House committee proposes energy action plan

Jackie Whetzel
By Jackie Whetzel
For business

(August 19, 2020)

The committee has detailed several ways to address climate change in the energy plan.

Congress created a task force to create an energy action plan with recommendations on how the government can address climate change in January 2019. The committee, better known as the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, released its 538-page action plan in June.

The plan outlined dozens of ways the U.S. can reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and details why Congress should “support rapid deployment of wind, solar, energy efficiency, and other zero-carbon energy sources and construction of new transmission infrastructure to deliver clean energy to homes.”

Despite the committee laying out all the ways to address the climate crisis, the plan does not call for any plans to end natural gas fracking. Additionally, it does not suggest coal-fired power end either, but instead suggests strategies to train and transition coal miners – something United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts has requested for years.

Some of the key points in the action plan include proposals on cleaner energy, the need for electric (zero-emission) vehicles, low-carbon construction materials, and eco-friendly manufacturing industries. Upon dissecting the lengthy proposal, it’s clear that regardless of employment in Texas’s deep-seated energy sector or not – just about every Texan would be affected in some way if implemented.

“This is the most comprehensive plan that Congress has ever put forward,” Brad Townsend, Managing Director for strategic initiatives at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions told Utility Dive. “We’re finally starting to have a conversation about action at the scale that will be necessary to avert the worst impacts of climate change.”

Net-zero electricity emissions by 2040

In one part of the plan, the committee referenced the fact that the U.S. ranks as the second-largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions (just behind China), and states America has a responsibility to “lead the global charge” in cleaning up the environment.

The energy sector seemed to be a top priority for the committee, since they hit on multiple ways to move toward cleaner electricity. The committee suggested Congress establish a “national clean energy standard” to achieve a net-zero emission in the electricity sector by the year 2040 – and the committee members were not brief on suggesting how to achieve this goal.

One way, they explained, was to make the electric grid more resilient to climate impacts such as hurricanes and natural disasters. Another suggestion was making all federal government facilities 100 percent clean energy reliant by 2040. The committee members cited the Green Energy for Federal Buildings Act as a model of how to work towards the latter goal.

Wind and solar “must increase dramatically”

The plan explains solar and wind energy “must increase dramatically” to meet the 2040 goal. The committee suggested enhanced tax credits as one way to attract more support of cleaner energy and proposed that Congress create solar energy more accessible for low-income families.

Rep Paul Tonko’s (D-NY) 2019 American Energy Opportunity Act (H.R. 5335), was mentioned in the plan. Tonko has proposed that the government set a standard permitting process for renewable energy sources and the committee acknowledged that this will become an issue if the country does move toward innovative energy sources.

“Even as consumers grow increasingly interested in DER’s like rooftop solar, they may have trouble obtaining the necessary permits for installation from local governments, which do not have the resources to keep up with the new technologies,” the action plan stated.

Investments in geothermal energy

The committee proposed the installation of 60 GW of geothermal energy, which could provide heating and cooling for up to 28 million households.

“Geothermal heat radiates from the Earth’s core and can be harnessed to provide zero-carbon electricity, as well as energy to heat and cool buildings,” the plan revealed. The committee said the government would need to invest more time and effort into honing the technology but listed it as a feasible option.

Transportation industry overhaul

The automotive industry would undergo a major overhaul if the committee is successful. In the plan, traditional cars would hit zero-emissions by 2035 and trucks by 2040. Electric cars could become the new normal on the road.

The transportation sector is the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S., according to the committee. Committee members say the industry accounted for 37 percent of U.S. emissions in 2019 (54 percent were light-duty cars and trucks and 21 percent were heavy duty freight trucks).

“Congress needs to pursue both demand-pull and supply-push policies, including a national zero-emission vehicle sales standard; federal procurement requirements; consumer tax incentives to defray upfront vehicle costs; and tax incentives, grants, and other financial tools to help cities, states, and other entities to install electric charging stations and other zero-emission fueling infrastructure,” the action plan stated.

They also suggested a “massive expansion” of public transit.

Energy-efficient construction and manufacturing

Local governments would be baited with incentives to adopt new codes that would require existing structures to become energy efficient. In addition, new builds (both residential and commercial) would be targeted to hit net-zero emissions by the year 2030.

 

Jackie Whetzel is a freelance writer who has been featured in newspapers and publications across the country. She has written on the topics of energy, education, government, and business. You can find her on Instagram.

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