Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced Americans to reconsider their energy options. A secure energy future for the United States and its allies has always been critical, but its specific requirements were easy to overlook. Russia’s actions have now compelled a more thoughtful consideration of both our goals and how we will achieve them.
Many people believe that the time has come for an energy revolution. We couldn’t be more in agreement. Domestic energy that is clean, secure, reliable, abundant, and affordable is critical to America’s security. But what does that entail? How are we going to get there?
All geographical, economic, technological, and political realities point to the same conclusion: A practical clean energy future must be built on a foundation of proven, commercially competitive technologies that are accessible to all. While each energy source has supporters and detractors, we must mobilize all of America’s and its allies’ energy resources and use them in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
Keeping America’s abundant fossil fuels on the grid while providing the necessary policy support to decarbonize is more important than ever as we face concurrent economic, climate, and energy security challenges. Advanced carbon capture technologies have the potential to transform America’s vast fossil resources into a foundation for clean energy security in the United States and around the world. These technologies are gaining traction in Congress and the Biden administration.
Some argue that the time has come to transition to a renewable-only energy system, with the sun and wind serving as “domestic” energy resources. However, the technologies (and critical minerals) required to capture those resources—solar panels, windmills, and batteries—are typically not manufactured in the United States. Going all-renewables would entail substituting Chinese-made batteries and solar panels for Russian-made gas. Making these in America will take time, investment, and new policies, as will developing more of the natural resources they require. We should certainly produce more critical minerals in the United States and use more renewables, but this should be just one component of a national energy security strategy, not the entire strategy.
There is a better way to proceed. Firm clean power, available at the flip of a switch, is required for cost-effective decarbonization. Advanced carbon capture technologies developed in the United States could enable allies such as Japan, South Korea, and a number of European countries to replace Russian gas with zero-emissions American coal.
Everyone wants America to have a clean and secure energy future, but the legislative magic required to make it happen has proven elusive. We cannot allow this to continue. As we can see in Europe today, major changes in energy systems take years and billions of dollars of investment. If we are to secure America’s energy future, we must establish a long-term federal framework to guide the massive public and private investments that will be required in the coming decades. We require energy policies that will last beyond the next election cycle, judicial decision, or international conflict.
This can be accomplished through practical, bipartisan legislation that brings us all together in a national effort to generate clean energy from all domestic resources. Americans have a vested interest in getting this right, and we must not allow zero-sum politics to get in the way. There are pragmatic proposals available today, such as a bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives coauthored by two senior members of the Energy & Commerce Committee, David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), that provides the framework required to advance our energy agenda.
The bipartisan McKinley-Schrader bill would ensure that virtually all air emissions from America’s power plants are eliminated—while keeping the lights on, electric bills low, and America’s mineworkers and power-sector unions employed. It would put an end to the never-ending partisan battle over fuels and ensure that every clean domestic resource—wind and solar, coal and gas, existing nuclear and advanced reactors—is used. Similar proposals have been introduced by other members of Congress, giving reason to believe that support for the McKinley-Schrader framework will grow.