February 7, 2019

Whitehouse Continues Carbon Capture Push with Introduction of Bill to Promote Negative Emissions

Leading international experts point to growing need for direct air capture technology to avoid the worst of climate change

Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee and long-time champion of climate action, joined EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) to lead a bipartisan group of Senators today in introducing the Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovative Technologies (USE IT) Act, to support technological innovations that remove carbon pollution from the atmosphere.  The bill continues Whitehouse’s legislative work on carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration (CCUS) legislation that helped propel passage of a major tax incentive for CCUS last year.

The science from the world’s top experts, including our own National Academies, shows that we ought to be reversing the carbon pollution driving climate change.  If we don’t, it will be nearly impossible to avoid the worst of climate change,” said Whitehouse.  “That’s why I’ve been working across the aisle on ways to boost promising new technologies like direct air capture.  We’ve proven we can pass sensible bills like this with broad bipartisan support.  Now let’s do it again.”

Joining Whitehouse and Barrasso in introducing the bill are Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Tina Smith (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Mike Enzi (R-WY). 

“We applaud the bipartisan leadership of Senators Barrasso and Whitehouse for their introduction of the USE IT Act,” said Jason Albritton, Director of U.S. Climate and Energy Policy for The Nature Conservancy.  “As a science-based organization whose mission it is to protect the land and waters on which all life depends, The Nature Conservancy is committed to finding solutions to some of nature’s greatest challenges, including climate change. The technologies supported by this bill – carbon utilization and direct air capture – can play an important role in reducing carbon emissions and can be part of the comprehensive array of approaches needed to address climate change.  The USE IT Act invests in research and development that will help expedite the commercial deployment of these critical technologies.  We hope other members of the Senate will support this common-sense, bipartisan legislation.”

“We need both carbon capture on smokestacks and carbon removal from the atmosphere if we are going to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.  Adoption by Congress of the USE IT Act would encourage early stage innovation for carbon removal and help develop needed infrastructure for both technologies. We urge its enactment as soon as possible,” said Armond Cohen, Executive Director of the Clean Air Task Force.

“Just like people, birds are facing a cascade of threats because of the changing climate. Rising seas and temperatures are shrinking and shifting the landscapes that sustain them,” said Jesse Walls, Director of Government Affairs for the National Audubon Society. “Audubon believes we need to pursue an array of common-sense, bipartisan approaches that reduce carbon emissions, and that carbon capture and sequestration is one of the essential elements. This legislation has the potential to get us to smart solutions faster, by supporting research and spurring investment in the most promising technologies. This is the kind of bipartisanship we need to see more of, and we applaud Senators Whitehouse and Barrasso for their leadership.”

The USE IT Act would support carbon utilization and direct air capture research, and help enable deployment of these technologies. Carbon utilization technologies present an innovative and promising economic opportunity to turn carbon pollution into valuable products such as plastics, chemicals, cement, and jet fuel.  

In the last year, the National Academies of Science, the World Resource Institute, the International Panel on Climate Change, and other groups have all called on policy- and law-makers around the global to dramatically accelerate adoption of CCUS technology.  As part of their message, the experts have identified direct air capture as a key element of viable strategies for avoiding the worst of climate change.  Experts also note that using direct air capture may be less costly than directly eliminating emissions from some important areas of the economy.

“To achieve goals for climate and economic growth, ‘negative emissions technologies’ (NETs) that remove and sequester carbon dioxide from the air will need to play a significant role in mitigating climate change,” the National Academies of Science writes in a 2018 report.  “Recent analyses found that deploying NETs may be less expensive and less disruptive than reducing some emissions, such as a substantial portion of agricultural and land-use emissions and some transportation emissions.”

Last February, Whitehouse’s FUTURE Act to boost the 45Q tax credit for CCUS was signed into law.  The improvements to the tax credit, which Whitehouse introduced with Senators Barrasso and Capito, substantially increased the incentive for power plants and industrial facilities to deploy carbon capture technology.  It also established a first-ever incentive for direct air capture and carbon utilization technologies.

Read the text of the USE IT Act here.



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