Feb 28, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Senate pushes bipartisan energy innovation bill

illustration of a morphed politicla elephant and donkey

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A sweeping energy bill boosting federal support for everything from renewable energy to cybersecurity may get a vote as soon as next week.

Driving the news: The bipartisan leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), introduced the American Energy Innovation Act yesterday.

  • The legislation, running 555 pages, compiles some 50 separate measures the committee has debated and passed last year.

One level deeper:

  • Most of the bill’s components are narrow changes to existing policy or other government programs. Taken in aggregate though, Manchin calls it a “down payment” on technologies cutting emissions.
  • It does not include an overall target to reduce emissions or any economy-wide mechanism to affect emissions, such as a carbon price or a mandate.
  • Read the bill itself, a short summary and a longer summary.

Where it stands: The bill drops as politicians in Washington and on the campaign trail debate how aggressively the U.S. government should tackle climate change. Lawmakers are engaging in what has become a perennial debate about whether to try to go big or go small(er) with climate and energy policy.

  • To date, Washington has gone small(er), and this bill doubles down on that path, by expanding current government policies and pushing narrow measures, like subsidies and public-private partnerships.
  • A growing chorus of lawmakers, corporations and all Democratic presidential candidates want Washington to go bigger by creating new and economy-wide policies taking direct aim at emissions, such as a clean energy standard or a carbon tax.

What they’re saying: Response to the bill was mixed, reflecting Washington’s overall divisions on the matter.

  • The National Mining Association and The Nature Conservancy both issued positive statements about the measure, even though the latter said more needed to be done.
  • Other environmental groups, including Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club, outright opposed it. “This bill includes a number of small-bore proposals, some productive and some detrimental,” said Melinda Pierce, Sierra Club’s legislative director.

What’s next: The full Senate may vote on it as soon as next week.

Go deeper: As Congress debates climate change policy, carbon price gets no love

Go deeper