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'Cliff' bill winners: wind, rum, electric scooters and more

Posting in Energy

The bill approved in Congress in a last-minute holiday vote to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff included a slew of tax provisions that benefit an assortment of industries and organizations from NASCAR and the wind power industry to biodiesel producers and rum makers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

These are not earmarks. Remember, Congress banned those. The American Taxpayer Relief Act does, however, include relief for a number of industries through so-called extenders. Cuts benefiting individual taxpayers and a range of industries have been added to the tax code over the years.

These cuts or credits are traditionally set up as temporary measures. However, many of them, such as the rum tax, have been around for decades. (A 2010 NYT report provides the whole history of the rum tax).

The hefty 157-page bill has loads of tax extensions, including those for energy-efficient appliances, energy-efficient homes, movie producers and maintenance for railroads. Here's a rundown of a few industries benefiting from provisions included in the bill:

Wind: A one-year extension of tax credits for wind power projects that begin in 2013. The tax credit technically expired at the end of 2012, but was included in the bill. The American Wind Energy Association says the extension will save up to 37,000 jobs and revive business at nearly 500 manufacturing facilities across the U.S.

Biodiesel: The $1 per gallon biodiesel blenders tax credit, which expired at the end of 2011, was extended for 2012 and 2013, a move hailed by the National Biodiesel Board. A study found the industry would have produced an additional 300 million gallons this year with the incentive in place, the NBB said in a statement.

Cellulosic ethanol: The bill extends the cellulosic biofuel producer credit for qualified production after Dec. 31, 2008 and before Jan. 1, 2014.

Electric scooters: The bill extends a tax credit for qualified two- or three-wheeled plug-in electric vehicles purchased after Dec. 31, 2011 and before Jan. 1, 2014, amounting to 10 percent of the cost of the vehicle up to $2,500.

Coal on Indian land: This production tax credit essentially subsidizes coal produced on Indian lands at about $2 per ton. As Brad Plumer over at the Washington Post notes, this isn't new, nor is it a lot of money (about $1 million), but it's a reminder not all of the clean-energy provisions in the bill are "clean."

NASCAR:  The extension, which has been in place since 2004, provides a tax benefit through accelerated depreciation to anyone who builds a racetrack. (Hat tip to Plumer who spotted this extension in the bill).

Rum: The cliff bill extends a $13.50 per gallon excise tax on rum produced in or imported to the United States. The revenue heads back to the treasuries of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to support their rum industries, NPR reported.

Photo: Horizon Wind Energy/AWEA

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— By on January 2, 2013, 9:00 PM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure