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A critical step forward: CATF perspectives on the bipartisan infrastructure bill 

July 15, 2021

This week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced the Energy Infrastructure Act of 2021, authorizing nearly $100 billion in energy programs — including a host of federal clean energy infrastructure initiatives that are critical to U.S. efforts to combat climate change.

“This bill has a lot to recommend it,” said Lindsey Baxter Griffith, Director of Federal Policy at Clean Air Task Force. “We are particularly grateful to see significant provisions to support carbon capture transport and infrastructure, invest in grid infrastructure, create hydrogen hubs, fund advanced reactor demonstrations, and support the recovery of abandoned wells to reduce the emission of super pollutants, among others. Today’s bill is a strong step forward, and points the Department of Energy in the right direction on a host of critical clean energy fronts. There is plenty of work still to do to enact strong climate policies in this Congress, but this is a vital piece of the puzzle.”

Here are some additional key thoughts and analyses on the bill as it pertains to some of Clean Air Task Force’s core focus areas:

Sarah Smith, Program Director, Super Pollutants: 

“Congress is picking up the mantle on methane emissions, which are more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the short-term. Last month, a bipartisan resolution reinstated methane standards for new oil and gas sites, clearing a path for more protective polices from EPA. Now, this bipartisan energy infrastructure bill aims to supply funds to help plug orphaned wells and stop them from spewing this harmful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. These are positive steps forward that should foreshadow, rather than replace, strong standards and incentives to cut methane emissions from the U.S. oil and gas sector. CATF analysis finds we can reduce methane emissions 65% using currently available technology – all at little to no cost to industry.”

Lee Beck, International Director, Carbon Capture: 

“There is a lot to be excited about in this bill when it comes to carbon capture, removal, and storage technologies. The SCALE Act is the key piece of policy to unlock carbon management at scale, and we’re very pleased to see it included. The SCALE Act fills an essential infrastructure gap by allowing emitters and direct air capture (DAC) plants to access CO2 storage, regardless of geographic location. That’s important, as the current lack of infrastructure has led to a situation in which most of the 40 U.S. carbon capture facilities currently in planning are located close to existing CO2 transport and storage infrastructure, with geologic storage resources inequitably distributed. Moreover, the provisions in this bill to support the establishment of DAC hubs are key to commercializing DAC technologies and integrating them into the larger U.S. carbon management system that also includes CO2 storage hubs enabled by the SCALE Act, and hydrogen and industrial decarbonization hubs. By unlocking further options for emitters to reduce their emissions and funding a range of demonstrations, the provisions in this larger bill help pave the path to net-zero, while also creating regional economic opportunities and safeguarding jobs. As a second step, policymakers must provide emitters improved incentives to capture CO2 at power and industrial facilities, or directly from the air, by enhancing the 45Q tax credit with a direct pay mechanism, increased values, and an extended sunset date.”

Mike Fowler, Director, Advanced Energy Technology Research: 

“With this legislation, the Energy & Natural Resources Committee correctly highlights the importance of clean hydrogen and authorizes the resources necessary to start the United States moving down a solid road towards decarbonization of difficult-to-electrify sectors such as heavy industry and heavy transportation. This bill would enable the Department of Energy to put significant additional resources towards research in electrolysis technologies and critical development of regional clean hydrogen hubs. This is a great start, but not the whole race. More funds and hubs would support faster and more significant development of clean hydrogen ecosystems across more regions of the country. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress to increase ambition, funding, and clarity around clean hydrogen standards for the program. 

Jonathan Lewis, Senior Counsel, Director of Transportation: 

“Energy infrastructure and transportation are inextricably linked, and this legislation works to improve the environmental performance of both systems. The bill’s regional clean hydrogen hub provision provides funding for commercial-scale clean hydrogen production while also supporting the deployment of hydrogen-powered vehicles, including long-haul trucks and marine vessels. The bill doesn’t just help accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles, it also supports the build-out of new clean electricity generation needed to power those vehicles and it directs new resources toward finding better ways to access the minerals required to make billions of new batteries. Through these measures, as well as provisions that underwrite R&D and loan programs targeted at clean vehicles, the bill makes important progress toward energy and transportation systems that are cleaner and better integrated. 

Brett Rampal, Director of Nuclear Innovation: 

“As the U.S. looks to achieve long-lasting change in how we produce our energy, nuclear energy is poised to play an expanded role both domestically and abroad. Provisions within this legislation support advanced nuclear energy demonstrations, protect nuclear intellectual property, and provide needed support for existing, but struggling, nuclear power plants. These provisions go a long way toward maintaining the country’s largest source of carbon-free energy, as well as positioning nuclear to make an expanded impact in our future clean energy economy.” 

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