Dems introduce resolution pushing renewable energy

Source: Amanda Reilly, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, March 8, 2016

House and Senate Democrats introduced a bicameral resolution today to promote the goal of moving the country away from fossil fuels and to renewable energy.

More than 100 House members and 30 senators — led by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Reps. John Delaney (D-Md.) and Ben Ray Luj├ín (D-N.M.) — are backing the sense-of-Congress resolution. It says that climate change will have a “devastating impact” on the U.S. economy and that the United States should strive to achieve 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.

“What we’re trying to do here is set a goal for the country that is both aspirational but achievable based on the current science,” Delaney told reporters today.

Environmentalists, including billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate political action committee, have for months been pushing the “50by30” goal.

NextGen, the Union of Concerned Scientists, GreenLatinos, Green for All, Climate Hawks Vote and other outside environmental groups support the resolution.

Citing a Union of Concerned Scientists report, Delaney said he was optimistic the nation could hit the goal. The UCS report found that, by 2030, the U.S. would achieve up to 46 percent renewable energy with the implementation of Obama administration climate regulations and renewable energy tax credits.

Neither Cardin nor Delaney was optimistic, however, that their resolution would move within either chamber of Congress, at least not in the current political environment.

“We are looking for avenues forward on this,” Cardin said. “We know that the Republican leadership has generally avoided any type of independent action on energy, environmental issues, so I don’t think there’s a great expectation that the Republicans would want to schedule this for action.”

Cardin said he circulated the resolution only to Democratic colleagues who he thought would sign on. But the senator said he hoped to gain some Republican co-sponsors.

Delaney, too, said he hoped the resolution would attract some Republican support in the lower chamber, particularly among a small group of moderate GOP members who have expressed support for addressing climate change. About a dozen signed on to a resolution last year backing action on climate change.

“It’s very hard, particularly with current orientation on the Republican leadership towards this issue, to get a stand-alone vote on something like this in the House,” Delaney said, “but without naming names, there is a group of what I would call it, two to three dozen Republican House members who are very forward-leaning on this issue.”

Both lawmakers today framed climate change as an economic, public health and national security issue. “The fact that this is going to be economic growth, jobs in all our communities,” Cardin said. “We have many Republican-dominated states where they are going to be very strong on clean energy sources.”

Cardin also said sourcing half the nation’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030 would be important for the United States to show leadership on an international level. More than 190 nations late last year agreed in Paris to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have signed a pledge by NextGen to achieve the “50by30” goal. None of the Republican presidential candidates has done so.

Cardin predicted the next president would face pressure from the military and federal agencies to address climate change.

“I do think that the next president of the United States will want to exert U.S. continued leadership,” the Maryland senator said, “because you cannot deal with these issues unless we deal with it through U.S. leadership.”