House Democrats release plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News

Washington — Democrats in the U.S. House detailed legislation Tuesday that endeavors to reshape American climate policy with the aim of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 

The bill would require the U.S. to reduce emissions to at least 50% of 2005 levels by 2030, direct federal agencies to develop plans to achieve a "100 percent clean economy" by 2050, and create new programs and requirements for the transportation, energy, building, and construction industries.

This legislation "promises that we will not stand idly by as the rest of the world transitions to clean economies and our workers get left behind, and that we will not watch from the sidelines as the climate crisis wreaks havoc on Americans’ health and homes," said Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., a New Jersey Democrat who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and one of the sponsors of the bill. 

Rep. Paul Tonko of New York and Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, also Democrats, also co-sponsored the bill.

Energy companies would need to meet new benchmarks beginning in 2023, gradually reaching 100% "clean electricity" by 2035 and establish national building codes requiring buildings be "zero-energy-ready" by 2030. 

The package would take steps toward President Joe Biden's electrification goals, including his campaign promise of rolling out half a million electric vehicle charging stations. 

It would put $100 million next fiscal year into a new program providing rebates for installing electric vehicle "supply equipment" and $2 billion for charging stations and other electrification projects. It would also set minimum requirements for the percentage of federal agencies' fleets that must be zero-emission vehicles.

The Department of Energy would be directed to accelerate domestic manufacturing of batteries and other technology for use in electric vehicles. It would also expedite approval of renewable fuels, create a pilot program for retrofitting heavy-duty refrigerated vehicles as electric vehicles and put funding into zero-emission school buses and city programs. 

Overall, the 981-page bill would authorize hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending over the next decade. Multiple electric vehicle policies included in the bill were spearheaded by Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell of Dearborn, according to the Congresswoman's office. 

"For years, I have crafted legislation that would invest in our communities and our workers, while charting a path toward a rapid transition to a net-zero carbon future," she said in a statement. "The inclusion of those policies in this comprehensive and visionary bill demonstrates that this Democratic Congress will work with the Biden-Harris Administration to finally recognize the reality that the climate crisis is here and it cannot be ignored."

Some Republican House members, including Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, raised concerns Tuesday that the package will be costly and make the nation more reliant on mineral supplies from China. 

"It's full of more mandates and regulations that will raise energy prices, export jobs overseas, and weaken our national security," Upton, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington and Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia said in a joint statement. 

"We can pursue practical policies to innovate a cleaner energy future if we work together. Rather than threaten millions of jobs and hold back America’s economic recovery, we urge the Majority to join us in a bipartisan way to unleash innovation, strengthen our supply chains, and capture all the advantages of our abundant resources, which include coal, hydropower, nuclear technologies, and clean natural gas.”

Twitter: @rbeggin