Senate Democrats unveil climate-focused energy bill

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 22, 2015 11:37 AM

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Democrats on Tuesday unveiled energy legislation focused on cleaner energy production, manufacturing and vehicles that they say would slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 34 percent by 2025, surpassing the goal pledged by the Obama administration for U.N. climate talks.

The bill, announced by Senate Democratic party leaders and the energy committee's chair, Senator Maria Cantwell, lays out the party's vision for the future on energy and contrasts with a Republican approach focused on increased oil and gas production.

"Republican priorities are single-minded," Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said at a news conference. "They don't want their bottom line changed. They are invested in coal, tar sands and oil."

The bill would mandate a national reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by at least 2 percent each year through 2025. That would put the country on course to improve on the administration's target of reducing those emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by that year.

The latest round of United Nations-sponsored talks on fighting climate change is scheduled to begin Nov. 30 in Paris.

Among the initiatives included in the bill are an energy efficiency resource standard, which would require utilities to achieve 20 percent energy savings by 2030, and an extension of clean energy tax credits until 2018. The current wind production tax credit is set to expire at the end of this year.

It would also boost consumer access to clean energy options by ordering the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether utilities' grid interconnection practices are prohibiting off-grid renewable energy production.

Democrats said their focus on clean energy will build support for the party ahead of national elections in November 2016 since it appeals to younger voters.

"This is going to be a huge issue in the 2016 campaign," Senator Chuck Schumer, who is expected to take over as the party's Senate leader from Reid, said at the news conference.

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)