Legislative Opportunities for Clean Energy

Legislative Opportunities to Advance Clean Energy

The 117th Congress arrives at a unique confluence of events: a global pandemic that brought with it a generational economic downturn and cloud of uncertainty, a new administration, and increasingly tangible climate challenges. America has what it takes to lead the world through these rough and rocky times. It is important for our nation to demonstrate global leadership on clean energy, and for conservative voices to be an integral part of this debate. This Congress will be critical to driving meaningful climate action by pursuing actionable, free-market solutions that can improve the environment while growing jobs and our economy, maintaining our energy independence, and keeping our nation secure.

With that as our north star, Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES) developed this snapshot of critical policy and legislative actions we believe the 117th Congress should prioritize. Some items are left over from the 116th Congress, while others are new policy suggestions. As we considered various bills and policies for inclusion, we evaluated how well each reflects the CRES Forum Conservative Climate Policy Directives, published in late 2020. These directives were developed to help policymakers and the public better understand which policies can reduce emissions while fostering economic growth for generations to come.


    • Keep all options on the table to reduce emissions

    • Lower costs, don’t force prices up, unintentionally or by design

    • Support American innovation

    • Offset carbon emissions with nature-based solutions

    • Eliminate regulatory barriers

    • Link foreign aid and trade to domestic climate goals

    • Encourage transparency and accountability

    • Leverage public-private partnerships

America deserves better than heavy-handed government mandates put forth in proposals such as the Green New Deal. This Congress presents an opportunity for conservatives to demonstrate leadership in the clean energy space and bring forth market-based policies that will not bankrupt our future. Mandatory, punitive measures such as imposing a carbon tax or requiring companies to meet a federal Clean Energy Standard not only interfere with the right of states to shape their own energy mix according to their particular resources and needs, but they interfere with states’ ability to develop new and innovative ways to mitigate climate change – all while dragging down the economy as a whole for years to come.

Above all, CRES encourages policies supporting private sector efforts to address climate change. These include encouraging private sector investment by opening up and expanding markets, leveraging the tax code to reward model behavior and spur innovation, and sending clear price signals to accelerate emissions reductions. By aggressively pursuing climate policy and legislation that holds true to these directives, conservatives in Congress can demonstrate real and effective leadership to the American people.

Priority Areas for the 117th Congress

In the 117th Congress, CRES will continue to champion investment in innovation, targeted tax incentives, and commonsense policy solutions targeting the electric power sector, industrial emissions, transportation, energy efficiency, natural climate solutions, and trade policy.

Investment in Energy Innovation

  • Innovation is a key driver for both domestic economic growth and American leadership internationally. Federal investment in clean energy R&D helps ensure that emerging technologies can be produced at scale and become commercially viable, creating jobs as well as a pathway to a low-carbon economy. With the development of deployable utility-scale solutions in state-of-the-art technology such as energy storage, renewables, carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS), and advanced nuclear technologies, the American energy sector can decarbonize in a cost-effective manner. First, Congress must prioritize funding the recently enacted Energy Policy Act of 2020, which will substantially modernize our national energy innovation policy. Additional legislative initiatives that would help put American energy innovation front and center include:

    • American Nuclear Infrastructure Act (ANIA) (S. 4897) (Sens. Barrasso (R-WY) & Whitehouse (D-RI))

    • Storing CO2 and Lowering Emissions Act (SCALE) (H.R.8995) (Reps. McKinley (R-WV) & Veasey (R-TX))

    • The Opening Federal Financial Sharing to Heighten Opportunities for Renewable Energy Act (OFFSHORE)

    (S. 3485) (Sen. Cassidy (R-LA) Whitehouse (D-RI))

Tax Incentives

  • Federal tax incentives have successfully guided investment to low- and zero- emissions generation, innovative technologies, energy efficiency, and carbon capture utilization and storage. The federal government should strengthen market signals through targeted tax incentives to further drive down costs for these technologies. While CRES through the years has supported more generation-specific tax policies, such as the production tax credit (PTC) and the investment tax credit (ITC) for renewable energy, CCUS, and new game-changing long-duration energy storage, we believe it is time for Congress to consider transitioning to a more technology-neutral approach that will level the playing field. Some legislative initiatives that would help drive down costs and move us forward to a technology-neutral approach include:

    • Energy Sector Innovation Credit Act (ESIC) (H.R. 5523) (Reps. Reed (R-NY) & Panetta (D-CA))

    • Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act (S. 1142/H.R. 2096) (Sens. Gardner (R-CO)

    & Heinrich (D-NM)/Reps. Buchanan (R-FL) & Doyle (D-PA))

    • Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act (S. 1988 / H.R. 4887) (Sens. Collins (R-ME) & Carper (D-DE)

    /Reps. King (R-NY) & Pascrell (D-NJ))

    • The Accelerating Carbon Capture and Extending Secure Storage Through 45Q (ACCESS 45Q Act)

    (H.R. 8858) (Reps. McKinley (R-WV) & Veasey (D-TX))

    • The 45Q Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage Tax Credit Amendments Act (S. 4966) (Sens. Capito (R-WV)

    & Whitehouse (D-RI))

    • Driving America Forward Act (S. 1094) (Sens. Alexander (R-TN) & Stabenow (D-MI))

Streamlining Regulation and the Permitting Process

  • Minimizing administrative burdens and duplicative regulations promotes better environmental decision-making in a much more cost and time-efficient manner. CRES believes that the complexity of current U.S. permitting processes leaves substantial opportunities for improvement that would increase predictability, shorten the time to project delivery, and reduce costs while still providing for robust consideration of public and environmental concerns. Historically, there has been strong bipartisan support for incremental and common-sense improvements to the environmental review and permitting process, and we encourage the following initiatives to promote better environmental policy decision-making:

    • Hydropower Clean Future Act (H.R. 7410) (Rep. McMorris Rodgers (R-WA))

    • Codify the bipartisan components of “One Federal Decision” (Executive Order 13807),

    included in Sec. 1301, American Transportation Infrastructure Act (S. 2302) (Sens. Barrasso (R-

    WY) & Carper (D-DE)), which consolidate permitting decisions for major infrastructure

    projects into a single environmental document, completed within two -years, with a review schedule set by the federal lead agency

    • The American Critical Mineral Exploration and Innovation Act (H.R. 7061) (Rep. Waltz (R-FL))

Infrastructure and Transportation

  • Energy infrastructure is central to our economy, our way of life, and our standard of living. However, much of our nation’s infrastructure is in need of massive re-investment. Modernizing America’s infrastructure should incorporate energy investments in more efficient technologies, a smarter energy grid powered by clean energy, and a cleaner, more efficient transportation system. The federal government has an important role to help accelerate emissions reductions through the financial support of clean energy projects, including those that reduce highway-related emissions and helping to promote public-private partnerships to build out alternative fuel infrastructure. Examples of smart infrastructure and transportation legislation include:

    • America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019 (S. 2302) (Sens. Barrasso (R-WY)

    & Carper (D-DE))

    • Building U.S. Infrastructure through Limited Delays & Efficient Reviews (BUILDER)

    Act (H.R. 8333) (Rep. Graves (R-LA))

    • Electric Vehicle Mobility Area Planning (EV-MAP) Act (H.R. 8807)

    (Reps. Burgess (R-TX) & O’Halleran (D-AZ))

    • Provisions on cost-effective deployment of resilient infrastructure and mitigation

    strategies (Title VII) and accelerated project delivery (Title 1-Subtitle B), included in

    The Surface Transportation Advanced through Reform, Technology & Efficient Review

    Act, or STARTER Act (H.R. 7248) (Rep. Graves (R-MO))

Heavy industry and US competitiveness

  • In order to achieve net-zero emissions goals, we must address the carbon footprint of the sectors that are the most difficult to decarbonize, such as heavy industry like concrete and steel manufacturing. Finding cost-effective ways for industrial stakeholders to adopt innovative, lower-emission technologies while maintaining their business competitiveness is key. The federal government should assure that trade and climate policy are linked so that U.S. solutions are brought to the world through aid and trade policy, and that American companies meeting environmental goals are not undercut by polluting foreign competitors.

    • Congress should encourage voluntary disclosure of the total carbon content of

    companies or their manufactured goods, providing information to the market to drive

    more informed consumer purchasing;

    • Congress should incentivize voluntary reporting of total carbon content of U.S.

    manufactured goods by offering procurement scoring points for vendors that report

    their carbon footprint through existing, qualified registration systems

    • Establish a sustainable building and residential tax credit, such as Section 301 of the

    Trillion Trees Act (H.R. 5859) (Rep. Westerman (R-AR))

    • Congress should invest in commercial-scale carbon capture projects in key industrial

    sectors and power generation through DOE to enable the scaling of the technology

    needed to reach midcentury climate goals

Farm, Forest and Natural Climate Solutions

  • America’s farmers, foresters, and ranchers have been environmental stewards for generations, but they have largely been left out of the climate change conversation. CRES supports engaging with these critical stakeholders directly on conservation policy, creating ways to incentivize climate-friendly best practices, and honoring their critical role in our nation’s landscape. We support practices that enhance carbon sequestration and storage without imposing new costs on this sector and policies that foster participation in existing voluntary carbon markets for our agriculture and forestry sectors. Natural climate solutions are cost effective, quickly deployable, and necessary for enhancing the resilience and adaptive potential of America’s working lands. Supporting legislation includes:

    • Growing Climate Solutions Act (S. 3894 / H.R. 7393) (Sens. Braun (R-IN)

    & Stabenow (D-MI)/Reps. Bacon (R-NE) & Spanberger (D-VA))

    • REPLANT Act (S. 4357/H.R. 7843) (Sens. Portman (R-OH) & Udall

    (D-NM)/Reps. Simpson (R-ID) & Panetta (D-CA))

    • Rural Forest Markets Act (S. 4451) (Sens. Braun (R-IN) & Stabenow (D-MI))

    • A Trillion Trees (H.R. 5859) (Rep. Westerman (R-AR)

    • Trillion Trees and Natural Carbon Storage Act (S. 4985) (Braun (R-IN) & Coons (D-DE))

    Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES) is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization founded in 2013 to engage Republican policymakers and the public about responsible, conservative solutions to address our nation’s energy, economic, and environmental security while increasing America’s competitive edge. Learn more at www.citizensfor.com.

 February 2nd, 2021

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