Push to combat climate change may be heading toward a bipartisan future

January 27, 2021

To combat our growing climate crisis, we need bipartisan measures and swift action. Congressman Peters spoke with the San Diego Union Tribune about the energy package passed last year and the work he’s doing to expand on it this year.

Read more about his environmental priorities in this January 27th piece by the San Diego Union Tribune, posted below:

Push to combat climate change may be heading toward a bipartisan future

January 27th, 2021

For years, the threat of climate change has been the subject of sharp disagreement.

Then last month, something unusual happened. At a time when political divisions had become increasingly raw, Congress passed a bipartisan package of legislation to combat climate change. More may be on the way.

Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, has been in the thick of all of this.

He introduced one of the key measures approved late last year, played a leading role in others and is pursuing additional legislation this year from his position on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Peters, along with others, took a leading role in legislation to encourage development of carbon-capture technologies and a 15-year phase-out of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the highly polluting coolants used in refrigerators and air conditioners. Those measures were included in a massive spending bill signed by President Donald Trump shortly before he left office.

This year, Peters is pressing forward on several related bills, including legislation aimed at reducing methane emissions from natural gas and modernizing the national power grid not only to make it more safe and secure, but to allow for interstate transmission of electricity from clean energy sources such as hydropower, wind and solar.

On the one hand, Peters said he was surprised by the recent bipartisan action given the existing political climate.

“It’s not the culture of Congress right now,” he said.

But he also said it was clear momentum had been building. Peters said concern over global warming has grown across the political spectrum in recent years. Both the House and Senate now have bipartisan climate-solutions caucuses and business leaders, in general, are backing their goals.

Recently, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced that it had “updated our position on climate change by supporting a market-based approach to accelerating greenhouse gas emissions reductions across the U.S. economy.”

While the legislation passed in December received wide praise from environmental and business leaders alike, some environmental organizations are wary of relying too much on market forces and continue to advocate for an aggressive, comprehensive strategy by the federal government, namely the proposed Green New Deal.

President Joe Biden didn’t go as far as backing the Green New Deal, which not only broadly targets climate change but also focuses on social justice, employment, housing and health. But he came into office proposing a sweeping climate change plan that would spend trillions of dollars on clean energy initiatives and related job creation, along with calling for the U.S. to have “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

While not as extensive as the Green New Deal, Biden’s plan incorporates some of its components and concepts. Further, he is structuring his administration to have climate change be a central focus across the federal government, from agencies that deal with agriculture, the economy and national security as well as the environment.

It’s hard to overstate how much of a change that is from the climate-change-denying Trump administration.

Biden’s climate change governing philosophy combined with Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate will give a boost to legislation aimed at lowering the Earth’s temperature.

But the 50-50 split in the Senate — with Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote — means getting those initiatives passed will be a struggle.

Greater acceptance of climate change comes largely from the overwhelming scientific evidence that it is happening. But Peters said there also has been a growing moral argument for taking on global warming, with calls from Pope Francis to evangelical Christian leaders to “protect God’s creation for generations that come behind us.”

Peters said he became acutely aware of this when he attended the 4th Annual World Conference on Climate Change in Rome in 2017, where he delivered a speech.

Faith helps, but politics is what will get it done. Peters believes that can only happen with bipartisan agreement.

“The crisis is scientific, but the politics is just as real as the science,” he said.

He noted that taking on climate change has been compared with a moon shot, or the nation entering a world war.

“I don’t know any time when we’ve done those with one political party,” he said.

Addressing climate change has been a top priority for Peters, a former environmental attorney and San Diego City Council member. He was elected to Congress in 2012.

Often described as a business-friendly Democrat, he suggests business must be a key policy player. He said the realities of climate change and measures to attack it can affect the marketplace, in both positive and negative ways.

He said modernizing and “greening of the grid” could save $42 billion annually for consumers and businesses, and become a net gain despite huge upfront costs.

“You can get a tremendous environmental benefit,” Peters added.

On the flip side, the lack of climate change sensibilities can cost business. Last year, France blocked a $7 billion deal for a shipment of liquid natural gas from the U.S. over methane emissions.

Peters has had his run-ins with environmental organizations. Members of the nonprofit group San Diego350 organized a protest inside Peters’ San Diego office in 2019 because of his refusal to support the Green New Deal.

Some had criticized his approach as piecemeal and not strong enough. They contended such efforts will not be effective in saving the planet and could thwart what they say are bolder, necessary proposals.

Among other things, Peters has been focused on reducing so-called “super-pollutants,” including methane, hydrofluorocarbons and black carbon, the sooty pollutant that can come from diesel engines, coal-fired plants, wood-burning stoves and wildfires.

HFCs, for example, make up a relatively small percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but they have 1,000 times the heat-trapping potency of carbon dioxide, according to The New York Times.

That part of the December package backed by Peters gained most of the attention. But his legislation to encourage carbon-capture research includes a big incentive — $35 million in competitive prize funding to devise ways to pull carbon out of the air.

Now that effort is getting a high-profile boost.

Elon Musk, of Tesla and SpaceX renown and now the world’s richest person, said last week on Twitter that he is donating $100 million for development of the “best carbon capture technology.”

That’s likely to spur more interest, and money, for the cause.



Peters called “one of the more statesmanlike of our elected representatives”

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Paid for by Scott Peters for Congress


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