Congress must act on climate change
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We have heard so much about bipartisanship or the lack-thereof lately, especially with the latest congressional action on the budget and infrastructure. The infrastructure legislation shows that bipartisanship is alive and well. Now, we must deal with climate change the same way, rather than stuffing a bulky climate agenda through on a partisan vote. 

And we can do it…Just look at us — a Republican engineer from West Virginia and a Democratic veterinarian from Oregon. Yet, despite our differences, we have worked together to craft ambitious, effective, and bipartisan legislation to tackle the climate crisis and promote a clean energy future.

We started from a simple scientific premise: Climate change is real, and time is running out to arrest its harm. We then brought in climate experts and industry leaders to help design evidence-based solutions that will get us to 95 percent clean electricity production over the next three decades. The result — the Clean Energy Through Innovation Act of 2021 — is the most sensible, the most achievable, and the most ambitious bipartisan proposal to transform America’s power sector into an engine of clean growth. Unlike short-term parliamentary tactics like reconciliation which pass bills on party-line votes, bipartisan legislation is enduring because both sides have a vested interest in its success — and long-lasting solutions are what we desperately need.

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Our legislation invests in the technologies we have today, to make them cleaner, more efficient, and more cost-effective. Our bill similarly invests billions of dollars to research, develop, and demonstrate the innovations that will fuel deep decarbonization. We need to commercialize new technologies such as advanced nuclear reactors, net-negative baseload cogeneration, or zero-emissions carbon capture for fossil fuels. Indeed, our bill will do that better than any other proposal in Congress today.

Innovation is key, but it isn’t enough. We need an effective, market-oriented, and realistic clean electricity standard that drives progress and holds power companies accountable. That’s why our bill sets an 80 percent clean electricity standard by 2050. Of course, we all would like to see results earlier — and the investments that our bill makes will help us get there. But this standard represents the most realistic benchmark possible given foreseeable technological advances.

Why does bipartisanship matter? Bipartisan federal legislation is needed, so businesses and financial institutions have certainty to make long-term investments knowing what the rules of the road will be. We agree — decades of lawsuits and regulatory ping-pong over climate serve no one well. We need lasting law — and our bill will provide that.

What about coal, oil, and gas workers whose livelihoods depend on fossil fuel extraction? In states where fossil fuels are the linchpin of local economies, these changes can’t be handed down from on high as unfunded federal mandates that hurt workers and the communities they live in, hollowing out entire regions of the country. Give us time to plan, they say, and help to be part of the solution.

We agree — and our bill will do that. For the first decade of our plan, utilities will invest in clean energy infrastructure from all sources, backed by strong federal financial support. After a decade of investments in clean energy infrastructure and innovation, a federal clean energy standard will ensure we meet our environmental goals.

By investing in innovation and infrastructure first, we can reduce costs to consumers, save jobs, preserve the fuel diversity and resilience of the electrical grid, and break the political logjam around climate and energy policy.

Utilities want to clean up the grid — they know their customers want them to do it. But they can’t do it alone, they need federal policy and federal funds which we provide.

Our bill offers a decade of aggressive investments in clean energy innovation and infrastructure. Unlike other proposed regulations that would go into effect immediately, regardless of the state of technologies or the cost to households or businesses, our plan follows a decade of effort to make compliance with the targets feasible and cost-effective — it’s common sense.

We are especially proud of the breadth of the coalition that has come together in support of this effort — when prominent environmentalists, labor unions, and leading electric utilities can agree on a plan to eliminate power plant air pollution, we know our plan is a winner.

Our bill would show that America is the leader in developing clean energy technology, and we could export that technology all around the world to help address the global climate problem being driven by China and other foreign countries.

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Democrats and Republicans can work together to break the climate gridlock, or we can move deeper into our partisan trenches as the climate crisis worsens, our energy infrastructure crumbles, and Americans become increasingly convinced that their government is broken. Only Congress can solve this problem — an endless zigzag of executive orders and judicial decisions cannot guide a complex multi-decade transformation of America’s electricity system.

Rather than jamming climate policy in on a party-line vote, we urge House leadership to consider our bipartisan bill as an alternative.

To succeed, energy and environmental policy must be durable; to endure, it must be bipartisan.

McKinley represents West Virginia’s 1st District and is ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment. Schrader represents the 5th District and is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.