Can meaningful climate legislation be passed in this congress given the pivotal role played by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the powerful Energy and Public Works Committee, and a senator from a coal state who recently commented that the Green New Deal is “what massive government overreach looks like”? The answer to that question may very well be yes, in light of the bill recently introduced by Barrasso and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) with 11 bipartisan cosponsors.
The bill, S.383, “Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovative Technologies (USE IT) Act” is designed to develop and deploy two advanced technologies—carbon capture use and storage (CCUS) and direct air capture (DAC). Both of these technologies have been repeatedly identified (e.g., IPCC) as crucial if global temperature increases are to remain under 2 degrees Celsius.
The USE IT Act would fund task forces and advisory committees to inventory the state of these technologies, make prize money available for DAC pilot projects and R&D money for CCUS technologies, and, develop legislative and administrative recommendations for advancing these technologies. Importantly, the act underscores the need for essential infrastructure to support these technologies, particularly the need for a new system of pipelines to transport liquefied CO2 from the point it is captured to storage locations or facilities where it will be transformed into valuable products or utilized to make products. The act recognizes that under current law, such pipelines will be subject to state regulation and permitting, much like existing oil pipelines are today. For the future siting of interstate CO2 pipelines, the bill mandates that the federal government help identify barriers, challenges and remedies. However, a great deal more needs to be done.
We know that many oil and natural gas pipelines face significant public opposition. But whether such opposition will extend to CO2 pipelines, which, after all, is a plus for fighting climate change, is unknown. Similarly unknown is how to communicate with the public over the risks and rewards of such pipelines. Also, estimates of the private and social costs of speeding such pipeline construction can help determine if fast tracking CO2 pipeline permits is wise. Addressing these and other social science research issues could benefit from federal funding and attention.