The first major Senate energy package in over a decade may not survive because a few Republicans are trying to block regulations on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a potent greenhouse gas that can be found in air conditioners or refrigerators.
Senators Lisa Murkowski, an Alaskan Republican, and Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, introduced the American Energy Innovation Act less than two weeks ago. The two parties spent a year negotiating and discussing the bipartisan bill to ensure that it could pass. Now, disagreement on an amendment that would phase out HFCs is putting a dent in the senators’ efforts. Lawmakers voted against closing debate on the package Monday night, leaving the bill in limbo.
The package includes more than 50 measures to help reduce greenhouse emissions from the energy sector. This is important: Energy production is the second-largest source of emissions in the U.S. (after transportation). Improving energy efficiency, building out a skilled workforce, and increasing renewable energy can all help reduce emissions—and the act gets into these and more! There are also provisions that involve retrofitting schools and providing grants to universities to create training centers for energy workers. Phasing out HFCs seems like a no-brainer, as well.
Yet Senator John Barrasso from Wyoming has led Republican opposition to the bill over the HFC amendment. According to The Hill, his issue is that the bill doesn’t include language that would let states set standards stricter than the federal limits. The White House has also reached out to senators managing the bill to voice its opposition to this amendment, according to The Hill.
HFCs cover a number of greenhouse gases that have thousands of times more warming potential than carbon dioxide. And their concentrations in the atmosphere have been increasing, including some that were supposed to be phased out. That’s why the treaty to regulate them is so important to global efforts to cut climate change. And absent the U.S. signing on, it’s why the bill is valuable as well.
If the U.S. is going to take any kind of climate action, bills like these need to pass. And bills require bipartisan support if they’re going to pass the Senate, which this act has. Unfortunately, the White House ain’t down to regulate HFCs. When the Kigali Amendment, a worldwide treaty to regulate these chemicals, went into effect in January, the U.S. didn’t sign on. And now the White House may have enough allies in the Senate to either strip this amendment away or stop the bill entirely. This is the kind of behavior that prevents the U.S. from any progress. Sigh.