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 tweets he's revoking California's tailpipe waiver | Move comes as Trump visits state | California prepares for court fight | Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges lawmakers to listen to scientists Democrats hold first hearing in push for clean energy by 2050 Democrats ramp up calls to investigate NOAA 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 WarrenSanders on difference with Warren: she's a capitalist 'I'm not' Rubio hits Warren's 'crude' and 'vulgar' response to opposition to same-sex marriage Klobuchar takes shots at health and education plans supported by Sanders and Warren 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 PalloneCBO: Pelosi bill to lower drug prices saves Medicare 5 billion Trump official declines to testify on trade protections for tech platforms Hillicon Valley: New York AG meets with feds over Facebook probe | Trump trade official asked to testify on protections for tech giants | PayPal drops out of Libra cryptocurrency project 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 WaldenCBO: Pelosi bill to lower drug prices saves Medicare 5 billion Trump official declines to testify on trade protections for tech platforms House panel asks Trump trade official to testify on legal protections for tech platforms 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