Time for Congress to Power Up Smart Energy Policies

Congress has a tremendous opportunity right now to address our nation's rapidly changing energy systems and upgrade aging transmission, storage, and other infrastructure to set the United States on a stronger path to a more sustainable and clean energy future. As the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee wraps up its fourth and final hearing on energy bills today, NRDC submitted a letter to committee members urging them to prioritize policies that embrace clean energy and energy efficiency while modernizing our grid and ensuring it is resilient in developing their final energy bills package.

Today's hearing included testimony on more than 40 bills ranging from a handful of energy efficiency bills and grid cybersecurity to a provision boosting renewable energy development on public lands. This latest crop of proposed legislation adds to the total of over 100 bills the energy committee has heard testimony on over the course of its hearings last month. As the senators consider which bills to include in their final energy package, we hope they will measure the merits of each based on one paramount standard: whether it will help us meet our obligation to reduce carbon pollution and pass on a cleaner, healthier, safer planet to future generations.

A complete and meaningful energy package should include a series of measures to move the United States forward as a leader in energy efficiency and clean energy in order to ensure that we are creating more jobs, increasing national security, and a securing a cleaner future. And is what Americans want.

What Congress Should do

First, Congress should prioritize investments in energy efficiency. More than one-half of the energy used to power our economy is still wasted. Dollar for dollar, investing in smarter energy use is the cheapest and fastest way to cut carbon pollution and help make workers more productive. Congress should establish a long-term national energy savings target to be met through energy efficiency programs, laying the foundation for sustained investment in energy efficiency.

Next, Congress should embrace renewable energy and the jobs it creates. Increased renewable energy will ensure that the energy that we use is American-made, decreasing our dependence on foreign oil while reducing our carbon footprint to lower pollution and improve overall health. We need Congress to incorporate bills into its energy package that will incentivize continued growth in wind, solar, and other renewable resources and put us on a sustainable pathway through tax policy or renewable electricity standards.

As Congress implements these types of efficient, clean policies, steps must be taken to ensure renewable, emissions-free energy reaches our homes and businesses. The Department of Energy's recently released Quadrennial Energy Review makes it clear that there is an urgent need to modernize the nation's electricity delivery system to ensure reliable, secure, and clean power is available to fuel our economy in the coming decades. This investment in grid modernization is unavoidable and Congress should act now to support the resilient, clean, secure, and reliable grid for the future.

Using energy smarter, promoting clean energy, and improving energy delivery are all necessary to improving health and reducing pollution, and the transportation sector is no different--as a major consumer of oil and contributor of pollution. Congress should include bills that increase opportunities to advance clean, efficient vehicles and clean, alternative fuel infrastructure.

Some Bills Would Hurt Americans

There are bills currently under consideration that encompass these policies that help create jobs and promote the health of Americans across the country. But bills also have been proposed that will have nasty, long-term effects. Proposals to incentivize and expand offshore drilling, demolish bedrock environmental laws like the National Environmental Policy Act, or alter the approval process for cross-border energy projects have no place in any final energy legislation.

As the United States continues to transition to a clean energy economy, renewable energy and energy efficiency are supporting increasing numbers of domestic jobs and stable growth while simultaneously reducing the nation's dependence on fossil fuels that produce dangerous pollution.

America's energy policy should put a premium on clean energy and in particular, on investing in energy efficiency to cut waste, as well as strong federal support for wind turbines, solar facilities, electric vehicles and other types of clean energy that create jobs while cutting pollution.

About the Authors

Elizabeth Noll

Legislative Director, Energy & Transportation program

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