House backs bill to boost 'clean energy,' enhance efficiency

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Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., center, speaks next to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, and House Majority Whip James Clyburn, of S.C., during a news conference about COVID-19, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON – The House has approved a modest bill to promote “clean energy” and increase energy efficiency while phasing out the use of coolants in air conditioners and refrigerators that are considered a major driver of global warming.

The bill boosts renewable energy such as solar and wind power, sets stricter energy efficiency standards for buildings and authorizes grants to local communities for more efficient schools, homes and municipal buildings.

The House approved the bill, 220-185, Thursday, sending it to the Senate, where a separate energy bill is pending. The Senate bill, like the House measure, would phase out hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, that are used as coolants, after an internal dispute among Senate Republicans was resolved earlier this month. Use of HFC gases is being phased out worldwide.

“I want to give a clear-eyed assessment: This bill is not going to stop climate change,” said Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y. “But it is a good opportunity to make good and sometimes necessary changes to programs, which might make it easier to do a bigger, more ambitious bill in the near future.”

The House bill, dubbed the "Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act,'' would support clean energy technologies through research and development funding through the Energy Department. It also boosts electric cars and programs to finance clean energy projects.

Supporters said it would create well-paying jobs across the country and help the U.S. transition to a “clean energy future” that is less dependent on fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas.

The bill would authorize more than $36 billion to help speed up the electrification of the transportation sector and make electric cars an option for more communities. It also authorizes funding for “clean” school buses, electric vehicle charging equipment and other zero-emission vehicle programs.

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the legislation would "modernize our energy system, create jobs and take positive steps towards addressing the climate crisis.'' He called it "one of the most impactful steps we can take now to create manufacturing jobs and boost our competitiveness, all while protecting our environment.''