Nothing can be more clear: if we’re serious about tackling climate change, then we must transition away from the era of fossil fuels. This reality is both daunting and refreshing—daunting because of the tough climb ahead to transform our energy economy, and refreshing because of the prospect of a cleaner world, a stronger economy, more vibrant and liveable communities and healthier people.
It’s also within reach. Today in Olympia, committees in both the Senate and the House passed policies that would move us in the direction of 100% fossil-free electricity. The policies are very different. A Democrat is guiding one of them, and a Republican another—and with complete different structures—but they are unified behind a shared vision: we are getting off coal, oil and gas in our power sector.
This morning, the Senate Energy, Environment and Technology Committee approved one of these bills, sponsored by Senator Kevin Ranker and moved by Committee Chair Reuven Carlyle. If it becomes law, the bill would end the use of coal for Washington electricity in the next twelve years and set a path to zero-carbon power in our state by 2045.
The House Technology and Economic Development Committee approved the other policy this morning, with sponsorship from four Republican legislators—Reps. Richard Debolt, Norma Smith, Ed Orcutt and Cary Condotta; Committee Chair Jeff Morris moved the bill. This bill would prohibit any fossil fuel construction in the electricity sector starting in 2020.
These two policies don’t walk the path the same way, but these leaders know where we’re walking to. Clean energy consistently produces more employment per unit of energy produced than fossil fuels. A transition to cleaner power will secure us more stable electricity prices, and a sustainable future. The public is ready, and more and more policymakers are saying they are too.
The Washington Legislature adopted greenhouse gas emission limits in 2008. For our entire state’s economy to reach reductions of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, as recommended by the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group, our electricity sector must achieve even deeper reductions, even as we electrify other sectors that currently rely on fossil fuels.
Four weeks of session to go. Onward!