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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Lawmakers offer lots of bills every day that just vanish into the ether, but yesterday my inbox filled up with responses to a new energy proposal, and the rollout says a lot about the state of play heading into the 2020 elections.

Driving the news: 2 Democrats — Sen. Tina Smith and Rep. Ben Ray Luján — unveiled plans for a "clean energy standard" that would require utilities to supply escalating amounts of carbon-free power annually over coming decades.

Why it matters: It's a big but also detailed marker and clearly has plenty of advance organizing behind it.

  • And it shows how Democrats are starting to try and gain traction for specific ideas should a political window open in years ahead.
  • It's the latest iteration of a proposed national clean power standard, an idea floating around in some form for a decade.

By the numbers: The intricate system recognizes regional differences, but overall sponsors say it would cut power-sector emissions by nearly 80% in 2035 (relative to 2005 levels) and get close to net-zero by mid-century. Modeling by the nonpartisan think tank Resources for the Future concludes it would...

  • Boost renewables to 56% of total generation in 2035 and avoid retirement of 43 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by that date.
  • Cut fossil fuel generation to 26% of the nationwide total by 2035, while increasing average retail electricity rates by 4%.

Of note: RFF helped with technical analysis during the development of the legislation.

Between the lines: The rollout and early support (more on that below) suggests advocates of an approach that backs a suite of zero-carbon technologies are gaining the upper hand over calls on the left for a renewables-only vision.

The big question: Whether there's any chance of GOP support. It's not a totally bananas possibility.

  • It matters because even if Democrats win the White House, they would need some Republicans to advance big policies (unless they also took the Senate and killed the filibuster).
  • A source familiar with the bill's development tells me that sponsors have been in discussions with potential GOP backers.

Flashback: Roughly a decade ago, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham floated a version of a "clean" standard, albeit as Republicans were countering largely Democratic calls for renewables-only mandate.

  • GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski has also expressed openness to the idea, per this piece I wrote for The Hill in 2010.

What they're saying: The bill is supported by United Steelworkers, the Utility Workers Union of America, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Clean Air Task Force, sponsors say.

  • The National Wildlife Federation and The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions also sent me emails supportive of the idea.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

6 mins ago - Podcasts

Bob Nelsen on AstraZeneca and his plan to revolutionize biotech

AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford on Monday reported promising efficacy data for their COVID-19 vaccine, which has less stringent storage requirements than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and may be distributed earlier in developing countries.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the state of vaccine and therapeutics manufacturing with Bob Nelsen, a successful biotech investor who on Monday launched Resilience, a giant new pharma production platform that he believes will prepare America for its next major health challenges.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Updated 13 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Unpacking Joe Biden's decision to tap John Kerry as his climate envoy

Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is naming former Secretary of State John Kerry as a special presidential envoy for climate change.

Why it matters: The transition team's announcement sought to show that it will be an influential role, noting that Kerry — a former Massachusetts senator and the Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee — will be on the National Security Council.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Oxford and AstraZeneca's vaccine won't just go to rich countries

Waiting, in New Delhi. Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

While the 95% efficacy rates for the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are great news for the U.S. and Europe, Monday's announcement from Oxford and AstraZeneca may be far more significant for the rest of the world.

Why it matters: Oxford and AstraZeneca plan to distribute their vaccine at cost (around $3-4 per dose), and have already committed to providing over 1 billion doses to the developing world. The price tags are higher for the Pfizer ($20) and Moderna ($32-37) vaccines.