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Spending bill aims to reduce emissions, spur energy development

Spending bill aims to reduce emissions, spur energy development
© Greg Nash

The spending package Congress is poised to vote on Monday includes investments in clean energy and provisions to capture carbon pollution and reduce the use of powerful greenhouse gasses. 

In what supporters are hailing as a win in the battle against climate change, the legislation would aim to phase down the use of the greenhouse gases, called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), over the next 15 years.

The gases would be reduced by 85 percent during this period when compared to a baseline level. 

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The legislation also aims to forward the development of clean energy from a variety of sources including solar, wind and nuclear fuel. 

It seeks to further the availability of nuclear fuel through a program to support the availability of uranium that can be used in advanced reactors. Nuclear energy is somewhat controversial as it is emission-free but produces toxic waste. 

The bill could boost renewables by requiring the Interior Department to set goals for wind, solar and geothermal energy production on federal lands. It also says the department should aim to give permits for at least 25 gigawatts of energy from these sources by 2025.

The bill would extend certain industrial tax credits for renewable energy production, and it creates a program to research energy storage technology, which proponents say could help the deployment of renewable energy because it would aid in its usage during times when it’s not being produced. 

The legislation would have the government research carbon capture and sequestration technology that’s used to capture and store carbon dioxide that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere when fossil fuels are produced. 

It would also extend the use of a tax credit that incentivizes the use of this technology by two years.

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The technology is still developing. It’s praised by supporters as a greener way to get fuel, although critics argue that investing in it ultimately supports fossil fuel production and that emissions from their consumption will still contribute to climate change. 

The inclusion of these energy and climate provisions came after disagreements stalled a bipartisan Senate energy bill earlier this year. 

The key dispute was over an amendment that aimed to phase down the use of HFCs. A compromise, which was also incorporated into Monday’s bill, involves preventing states from setting their own, stricter regulations for at least five years. 

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden's Interior Department temporarily blocks new drilling on public lands | Group of GOP senators seeks to block Biden moves on Paris, Keystone | Judge grants preliminary approval for 0M Flint water crisis settlement Group of GOP senators seeks to block Biden moves on Paris, Keystone GOP senators praise Biden's inauguration speech MORE (Wyo.), who’s expected to become the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee next year, praised the legislation as an example of bipartisan solutions. 

“Republicans and Democrats are working together to protect the environment through innovation,” he said in a statement. “These measures will protect our air while keeping costs down for the American people.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerNRSC chair says he'll back GOP incumbents against Trump primary challengers Schumer becomes new Senate majority leader US Chamber of Commerce to Biden, Congress: Business community 'ready to help' MORE (D-N.Y.) argued that more needs to be done. 

“I am proud that this bill secured significant wins when it comes to combating climate change, including the first ever agreement to phase down hydrofluorocarbons,” Schumer said in a statement. “Are these provisions enough to meet the demands of the science? No. But are they a significant step in the right direction? Yes,” he said.