Jan 31, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Bipartisan House duo explore "clean energy standard"

GIF of the world rolling in front of Congress
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A bipartisan House duo is floating a new plan that's both a throwback idea and a sign of today's climate politics.

Driving the news: Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) want to require utilities to greatly cut carbon emissions by mid-century.

  • They laid out the broad strokes of their planned bill in a USA Today op-ed Thursday and through information circulated to reporters.

How it works: It would create a "clean energy standard" requiring an 80% cut in power sector emissions by 2050 while providing the industry all kinds of leeway to determine how to get there.

  • The mandate would not begin for up to 10 years, to be preceded by "public and private investments in clean energy innovation and infrastructure development."
  • It would also inoculate the industry from Clean Air Act carbon emissions regulations during the 10-year ramp-up.

Why it matters: The plan says a lot about the state of climate politics. It signals the GOP shift away from rejecting or at least challenging consensus climate science.

  • McKinley was in that camp years ago but the new op-ed calls climate change the "greatest environmental and energy challenge of our time."

The big picture: It's far less aggressive than what senior Capitol Hill Democrats and the party's White House hopefuls are promoting.

  • "The plan is modest, compared to other Democratic proposals aiming to reach net-zero emissions by midcentury across the entire economy, and many states that have imposed immediate clean electricity standards without delay," the Washington Examiner notes.

Between the lines: Ideas for a federal "clean energy standard" of some sort have been rattling around for a decade.

  • I first started noticing them when Republicans floated them as an alternative to Democratic calls for renewables-specific mandates, and then-President Obama floated his own version in 2011.

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