Promising Bipartisan Movement

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There’s a new and noteworthy bipartisan partnership on Capitol Hill pushing for action on climate. In an op ed published in USA Today, Reps. David McKinley, Republican of West Virginia, and Kurt Schrader, Democrat of Oregon, write, “We have to end the partisan battle over climate change by building a new framework that is fair to the workers, to communities, and to all American families while protecting our environment.” Doing this, they write, “will show the nation that Congress can still come together to meet the great challenges of our time.”

This bipartisan collaboration is an important step. The concept they are proposing would advance clean energy in the power sector by combining a major federal investment in low carbon technologies with national standards that ensure we reduce the carbon pollution that is driving dangerous changes in our climate.

The fact that a West Virginia Republican and Oregon Democrat have teamed up reflects a potentially significant shift here in Washington. But it is a move that follows public opinion. Earlier this week an Ipsos poll found that a majority of Republicans and of Democrats support action to reduce global climate change. As we heard earlier this year from the pollster Frank Luntz, this trend is particularly striking among young voters across the political spectrum. And as my colleague Sheryl Carter has chronicled, more and more of our electric utilities, ranging from Southern company to Xcel to (most recently) Arizona Public Service, have made commitments to significant or total decarbonization by 2050. 

The two elements that McKinley and Schrader identify as the core of their proposal—innovation and standards—are both important. Although we have many of the solutions in hand and should be deploying them as quickly as possible, we also need to do more to make sure that we advance the full set of solutions we will need to get the job done. And standards that require that we deploy clean energy are critical to ensure that we continue to advance new technologies and reduce carbon pollution.

We look forward to studying the details of their proposal. In their op-ed, the Representatives suggest that innovation investments would come first and standards would follow. We don’t see any reason to wait to put standards in place. We can increase support for innovation and put standards in place at the same time, which are important to increase private sector innovation. But the central question is whether their combined approach would result in the emission reductions that we need—in the short term and the long term—to meet the challenge at the scale and speed scientists say we need to avoid significant cost, hardship and turmoil from climate change.

We hope collaborations like McKinley and Schrader’s spur others in Congress to work across party lines to expand clean energy, curb climate pollution and build resilience and adaptation for communities on the frontlines of climate change today, and those that will be tomorrow. 

About the Authors

Ben Longstreth

Senior Attorney & Deputy Director, Federal Policy Group, Climate & Clean Energy Program

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