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Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., leave the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Democratic Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, both of Massachusetts, leave the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Warren, Markey Among Senate Dems Pushing Biden to Embrace 'Heat Pumps for Peace'

"Until the United States and European countries eliminate their dependence on Russian fossil fuels, they will be tied to Russia's war efforts," the lawmakers wrote to the president.

Andrea Germanos

A group of Senate Democrats on Wednesday urged President Joe Biden to exercise his authority to boost production of fossil fuel-reducing technologies like heat pumps to simultaneously slash "dependence on Russia and other authoritarian petrostates" while addressing the climate emergency.

The demand was delivered in a letter to Biden led by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and also signed by Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

Whether through the Defense Production Act (DPA) or Defense Security Cooperation Agency, Biden can ramp up manufacturing of clean energy technologies, the Democrats wrote. They encouraged the president to "examine all possible routes to support and deploy clean energy and energy-efficient electric technologies as part of our near-term domestic and international response to the economic upheaval caused by Russia's war on Ukraine."

The letter points to the dependence on Russian fossil fuels by both the U.S. and Europe, and Moscow's economic reliance on those exports.

Last year, roughly 7% of U.S. imports of oil and refined products came from Russia, while the E.U. is more heavily dependent upon those products, with roughly 45% of its gas imports and near 40% of its total gas consumption last year coming from Russia, the letter states.

The lawmakers also reference figures showing revenue from Russia's energy sector accounts for over 40% of its federal budget.

"Until the United States and European countries eliminate their dependence on Russian fossil fuels, they will be tied to Russia's war efforts," the lawmakers declare.

To change that dynamic, the Democrats are urging Biden to embrace the "heat pumps for peace" initiative recently floated by climate activist and author Bill McKibben—a proposal also detailed by Rewiring America in the advocacy group's "Electrify for Peace Policy Plan."

Like McKibben, the call for heat pumps—efficient, electricity-run devices that both cool and heat—to be mass-manufactured for domestic use and export to Europe was likened by the Democratic senators to the World War II Lend-Lease program under which the U.S. sent supplies to allied nations.

"With guaranteed federal contracts and other financial incentives," the senators wrote, "U.S. manufacturers will have the support they need to ramp up their production of electric heat pumps and key components—creating thousands of jobs, boosting local economies, saving money for consumers, reducing unhealthy emissions, and destroying President Putin's oil and gas-based business model."

The letter additionally estimates that "widespread adoption of more energy-efficient electric heat pumps could reduce our oil consumption by 71 million barrels of oil a year, in addition to cutting demand for natural gas."

A $600 million investment over a five-year period, they project, would lead to the development 30 manufacturing plants and production of three million heat pumps a year by 2025. And scaling up heat pump installations in Europe, the letter notes, was among the steps outlined in the International Energy Association's recent blueprint for Europe to reduce its dependence on Russian gas.

Citing "the humanitarian, energy, and economic crises caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine," the lawmakers add, "we urge you to use all the tools and authority at your disposal to provide relief to our residents and allies and take preemptive steps to limit future instability caused by climate change and conflict funded by fossil fuel profits."

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