WASHINGTON DC– With climate change on the minds of voters across the country heading into the 2020 election, a U.S. House panel met Friday to debate a bill boosting technology that would trap and store carbon dioxide, the principal gas causing global warming, from major polluters like the transportation and industrial sectors.
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce met Thursday to discuss its version of the legislation, called the “Utilizing Significant Emissions With Innovative Technologies (USE IT) Act.”
Introduced in 2018 by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, the bill authorizes $35 million in funding for direct air capture technology, as well as $50 million in research to promote carbon capture, storage, and utilization.
A similar version of the USE IT Act passed almost unanimously in the Senate last year as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), who sits on the subcommittee on the environment and climate change, indicated support for the legislation in September when the New Democrat Coalition — a group of moderate Democratic House members — introduced its climate policy agenda.
“Rep. DeGette strongly supports the increased use of new technologies to help address the climate crisis – including those that reduce our overall carbon emissions and capture carbon already in our atmosphere,” said spokesperson Ryan Brown in a statement to the Colorado Times Recorder. “In fact, the federal clean-energy standard legislation DeGette is working with the Energy and Commerce committee to introduce in the coming weeks would create an incentive for our nation’s energy producers to employ more carbon-capture technology throughout the country.”
Efforts to capture carbon dioxide emissions are already underway in Colorado.
Democratic Gov. Jared Polis recently announced a pilot program designed to capture carbon produced from brewing beer and use that carbon to grow cannabis. Using the technology offered by the pilot program, projections suggest that more than 100,000 pounds of carbon can be captured.
The Colorado Cultivators Energy Management pilot program was also recently launched to offset energy costs for cannabis cultivation companies as they move toward energy-efficient management.
For Charlie Berger, co-founder of Denver Beer Co., the decision was a matter of environmental stewardship.
“We have one planet and we believe it is our corporate and social responsibility to help conserve and protect our resources,” Berger said in a statement.
Carbon capture works by trapping and storing carbon dioxide from major polluters like the transportation and industrial sectors. Part of the USE IT Act would include turning captured carbon dioxide into resources like cement, concrete, and plastic.
But, John Noel, senior climate campaigner for Greenpeace USA, warned that the effort cannot include support for the oil and gas industry.
“We cannot escape the fact that absolute demand for and production of fossil fuels must decline rapidly,” Noel said, adding that the needed decline in oil production calls into question the wisdom of incentivizing lower carbon emissions as written in the USE IT Act.
Sasha Mackler, director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Energy Project, argued that lowering global carbon dioxide emissions and transforming into a net-zero economy is likely the defining challenge of this era.
“Time is not on our side,” Mackler said.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in a 2018 report that global carbon dioxide emissions must reach net-zero by 2050 to prevent global temperatures from rising by 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Although emission levels in the United States fell by 1.7% by last year, Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA), a cosponsor of the USE IT Act, warned that the US is still “running a huge emissions deficit by any accounting standards.”
“Even if today we decided that every car was going to be electric, it would take about 25 years for the fleet to turn over,” Peters said.