House Republicans are pushing back on President Biden’s climate change agenda by proposing their own environmental overhaul that would expand nuclear power, make energy easier to transport and invest in new technology.
On Monday, top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced a series of bills to serve as what they call a realistic alternative to the unworkable “pie-in-the-sky” ideas, such as the Green New Deal, pushed by Democrats.
To that end, the GOP proposal aims to balance the lowering of greenhouse gas emissions with protecting energy jobs and keeping America “globally competitive.”
“These energy and climate solutions will help modernize our infrastructure and ensure America continues to lead the world in reducing emissions — while keeping the lights on and energy costs low for hard-working Americans,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce panel.
Dubbed the “securing cleaner American energy” agenda, it aims to:
⦁ Streamline regulations for new nuclear power plants to be built across the country. Republicans argue modernized guidelines will help diversify the energy sector by curbing the reliance on fossil fuels for electricity generation.
⦁ Remove barriers, both regulatory and legal, that make it more difficult to build oil and gas pipelines across domestic and international borders. As part of the effort, the package also makes it easier to export and import natural gas.
⦁ Authorize the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline between Canada and the U.S. Gulf Coast.
⦁ Prohibit the banning of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract natural gas from shale rock formations. The plan also has provisions to prevent the release of further methane gas — often a byproduct of oil and natural gas production — into the atmosphere.
⦁ Mandate that the Department of Energy develop a stockpile of critical minerals and sources, including those used in nuclear power such as uranium, to ensure the country is not reliant upon foreign powers during times of crisis.
⦁ Invest in new hydropower projects and other water-powered technology.
⦁ Promote federal tax dollars for carbon capture projects and technology. Carbon capture is a process in which greenhouse gas emissions are captured before they can enter the atmosphere and are reused or stored underground. Republicans hope that further research on the topic can revolutionize the fossil fuel industry.
Mrs. McMorris Rodgers and her colleagues hope that by proposing their own “workable solutions” to climate change, they can show there is a “bipartisan way” on the topic.
Despite such hopes, it is unlikely that the GOP’s proposal will be adopted by Democrats. The problem is over not only policy, but also ambition.
Democrats, led by Mr. Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, say the threat posed by climate change requires nothing short of a total overhaul of the U.S. economy.
Using that standard, Democrats are working on their own environmental bill, which already spans nearly 1,000 pages. That legislation, known as the CLEAN Future Act, sets the U.S. on a path to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 — a goal set by the Paris Climate Agreement, which Mr. Biden has rejoined.
Among other provisions, the bill dictates that the U.S. must institute a 100% “clean” — carbon-free — electricity standard by 2035. To accelerate the transition, all retail electricity suppliers must reach at least 80% clean energy by 2030 and all-electric utilities must offer some form of solar power to customers.
Ironically — although perhaps in a sign of just how far apart Democrats and Republicans are on the topic — the CLEAN Future Act does not include two proven tactics for cutting carbon emissions.
Most notably, the bill cracks down on oil and natural gas pipelines and makes no mention of nuclear power.
Transporting crude oil or natural gas via pipeline is less fossil-fuel intensive than moving it by rail or truck. Environmentalists have ignored that reality, arguing instead that the threat of pipelines leaking is more immediate.
Similarly, nuclear energy has no place in the Democratic agenda, despite it being one of the only stable energy sources to be carbon-free. More than 55% of all carbon-free electricity produced in the U.S. comes from nuclear, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.
The Biden administration and congressional Democrats, though, appear unwilling to use nuclear power because of public anxieties regarding a potential meltdown.
• Haris Alic can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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