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Sanders, Bush Unveil Bill to Use the Defense Production Act to Fund Clean Energy

The bill could help reframe the energy independence debate away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energies.

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to union retirees and UFCW members at the UAW Local 74 in Ottumwa, Iowa, on July 21, 2019.

As President Joe Biden doubles down on fossil fuels amid high gas prices, Democratic and progressive lawmakers have introduced a bill to instead make investments in renewable energy to lower utility prices and boost energy independence in the U.S.

The Energy Security and Independence Act, introduced Wednesday by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Representatives Cori Bush (D-Missouri) and Jason Crow (D-Colorado), would set the stage for Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act to spur renewable energy production in the U.S. It would authorize $100 billion in funding to do so, and would ensure that at least 40 percent of the funds are used in communities that are on the front lines of the climate crisis.

The bill comes in wake of conservative calls to increase oil and gas production in response to gas prices shooting up due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Though climate deniers often claim that increasing domestic production of fossil fuels is a pathway to achieving energy independence, experts say that the U.S. will always depend on international energy producers as long as the country is largely reliant on fossil fuels.

Last week, Biden announced that his administration will start unleashing oil from the U.S.’s strategic oil reserve in order to combat high gas prices, though some experts have said that not focusing on boosting renewable energies is a missed opportunity for him and the climate.

“The days of energy security being synonymous with a reliance on human rights violators like Russia and Saudi Arabia, or a propagation of corporate profits for Exxon, Chevron, and BP, are over,” Bush said in a statement.

“When we talk about energy security, it’s time we include the safety of Black and brown lives in that definition,” Bush continued, noting that notions of energy security should also take energy affordability, efficiency and the climate crisis into account.

The bill would maintain momentum from renewable energy investments by creating a Domestic Renewable Energy Industrial Base Task Force in order to chart an all-of-government plan to move toward 100 percent renewable energy. It would provide funding for home weatherization and supply chain improvements.

Lawmakers also hope to fund heat pump installation as climate advocates hail electric heat pumps as a far more efficient and climate-friendly home heating and cooling method. The bill would create “good, union jobs” to perform such installations, according to its fact sheet.

“Today, with rising prices on essential items and Russia’s horrific war in Ukraine, it is clear now more than ever: Addressing climate change and energy dependence is not just an environmental issue, it is a matter of national security,” Sanders said. “Not only would this legislation help us combat climate change and strengthen energy security and independence in the U.S., but it will help working families save money on their utility bills, create good, union jobs, and take on the greed of oligarchs both here and abroad.”

The bill has 27 House cosponsors, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and other progressive squad members. The bill’s six Senate cosponsors include Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts). It also has the endorsement of over 80 climate and progressive organizations.

Biden has shown a willingness to kickstart climate-related products with the Defense Production Act, a wartime provision used to spur production of products deemed crucial for national security. Last week, he invoked the Defense Production Act to compel mining and processing for electric vehicle batteries and energy storage facilities.

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