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Pallone, Congressional Dems Plot the Route to Clean-Energy Consensus

New Jersey Democrat doesn’t minimize challenges in reaching agreement in Congress but says there ‘needs to be federal action’

Greenhouse gas
Credit: Emilian Robert Vicol/Pixabay

House Democrats, led by New Jersey’s Rep. Frank Pallone, are hoping to come up with a consensus plan by the end of the year laying out a pathway to achieve a 100 percent clean-energy economy by 2050.

Pallone, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, kicked off the process yesterday with a subcommittee hearing, as he and others on the committee want to slow global warming to the extent that by mid-century the nation ends up reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to net-zero.

If the world is to avert the worst consequences of climate change, it needs to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The 100 percent clean-energy goal by 2050 is similar to targets set by some states including New Jersey, but more modest than others, like New York, or even the Green New Deal by other Democrats in the House.

Net-zero is a process of curbing greenhouse gas emissions in a way that balances what is emitted against what is captured and removed from the atmosphere through natural conditions and technology. Nature can store carbon pollution in forests, grasslands and through changes in agriculture.

Any comprehensive legislative proposal faces steep hurdles, ranging from a Republican-controlled Senate and President Donald Trump — non-believers in whether climate changes is happening — and a wide array of economic interests, including industry, the fossil fuel sector and a public unwilling to foot the bill.

“There needs to be federal action,’’ Pallone said, while not minimizing the challenges in reaching a consensus in Congress. “We can’t just rely on state and local governments.’’

Rep. Paul Tonko, the chair of the House subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change, opened yesterday’s hearing noting the goals entail nothing short of transforming the nation’s economy.

The cost of doing nothing

The hearing was addressed by a panel of experts who agree the goals established by the committee are achievable, but face hurdles in mapping out what are the most cost-effective strategies to realizing them.

“We can and we must,’’ said Rachel Cleetus, policy director of climate and energy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It will cost more, but it pales in comparison to not doing anything.’’

“There’s no time to waste,’’ Tonko, a Democrat from New York, said at a press conference announcing the effort on Tuesday. “We cannot afford another delay.’’

Yet the congressmen acknowledged there is no consensus on how to pursue the target, even though many agree with some of the underlying strategies identified by the committee. They include transitioning to a low-carbon electricity system, reducing carbon pollution from the transportation, building and industrial sectors, deploying systems and measures that capture carbon emissions, and curbing other greenhouse-gas emissions other than carbon dioxide.

Pallone and others argued a united front needs to be built among stakeholders, Congress, and others as to how to move forward. “The idea is to come to a consensus and then we sell it,’’ he said.

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