A coalition of liberal and moderate Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate are pushing for the U.S. to again invoke the Defense Production Act to boost renewable energy manufacturing and development.
First reported by The Washington Post, the "Energy Security and Independence Act", was introduced by Representatives Cori Bush and Jason Crow in the House and by Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The bill would enable President Biden to use the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era legislation, to boost domestic supply chains for heat pumps, solar panels, wind turbines and other technologies that could transition the U.S. to clean energy, according to the Post report.
“The days of energy security being synonymous with a reliance on human rights violators like Russia and Saudi Arabia, or a propagation of corporate profits for Exxon, Chevron, and BP, are over,” said Congresswoman Cori Bush, in a statement yesterday. “When we talk about energy security, it’s time we include the safety of Black and brown lives in that definition. Energy security means making energy affordable for every household. Energy security means investing in energy efficiency so people can breathe clean air and keep the heat or air conditioning on. Energy security means alleviating the climate crisis by reducing our emissions and transitioning to renewable energy."
Biden has already used the Defense Production Act to increase domestic manufacturing of critical minerals used in electric vehicle batteries as a way to reduce the nation's reliance on battery components coming mainly from China.
For many climate advocates heat pumps have become the "newest" technology to deploy as a ways to reduce fossil fuel emissions. They're an energy efficient replacement for energy intensive heating and cooling systems and they can move houses off of using gas boilers as a way to transition home appliances away from direct use of fossil fuels.
They've also been talked up by sustainability advocates like Bill McKibben as a way to reduce reliance in Europe on Russian oil in the wake of the war in Ukraine -- which the continent's reliance on Russian oil helps to finance.
The bill would create a Domestic Renewable Energy Industrial Base Task Force, according to the Post, which would help orchestrate the nation's transition to renewable energy by talking to manufacturers, scientists, labor unions, and others. It would also provide $100 billion to fund the Defense Production Act, $30 billion to the Energy Department to weatherize and insulate 6.4 million homes over the next decade and $10 billion for heat pumps.
Crow, a former Army Ranger who served three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan who currently serves as a representative from Colorado in the House, is viewed as a more centrist member of the Democratic Congressional Caucus. His support for the legislation shows that the party is trying to once again overcome the defeat of a broader climate and social safety net policy pushed forward as the Build Back Better.
“As the climate crisis worsens and oil prices skyrocket from Putin’s war, we must accelerate our transition to clean energy,” said Congressman Crow. “I’m proud to join with Rep. Bush and Senator Sanders in introducing the Energy Security and Independence Act – commonsense legislation that will help meet the moment on our climate goals and bolster our national security.”
The new climate legislation could be the last chance Democrats have to move forward with funding for a broader package of funding for sustainability and energy efficiency aimed at reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
The previous attempt, as part of a flood of social safety net and healthcare spending packages that Democrats were trying to move through Congress were blocked by two of the parties own members -- Joe Manchin of West Virginia, whose family are the multimillionaire owners of a business providing coal to power plants; and Kyrsten Sinema, who raised $1.1 million last year from primarily Republican donors opposed to the Build Back Better Act.
The $150 billion price tag of the Energy Security and Independence Act is far short of the initial $555 billion dedicated to climate spending in Build Back Better, but it's better than nothing.
Especially in light of the release of the international community's latest report on what steps need to be taken to reduce climate change. That report said that the global investment and policy community are falling far short of the spending goals needed to reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change.
“When it comes to the existential threat of climate change, we are in the midst of a global struggle with nothing less than the future of the planet at stake. Today, with rising prices on essential items and Russia’s horrific war in Ukraine, it is clear now more than ever: Addressing climate change and energy dependence is not just an environmental issue, it is a matter of national security,” said Senator Bernie Sanders. "Now is the time to think and act boldly in order to leave a more peaceful and habitable world for our children and grandchildren.”