Energy & Environment

Progressives launch campaign to exclude gas from Congress’s clean electricity program 

Climate change protest on Nov. 29 in Washington, D.C.
Climate change protest on Nov. 29 in Washington, D.C.

Progressives are pushing to try to keep natural gas out of a Democratic proposal aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the electric sector. 

A number of progressive and environmental groups on Wednesday launched what they called a “no gas” campaign to pressure Democrats not to include fossil fuel in their clean electricity payment program — in which power providers would be incentivized to switch to clean sources. 

The 15 organizations also got support from Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) in their push. 

“This is our moment to turbocharge the transition to a green, just economy, and the Clean Energy Standard can play a key role — but it needs to be as ambitious as possible on renewables, and it needs to exclude gas,” Bowman said in a statement.

“This is not complicated, and we can’t allow the gas industry to confuse the issue. No fossil fuels, period,” he added.  

Natural gas is less carbon-intensive when burned than other fossil fuels like oil and coal, but it still contributes climate-warming emissions to the atmosphere. 

The details behind the clean electricity payment program, which was modeled after a similar idea called a clean electricity standard that would have required a certain percentage of power to come from clean sources, haven’t been revealed yet. 

But Democrats are banking on it for a significant percentage of the emissions cuts from their infrastructure bills, saying that the policy and clean energy tax credits are together responsible for more than 40 percent of the emissions cuts they hope to achieve overall. 

The package will have to be negotiated with both the left and right wings of the party, which hold razor-thin majorities in Congress, so it’s not clear how it will ultimately turn out. 

But Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in the past has said that he opposes new gas plants. 

Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), a leading advocate for the clean electricity standard, told The Hill in July that she opposes partial credit for unabated natural gas and that she’d support fossil fuels only when they use carbon capture technology to prevent their emissions from going into the atmosphere. 

Some of the groups indicated that they aren’t just opposed to unabated gas, but also take issue with carbon capture. 

“It’s not saying no gas with an asterisk — it’s just saying no gas,” Lauren Maunus, advocacy director of the Sunrise Movement. 

“This campaign isn’t going beyond to define the specific qualities of unabated gas, uncontrolled gas, gas with [carbon capture and storage]. It’s saying loud and clear, no gas,” Maunus said. 

Overall, the campaign entails local organizing, a website to track lawmakers who support the push and phone banks targeting the heads of the Senate and House committees that deal with energy: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.Y.), respectively, per Sunrise spokesperson Ellen Sciales. 

The groups on board include Sunrise, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace USA, Oil Change U.S. and the Working Families Party. 

Collin Rees, a senior campaigner with Oil Change, said that the push isn’t just about securing emissions reductions but also about weakening the power of the fossil fuel industry. 

“One of the things that we need here is not just to ensure that emissions are reduced, but to ensure that the political power of the fossil fuel industry is reduced to ensure that they are not writing the next generation of climate policy,” Rees said.

Tags Carbon capture and storage Carbon finance Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Climate change policy Emissions reduction Energy economics environmental policy Fossil fuel Greenpeace USA Joe Manchin Natural gas Oil Change U.S. Sierra Club Sunrise Movement Sustainable energy The Sierra Club Tina Smith
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