A Clear, Bipartisan Path for Climate Change

When you hear that climate change is real, and industrial activity around the globe is the dominant contributor, you may assume the messenger is a Democrat or environmental organization. But, today, it’s also coming from leaders in the Republican party and most oil and gas companies.

Climate change is not partisan, and the challenge it poses to society merits significant action at every level of government and the private sector. Climate solutions shouldn’t be partisan either.

We must all think globally when approaching this challenge. The simple reality is this: unless we limit and reverse the rapid growth of emissions in the developing world, which now accounts for the majority of emissions and future emissions growth, we will not solve this challenge. The vast majority of those emissions come from the way energy is produced and consumed.

To build and maintain support for enabling this global clean energy transition, we also need to find solutions that are good for the U.S. economy. Far too often, people talk about the energy transition as a set of trade-offs between the environment versus the economy, but there doesn’t have to be a trade-off. If we pursue a high-cost transition to clean energy at home and weaken our competitiveness, we will actually harm global decarbonization by moving more of our manufacturing capacity abroad to countries that emit more per unit of production.

Maintaining competitiveness means making clean energy cheaper, not making traditional energy more expensive. The shale gas revolution is a prime example. When we developed techniques to effectively produce shale gas, with significant assistance from federal government policy in a public private partnership with the early shale pioneers, we suddenly had a commodity that was both cheaper and cleaner than coal-fired electricity. This transition decreased power sector emissions by more than 30%. That’s faster than the partisan Clean Power Plan or the Waxman-Markey bill would have reduced emissions. In the end, it was technology, innovation and bipartisanship that delivered better solutions. And it’s important to remember the durability of bipartisan policies – they are a clean and clear signal for the private sector to invest.

Solutions to climate change must be technologically realistic, economically feasible, and politically sustainable. To reduce global emissions as quickly and cheaply as possible, better, cost-effective clean technology is necessary so the developing world will consistently choose those tools — preferably made in America — over the higher-emitting options they are choosing today.

That’s why we were so excited to see one of the biggest advancements in clean energy and climate policy in over a decade — the monumental, bipartisan Energy Act of 2020 — check all of those boxes.

The Energy Act demonstrates a whole suite of advanced energy technologies — from advanced nuclear to natural gas with carbon capture to grid-scale storage. It’s an extremely comprehensive program, and we were thrilled to see many of the programs authorized by the Energy Act of 2020 were funded by the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act this year.

At ClearPath, we’re now thinking ahead to the next generation of policies that would incent early deployment of these technologies. For example, the bipartisan and bicameral Energy Sector Innovation Credit, introduced this fall by key members of the tax writing committees, would set up a permanent tax incentive for advanced clean energy technologies that scales down when those technologies are mature.

We’re also tremendously excited about the huge climate progress amongst conservative policymakers over the last three Congresses. For example, House Minority Leader McCarthy rolled out an Energy, Environment, and Climate Package as well as established a Task Force under Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA) on the Climate Select Committee. Additionally, Congressman John Curtis (R-UT) has established a Conservative Climate Caucus which has more than 70 Members.

If we are to truly tackle the global climate challenge, we will need some common ground and a dose of technological, economic, and political realism. Bipartisan solutions make the most sense.

Rich Powell, Executive Director, ClearPath

ClearPath is a DC-based non-profit that develops and advances policies that accelerate breakthrough innovations that reduce emissions in the energy and industrial sectors.