Laying a road map for states, liberal senators introduce bill to end U.S. fossil fuel use by 2050

Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) introduced legislation Thursday that calls on the U.S. to transition off fossil fuels by 2050, hoping to spur action on the state and local level, even as the Trump administration pushes for expanded coal, oil and natural gas production.

The 100×50 Act would impose new federal mandates requiring vehicles in the United States to release zero carbon emissions, while barring federal approval of oil and gas pipelines in the country, while also establishing an auction of “climate bonds” that would raise money to support renewable energy projects. The measure would also provide job training for low-income Americans and Americans of color, as well as those in coal communities, to work in the renewable energy sector.

In an interview, Merkley said he and others recognized “the federal government is not going to be a near-term answer to this problem.”

“But you can’t just wait till some future point till you start mapping out how you get there,” Merkley said. “What we are doing here is laying out a road map of how you get there.”

The move comes one day before President Trump is poised to sign an executive order aimed at expanding offshore oil drilling in both the Atlantic and Arctic oceans. The new administration has already signed off on both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, which transport heavy crude oil across the Great Plains, as well as a directive aimed at dismantling the Obama administration’s regulations curbing greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants.

At a news conference outside the Senate, Green for All director Vien Truong said she backed the bill because “literally my life, and my children’s lives are going to be dependent on it.”

Truong said that Trump during his first 100 days in office has taken several steps to make the transition to renewable energy more difficult, rather than easier. “He is aggressively attacking our climate, our planet and our future,” she said.

Climate activists are planning to march in Washington and elsewhere on Saturday, a week after scientists held similar demonstrations.

“There are people on the march all over the country. And we’re going to see hundreds of thousands of them in this city on Saturday,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of the climate advocacy group

Trump has repeatedly called for greater energy development on federal lands, as well as looser federal requirements on carbon emissions from cars and trucks as well as utilities. On Wednesday he boasted of his accomplishments during an appearance at the Interior Department: “We’re returning power back to the people. We’ve eliminated job-destroying regulations on farmers, ranchers and coal miners; on autoworkers and so many other American workers and businesses.”

But Merkley argued that the decline in costs of solar and wind energy could do more to drive the global energy market than Trump’s specific policies.

“The answer to that is as we look at the future, it is cheaper to create energy for India and around the world with renewable energy,” said Merkley, who traveled to India and Nepal last week. “That is a changing conversation.”