- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 16, 2019

There’s more to reducing greenhouse gas emissions than solar, wind and the Green New Deal, as demonstrated Tuesday by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The committee approved 22 energy-related bills at a mass markup hearing, all but one with bipartisan support, aimed at lowering emissions, improving energy efficiency and increasing the nation’s energy and minerals independence, in what was described as an “all of the above” strategy.

“Twenty-two energy-related bills is really quite a significant accomplishment,” said committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican. “I think if you look to the details of what we’ve just moved out of committee, there is a great deal of substance, whether it’s what we have advanced with nuclear energy and the leadership there, whether it’s the measures on efficiency, whether it’s our critical minerals.”

Advancing were six bills aimed at promoting energy efficiency, including retrofitting public buildings, reauthorizing hydropower production incentives, boosting next-generation nuclear power, and authorizing a pilot program to detect security vulnerabilities in the energy sector.

“Every bill before us today moves us toward cleaner energy with more and better solutions,” said Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the panel.

That doesn’t mean the legislation will pass muster with supporters of the Green New Deal, a plan pushed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a freshman New York Democrat, that seeks to take down oil, coal and natural gas energy while promoting a host of social justice initiatives and overhauling the U.S. economy.

Fossil fuels were a big part of Tuesday’s legislative mix. They included bills to ease restrictions on importing small volumes of liquefied natural gas; to promote recovery from coal of rare earth minerals, which are used to make dozens of products such as magnets and cellphones; and to study the potential for petrochemical infrastructure in Appalachia.

“The potential economic and strategic benefits of an Appalachia storage hub are exponential and, as [Energy] Secretary [Rick] Perry has said, a storage hub in Appalachia would be a win-win,” Mr. Manchin said.

Also included were measures to advance carbon capture technology, aimed at seizing greenhouse gas emissions from coal and natural gas before they enter the atmosphere, which has run afoul of the climate change movement’s call to eliminate fossil fuels altogether.

After the Group of 20 summit last month in Osaka, Japan, the climate group 350.org issued a statement blasting world leaders touting carbon capture.

“Mentions of unproven carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies will not get us out of the climate crisis,” 350.org said a July 1 statement. “We need bold actions by the world’s biggest economies to accelerate the just transition towards a 100% renewable energy society starting immediately.”

Last month, billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg, backed by the Sierra Club, launched Beyond Carbon, a $500 million campaign to shut down all coal-fired electricity plants by 2030 and to stop them from being replaced by natural gas plants.

“In order to prevent a worst-case-scenario climate disaster, we can’t afford to even use all of the fossil gas reserves that we already know about — much less find and extract new ones,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a July 1 op-ed. “What’s more, even if the entire world were to swear off coal right now, burning gas in its place would still leave us in a very bad place.”

Mr. Manchin argued that the U.S. needs to lead the way on reducing carbon emissions, given that other countries still rely heavily on coal and other fossil fuels.

“If we don’t lead the way in how we’re going to capture carbon and be able to utilize it, versus just stuffing it in the ground and finding a value added to it, then no one else is going to do it,” he said. “And the rest of the world, whether we quit burning every ounce of fossil today, is not going to change … unless we make them change and show them a profitable way to do it.”

The committee did approve bills promoting nuclear energy and hydropower. Both are renewable energy sources, although neither option is popular with environmentalists, who cite concerns about the safety and expense of nuclear, which emits no greenhouse gases.

Hydropower, meanwhile, typically involves damming rivers, which is anathema to green groups. American Rivers has called for building no more dams and decommissioning “outdated or unsafe dams whose costs outweigh their benefits.”

Ms. Murkowski said she wanted to combine the bills as part of an energy package for a vote on the Senate floor.

Christopher Guith, acting president of the U.S. Chamber’s Global Energy Institute, praised the lawmakers for finding common ground on policies that are “practical, flexible, predictable and durable.”

“The conventional wisdom has been that there was simply no appetite in Congress this year to take meaningful, effective steps to address climate change,” he said in a statement. “It’s argued that the issue is not a priority for the Trump administration, and there has seemingly been far too much division on Capitol Hill for Republicans and Democrats to work together on this important issue.

“But the conventional wisdom may be once again wrong, and we aren’t surprised.”

The Green New Deal resolution, which calls for net-zero U.S. emissions by 2030, was introduced in February and was defeated in April on the Senate floor by a vote of 0-57, with four Democrats voting against it and 43 voting “present.”

Saikat Chakrabarti, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, told The Washington Post last week that the bill wasn’t really a “climate thing,” but a “how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”

Even so, the resolution has been endorsed by Democratic presidential candidates Cory A. Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala D. Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernard Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

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