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Manchin: Senate mulls new energy policy bill

WHEELING — In the past 13 years there have been more than 11 versions of the iPhone introduced, but no comprehensive energy policy put forth by the U.S. Congress, according to Sen. Joe Manchin.

But that could change in the coming weeks as the Senate considers a bipartisan energy bill crafted by Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

Manchin serves as ranking member on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. He discussed the bill during a teleconference call with state reporters on Tuesday.

The American Energy Innovation Act incorporates 53 pieces of previously introduced legislation, and Manchin said it achieves an “all of above” approach to energy without eliminating fossil fuels as other energy-related bills have pushed.

He said those skeptical the legislation doesn’t go far enough “should read the bill.”

“We’re not saying that (elimination of carbon emissions) isn’t doable. It is doable, but not by elimination (of fossil fuels). The rest of the world is not going to follow suit,” Manchin said.

“By 2040-2050, 50 % of the energy produced in India and China is still going to be from fossil fuel — coal fired,” he added. “If they do not use new technology, that’s not going to correct the climate issues we want.”

Manchin said the goal of the Energy Committee is to have zero carbon emissions by that time.

The legislation focuses on boosting energy innovation, advancing investments in energy efficiency, promoting research into coal-derived carbon products, developing an energy workforce, and encouraging the development of renewables and energy storage technologies.

“It really hits all aspects of all energy concerns,” Manchin said.

He cited figures from 2017 reporting that 90% of carbon emissions came from just four sectors of the economy, and those four sectors are addressed in the bill. Electric generation accounted for 27.5% of emissions; transportation, 29%; industry, 22%; and commercial and residential buildings at 11.5%.

What isn’t included is the 10% of emissions coming from agriculture. Addressing those emissions is outside the jurisdiction of the Senate Energy Committee, according to Manchin.

The bill has been endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Manchin feels confident it will be passed in the Senate.

“We’re working on some amendments now to improve it,” he said.

One of these would establish voluntary building codes communities may or may not institute, according to Manchin.

“Most of the larger cities and states have already got building codes,” he said. “This doesn’t force anybody (to conform), but gives guidelines.”

He expects the House of Representatives to add “more rigorous” stipulations to the bill, with a final version to be worked out by House and Senate conferees.

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