Rep. Cori Bush and Sen. Bernie Sanders attend an event

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) greets Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) during a group photo with members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus on July 19, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Bush, Crow, Sanders Bill Would Use Defense Production Act to Boost Clean Energy

"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," said Rep. Cori Bush.

Sen. Bernie Sanders joined Democratic Reps. Cori Bush and Jason Crow on Wednesday in unveiling a bill that would leverage the Defense Production Act to ramp up renewable energy manufacturing in the U.S., a step the trio said would help fight the climate crisis and reduce the nation's reliance on fossil fuels from Russia and Saudi Arabia.

"Now more than ever, we need a Green New Deal, and this bill would be a significant step towards making that a reality."

Titled the Energy Security and Independence Act, the legislation would direct $100 billion toward "reinvigorating the domestic clean energy industrial base" through the Defense Product Act, a law that empowers the president to order companies to expand the supply of key materials and services for national security purposes.

Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, has argued that the climate crisis is the greatest threat to U.S. national security. Top federal agencies, including the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon, have similarly warned that global instability fueled by climate change poses a major security threat.

"When it comes to the existential threat of climate change, we are in the midst of a global struggle with nothing less than the future of the planet at stake," Sanders said in a statement Wednesday. "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."

"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," Sanders added. "Now is the time to think and act boldly in order to leave a more peaceful and habitable world for our children and grandchildren."

In addition to the $100 billion investment in scaling up U.S. production of wind turbines, solar panels, and other critical tools for the clean energy transition, the legislation would, according to a summary released by Bush's (D-Mo.) office:

  • Create a Domestic Renewable Energy Industrial Base Task Force to coordinate an all-of-government approach that engages environmental justice communities, manufacturers, scientists, engineers, planners, and labor unions to plan and implement a transition to 100% renewable energy;
  • Provide $10 billion in loans and grants to bolster the domestic renewable energy system component manufacturing supply chain with strong corporate governance standards and benefits for taxpayers;
  • Provide $30 billion to weatherize and insulate 6.4 million homes over the next 10 years to save working families nearly $2 billion each year on their utility bills;
  • Invest $10 billion to procure and install millions of heat pumps, significantly reducing consumption of imported fossil fuels;
  • Create good, union jobs by requiring high-road labor standards for all funded projects; and
  • Fulfill EJ40 commitments by investing at least 40% of funds in environmental justice communities.

"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. Energy security means making energy affordable for every household."

"Energy security means investing in energy efficiency so people can breathe clean air and keep the heat or air conditioning on," Bush continued. "Energy security means alleviating the climate crisis by reducing our emissions and transitioning to renewable energy."

The bicameral legislation was introduced with 26 original co-sponsors in the House--including prominent members such as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.)--and six in the Senate.

The bill also won the support of more than 80 advocacy groups, including the youth-led Sunrise Movement, the American Sustainable Business Network, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).

"Russia's invasion of Ukraine makes crystal clear that true energy security means powering the United States with 100% renewable energy and not an ounce of dangerous fossil fuels," said Jean Su, CBD's energy justice director. "Congress should move urgently to pass Rep. Bush's bill and super-charge the climate transition. No household should suffer the disconnections and energy price swings that are the hallmarks of fossil-fuel utilities."

"This is Biden's golden opportunity to end the fossil fuel era once and for all," Su added.

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Thus far, environmentalists have been highly critical of the Biden administration's energy-related responses to Russia's deadly assault on Ukraine, which has disrupted global oil markets and pushed prices skyward--a major boon for U.S. oil giants, which have aggressively lobbied the White House to accelerate domestic drilling.

Last month, the White House announced a new initiative to boost U.S. gas exports to the European Union as part of an effort to reduce the bloc's dependence on Russian fossil fuels. Climate advocates panned the move as a step toward locking in "deadly new gas infrastructure that would further destabilize our economies and imperil our climate goals."

While Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act to spur domestic production of key minerals for electric vehicle batteries during Russia's war on Ukraine, he has not utilized the law with the ambition that Bush, Sanders, and climate groups are demanding. For instance, his minerals order was not accompanied by action to boost U.S. production of heat pumps, a demand that leading progressives in Congress have embraced.

The Washington Postreported Wednesday that the co-sponsors of the Bush-Sanders-Crow bill "have spoken with White House aides about" their legislation, but "it's unclear whether Biden will again invoke the Defense Production Act... to bolster the nation's energy security amid the war in Ukraine."

Lauren Maunus, advocacy director for the Sunrise Movement, said in a statement Wednesday that "we are in a historic moment that has further exposed the danger of our reliance on fossil fuels."

"We are at a crossroads on energy, and the U.S. must follow the lead of Rep. Cori Bush and her Energy Security and Independence Act to transition our economy to renewable energy, end our reliance on authoritarian petrostates, stop the climate crisis and environmental racism, and create millions of good, union jobs," Maunus added. "Now more than ever, we need a Green New Deal, and this bill would be a significant step towards making that a reality."

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