On September 22, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) unveiled the American Energy Innovation Act of 2015.  The bill represents Democratic priorities for emission reduction goals and is a mixture of tax policy reform (including cutting oil subsidies), efficiency standards and R&D to grow the zero- and low-carbon economy.  The bill is currently cosponsored by 28 Democrats and is largely a response to the bipartisan Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015, which passed out of the Energy & Natural Resources Committee earlier this summer and is the first comprehensive energy legislation since 2007.

Chairman of the Energy & Natural Resources Committee Murkowski (R-AK) and ranking member Cantwell (D-WA) negotiated extensively over provisions in the Energy Modernization Act. In an effort to avoid the most controversial energy topics that have blocked progress in recent years, the resulting bill is a hodgepodge of provisions among five titles: efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, conservation and reauthorization.  

The bipartisan bill includes no mention of climate change or lifting the 40-year ban on crude oil exports or opening the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. It contains provisions for oil, gas and coal as well as biomass and geothermal – while leaving solar and wind out in the cold. Environmentalists have criticized the Energy Policy Modernization Act as the Republican majority’s latest call to “drill baby drill.”

The Democratic American Energy Innovation Act of 2015 picks up on some of the provisions in the bipartisan bill, but also includes electricity generation, energy efficiency, alternative fuels, clean energy research and energy cybersecurity.  Senator Cantwell stated that the bill “is a technology-driven pathway to a clean energy future, and by tackling energy efficiency ranging from everywhere from trucks, buildings, to our electricity, to energy innovation, it basically takes the most important opportunities for reducing carbon, creating jobs, and moving us forward to help consumers have better choices.”  It also includes a non-binding target of two percent reduction in emissions per year.

For alternative fuels, there is a 10-year production credit for facilities, and incentives for the production of renewable transportation fuels, based on carbon lifecycle emissions.  Renewable fuels would receive a maximum of $1 per gasoline gallon equivalent “if lifecycle emissions are at least 25 percent less than the U.S. nationwide average in 2015,” according to the bill summary. It also allows for the streamlining of fuel feedstock and process pathways by EPA.  


For more information see:

Hitting GOP, Senate Dems unveil plan for a 'clean energy future', The Hill

Senate democrats introduce comprehensive national energy bill, Ethanol Producer