Bloomberg: Senate to Take Up Bill Boosting Climate R&D, Avoid Regulations

Bipartisan measure focuses on clean energy and efficiency

Legislation that could be voted on by the U.S. Senate as soon as next week aims to boost energy storage technology as well as nuclear and renewable power -- but avoids more aggressive steps to fight climate change sought by Democrats.

The bill, unveiled Thursday by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, represents the GOP’s latest approach of promoting clean energy while steering clear of mandates to cut emissions of climate-warming gases or stop fossil fuel development on public lands.

The bill is needed “to make a down payment on emissions-reducing technologies,” West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said in a statement. He partnered with Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, on the measure.

Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins said the legislation could be brought to the Senate floor for consideration as soon as next week.

The bill seeks to spur carbon capture, grid modernization and security and also includes a measure championed by Collins, considered one of the most endangered Senate Republicans, that would fund an Energy Department research program to reduce the cost of grid-scale energy storage. The technology could transform the wind and solar industries by allowing, for example, solar power made during the day to be used at night.

The legislation also features a long-stalled measure by Ohio Republican Rob Portman that would increase energy efficiency in residential and federal buildings and a separate measure aimed at helping the development of new nuclear reactor technology.

The legislation comes as Republicans begin to offer solutions to combat climate change that align with conservative principles of less regulation and increased domestic energy development, under pressure from voters to do something about global warming. House Republicans earlier this month released a climate bill focused on planting trees and carbon capture that received criticism from both the left and right.

Murkowski, who has long acknowledged that her state will be vulnerable to the effects of climate change, went so far as to back a moderate cap-and-trade bill in 2007 but later disavowed the idea. A committee aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that while Murkowski’s bill addresses climate it isn’t necessarily a climate bill.

Still, her bill includes measures that are sure to draw criticism from environmentalists, such as expediting small amounts of liquefied natural gas exports and boosting the production mining of minerals that are deemed “critical.”

“With the climate crisis upon us, we cannot afford to rely solely on the promise of innovation,” several groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club, said in a letter to the lawmakers. “We are afraid that some of the legislation under consideration for possible inclusion in the package would double-down on destructive extraction practices, fossil fuel consumption, and the promotion of other dirty energy sources.”

By:  Ari Natter
Source: Bloomberg