message from a coalition of clean energy groups and industrial manufacturers who have joined forces to save the popular, yet vilified state incentive program.

"It's not hopeless to get an initiative and funding through the Legislature when there are so many voices coming through," said Robert Grott, executive director of the Portland-based Northwest Environmental Business Council.

The coalition, under the leadership of Seattle-based climate policy group Climate Solutions, held what amounted to a troop-rallying event in Portland on Tuesday, launching a campaign designed to make lawmakers realize the importance of the tax credits to one of the state’s few job-creating industries.

The program offers tax breaks for investment in renewable energy.

Yet the event at David Evans and Associates in the South Waterfront carried a sense of foreboding. The task is an uphill battle and losing it could have devastating consequences.

“Without the BETC or an equivalent funding mechanism,” Grott said, “we are dead in the water.”

The BETC, as it’s called, is widely considered the primary reason Oregon has become one of the nation’s leaders in clean energy.

According to a state Department of Energy study, the program cost the state $244 million during 2007 and the first 10 months of 2008. But it generated an economic impact of $576 million, created 1,700 jobs worth $42 million in wages, and delivered $22 million in new state and local tax revenue, Grott said. [Though comprehensive jobs numbers are difficult to come by.]

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