In the lead up to Earth Day today, House Republicans highlighted a series of bills intended to enhance the construction of clean energy in order to curb the contributing factors of global climate change. Over the course of four days this week, House Minority Leader McCarthy showcased dozens of different bills that would streamline government inefficiencies, promote greater private sector innovation, and boost production of clean energy. This would aim to lower US greenhouse gas emissions without threatening American jobs, prosperity, and competitiveness. NTU is pleased to support many of the components of this forward-looking package. Additionally, we commend the hard work by all who contributed to this package, particularly Ranking Members Frank Lucas (R-OK), Sam Graves (R-MO), and Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA), for their commitment towards protecting the environment as well as the interests of taxpayers.
Given the consensus among those in the scientific community that high levels of greenhouse gas emissions leads to negative effects stemming from changes to the climate, it’s long overdue for lawmakers to address the issue. Policymakers during the Obama administration, particularly on the left, attempted to tackle climate change with ideas like a cap and trade program, a carbon tax, and new regulatory schemes. In recent years, lawmakers have proposed more radical ideas, such as a $93 trillion “Green New Deal,” banning fossil fuels, and other big government central planning.These “solutions” are unworkable and unserious. The goal, it seems, is not so much weighing the costs and benefits, but instead punishing certain industries they view unfavorably.
Instead of using the power of the federal government to pick and choose which types of energy are allowed, lawmakers should employ an “all of the above” strategy. Letting the market choose which types of energy should be used is the most fair and effective way to lower prices and protect jobs.
Thankfully, the Republican bills to combat climate change rely on more market-based approaches that promote competition through the reduction of government-erected barriers. Rather than legislating certain energy producers out of business, they legislate away government barriers that raise costs on producers and slow the construction of clean energy plants. The bills encourage private market innovators to take the lead in developing solutions to these problems.
We are pleased to see the introduction of many different bills that would streamline the permitting process for infrastructure and other energy buildings. For example:
BUILDER Act (Rep. Graves): Arguably the most comprehensive National Environmental Policy Act reform legislation ever introduced in the U.S. Congress, this bill codifies clear timelines for environmental approvals, clarifies Environmental Impact Statement and Environmental Assessment requirements for smaller projects, and improves public engagement. At its core, the BUILDER Act would help reduce costs and speed up project approvals so that more projects can be built safely and efficiently.
Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act (Rep. Mullin): This legislation would streamline the process by which transnational pipelines are approved. According to the bill sponsor: “By streamlining the construction and operation of international border-crossing facilities used for the import and export of oil, natural gas, and electricity, the United States can more efficiently continue the trade of energy products with neighboring countries.”
Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act (Rep. McMorris-Rodgers): This legislation would designate the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as the lead agency regarding all federal authorizations and compliance for any required state or local environmental reviews. By allowing one single agency to lead the approval process, it removes other layers of bureaucracy that slow the process for the construction of hydropower plants.
Advanced Nuclear Deployment Act (Rep. Latta): This legislation creates a framework for the construction of advanced nuclear reactor plants. This framework would “expedite and streamline the licensing of advanced reactors,” which would bring more reactors online in a faster and more cost-effective manner.
In addition to streamlining regulations, the package of bills would also take steps to ensure that consumers have access to energy from a diverse array of sources. With many members of Congress, cabinet officials, and even the president committed to ending fossil fuels, energy producers may have to deal with a high level of uncertainty that could spell trouble for long-term investments in the industry. Businesses, no matter which industry, need certainty to plan for long-term capital investments for the months and years ahead. While the Biden administration fogs the future, the Republican alternative creates lasting certainty among non-renewable energy producers to ensure they know the government will not try and legislate them, or their workers, out of business. The plan includes:
Keystone XL Pipeline Construction and Jobs Preservation Act (Rep. Armstrong): This legislation would reverse President Biden’s misguided executive order to end construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. If enacted, it would enshire in law the construction of the pipeline and therefore allow thousands of hardworking Americans to get back on the job. This project is crucial for North American energy independence as well as the important trading relationship with our neighbors to the north.
Protecting American Energy Production Act (Rep. Duncan): This legislation would prohibit any president from banning fracking, thereby protecting American energy jobs and American energy production. Hydraulic fracking not only provides a livelihood for hundreds of thousands of Americans, but is also responsible for a decline in environmentally-harmful energy use. Banning fracking is a loser for American workers and clean energy.
The free market works well as long as the government doesn’t meddle. Moreover, competition in free markets has benefited all consumers by lowering energy costs for ratepayers - while also lowering American CO2 output. But as is usually the case, when the government intervenes in the market it creates distortions which benefit a select few at the expense of everyone else.
This alternative plan to the Green New Deal isn’t perfect, but it is a serious, thoughtful approach to bringing more clean energy projects online in a more efficient, cost-effective way. It is an important conversation-starter that Congress needs to consider.