The House Energy and Commerce Committee has approved the centerpiece climate change policy of Democrats’ infrastructure and social spending reconciliation package as part of an aggressive push to move the United States away from its dependence on fossil fuels.
The committee voted 30-27 on a partisan basis Tuesday to advance the core energy portion of its Build Back Better Act, a plan to pay utilities to generate a growing percentage of power from clean sources.
Democrats say the program is crucial to helping President Joe Biden to achieve his goal, submitted as part of the Paris climate accord, to cut U.S. emissions across the economy in half by the end of the decade.
The Democrats’ “clean electricity performance program” would use a carrot-and-stick approach to push the utility sector to reach 80% clean electricity by 2030, issuing grants to power companies to increase their clean energy portfolio while imposing financial penalties to ensure utilities don’t fall behind.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee plan would allocate $150 billion for the program, making utilities eligible for grants from the Department of Energy if they increase the amount of clean electricity they supply by 4 percentage points compared to the previous year, starting from 2023 through 2030.
Committee Republicans attacked Democrats who chose not to count natural gas as a clean power source as part of the program. Moving too quickly to zero-carbon sources while discounting natural gas “doesn’t make sense,” Alabama Rep. Gary Palmer said.
“That doesn't mean we don’t support a sensible renewable energy plan,” Palmer said. “It just means we need to make sure we maintain the appropriate baseload that is required for our energy grid so that when someone turns on the light, it comes on.”
Utilities, however, would still be able to receive payments if they equip their natural gas plants with carbon capture technology that stops their emissions from entering the atmosphere, although such methods are expensive and unproven.
Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats approved other climate provisions as part of the reconciliation bill in a markup that has spanned two days, imposing a fee on methane emissions from oil and gas operations and spending $13.5 billion on electric vehicle charging stations, $9 billion for electric transmission lines to deliver renewable energy, $30 billion to replace lead pipes, and $27.5 billion for a green bank.
“Individually, each of these investments would be worthwhile," said Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois. “Together, they are transformative. They will help our country advance in the fight against the climate crisis."
The House still has to negotiate its climate plans, including the clean electricity program, with the more centrist Senate, where it could be subject to changes.
Washington Examiner Videos
Original Author: Josh Siegel