Clean Energy Steps: Necessary but not sufficient for climate action

Federal Action on Climate Change and Clean Energy

The past year of extreme heat, drought, flooding and wildfire underscores the need for stronger measures to advance clean energy, reduce carbon emissions and strengthen America’s climate resilience. With the start of a new Congress and presidential term, strong and …

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I recently replied to a question on the National Journal blog on whether small legislative measures will be effective in fighting climate change.

You can read responses at the National Journal.

Here is my response:

Hats off to anybody trying to navigate a clean energy bill through this Congress.

Hats off to the House for passing a hydropower bill with more than 400 votes, and to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for passing that bill and another to advance energy efficiency. Hats off to the Senate Finance Committee for considering tax incentives for clean energy technologies. (Our favorite would expand the use of carbon dioxide in enhanced oil recovery to advance development of carbon capture and storage technology.)

Double hats off to anybody who succeeds in getting a clean energy bill enacted into law. Congress needs to show that it can get things done. Call it “small ball” if you like, but this is a season for celebrating all victories.

We celebrate small steps when they take us closer to our desired destination – in this case a future in which we grow our economy while shrinking our environmental footprint. That said, moving efficient, renewable, nuclear, and carbon capture and storage technologies a few steps forward is necessary, but not sufficient for addressing climate change.

Our 2013 policy guide identifies a range of steps – big and small – that can be taken by executive action or through legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, advance clean energy and energy efficiency, and make communities and critical infrastructure more climate-resilient. Among them are setting emissions standards for new and existing power plants, adopting stronger fuel economy and emissions standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, and stepping up efforts to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants such as methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Ultimately we will need zero- and low-emitting technologies to be predominant. That will only happen when their full value is reflected in the marketplace, and that will only happen when we put a price on greenhouse gas emissions.