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Democrats hold first hearing in push for clean energy by 2050

Democrats hold first hearing in push for clean energy by 2050
© Greg Nash

House Democrats on Wednesday floated several strategies to reduce carbon emissions from industry, including boosting carbon capture technology and investing in innovation, during a first hearing for their push for the U.S. to reach net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050.

“We cannot achieve meaningful climate targets such as our economy-wide net-zero by midcentury goal without significantly reducing industrial emissions,” said Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoOvernight Energy: Trump officials finalize plan to open up protected areas of Tongass to logging | Feds say offshore testing for oil can proceed despite drilling moratorium | Dems question EPA's postponement of inequality training Democrats question EPA postponement of environmental inequality training Clark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race MORE (D-N.Y.) who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change.

The hearing came two months after Democrats on the committee first announced their intentions to produce climate legislation by the end of the year.

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The industrial sector is the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency, but Tonko said those emissions can be difficult to reduce.

“In many cases, cost-effective, low-carbon solutions are not commercially available yet. And there is no one solution to cut across all of the diverse subsectors” of industry, he said.

Many of the ideas raised by Democrats were similar to a green manufacturing plan introduced by 2020 presidential contender Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Disney laying off 32,000 workers as coronavirus batters theme parks MORE (D-Mass.), which rely on government procurement to spur and fund industry innovation.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle also expressed support for using and further developing carbon capture technology.

“Capturing and storing emissions rather than eliminating them altogether will likely be the most effective way to decarbonize certain parts of the industrial sector,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHouse Democrats urge Amazon to investigate, recall 'defective' products Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight Pharma execs say FDA will not lower standards for coronavirus vaccine MORE (D-N.J.), chairman of the full committee.

The National Association of Manufacturers was largely supportive of the committee’s efforts. 

“It's time to act on climate now. And the real question for policymakers should not be whether to act, but frankly, how to do so effectively,” said Ross Eisenberg, vice president of energy and resources policy for the group. 

Eisenberg said he hopes a cleaner industrial sector could help drive the revitalization of manufacturing in the U.S. 

“Our efficiency is a win here for us, and we should really be encouraging manufacturing to come back and really operate here because that's where it's going to be done the cleanest,” he said, contrasting the U.S. with competitors in India and China.

Some Republicans on the committee were critical of the effort, with ranking member Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHillicon Valley: Leadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns | Snapchat launches in-app video platform 'Spotlight' | Uber, Lyft awarded federal transportation contract Lawmakers urge FCC to assist in effort to rip out, replace suspect network equipment OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE (R-Ore.) saying Democrats were too eager to nix important energy sources while striving for a 100 percent clean energy economy.

“Without more serious consideration of the scale of what would be realistically achievable here and abroad to reduce emissions, the 100 by 50 slogan is less of a solution and frankly, more of a slogan,” Walden said.

Others also expressed concern that Democrats might stifle ingenuity.

“If the technology is not there — the regulation can’t outrun the technology,” said Rep. Markwayne MullinMarkwayne MullinNext Congress expected to have record diversity Native Americans elected to Congress in record numbers this year Congress must protect kidney disease patients during the COVID-19 pandemic MORE (R-Okla.). “We incentivize by creating an environment for them to do that. We don’t do that by regulating business out of business along the way.” 

Tonko acknowledged lawmakers would need to be careful about making sure American industry doesn’t lose a competitive edge because of the efforts.

“I believe it is imperative to understand and to seek to mitigate potential competitiveness concerns, rather than dismiss them,” he said.

Updated at 4:48