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 TonkoDemocrats unveil first bill toward goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 House committee advances sweeping legislation to battle 'forever chemicals' Overnight Energy: Trump officials suspend oil, gas production on Utah plots after lawsuit | California bucks Trump on lightbulb rollback | Scientists join Dems in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule 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 Ann WarrenTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Buttigieg says he doubts consulting work for insurer led to layoffs Trump supporters at Pa. rally 'upset' after Democrats introduce impeachment articles 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 PalloneOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills This week: House impeachment inquiry hits crucial stretch 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 Walden'Medicare for All' backers notch win with high-profile hearing Democrats declare victory for eliminating drug protections in trade deal Impeachment surprise: Bills Congress could actually pass in 2020 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 MullinLawmakers beat Capitol Police in Congressional Football Game Democrats hold first hearing in push for clean energy by 2050 Overnight Energy: House moves to block Trump drilling | House GOP rolls out proposal to counter offshore drilling ban | calls mount for NOAA probe 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