Merkley, Sanders goal: U.S. on all renewables by 2050

WASHINGTON – Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), along with Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), introduced landmark climate legislation Thursday that would transition the United States to 100 percent clean and renewable energy by no later than 2050.

The “100 by ’50 Act” lays out a roadmap for a transition to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2050. It is the first bill introduced in Congress that will fully envision a transition off of fossil fuels for the United States.

“America is home to innovative entrepreneurs and scientists who have tackled many challenges in our nation’s history — from harnessing electricity, to putting a man on the moon, to curing disease,” said Merkley. “The power to end the use of fossil fuels and completely transition to clean and renewable energy is within our hands, but just as with the moon landing, we need a roadmap, a goal, and a passionate, shared national commitment to get us there.

“If an asteroid were hurtling its way through space towards our planet, we would do everything in our power to stop that asteroid. Our commitment to fighting climate change should be no less. Starting at a local, grassroots level and working toward the bold and comprehensive national vision laid out in this legislation, now is the time to commit to 100% by 2050.”

“The good news is that despite President Trump, we are winning this battle,” said Sanders. “In Vermont and all over this country, we are seeing communities moving toward energy efficiency and we are seeing the price of renewable energy plummet. Our job is to think big, not small. We can win the war against climate change. We can win the war in transforming our energy system and put millions of people to work doing that. We can create a planet that will be healthy and habitable for our children. There is no issue more important.”

“It is no longer a question of if we can power our country with 100 percent renewable energy, it is a question of when,” said Markey. “We know that we have 100 percent of the clean energy resource potential in the United States. And we have 100 percent of the technological capability to achieve this goal. As President Trump launches attacks on investments in climate science and energy innovation, now, more than ever, we need to stand up and fight for our clean energy future. I thank Senators Merkley and Sanders for their help leading this historic clean energy revolution.”

“We are in a race against climate change and need to reduce our carbon emissions as quickly as possible,” said Booker. “This legislation creates a framework for a transition to a 100% clean and renewable energy future, while also providing resources to ensure that all of our communities share in the opportunities that will be created.”

On Thursday, Merkley, Sanders, and Markey were joined at an event to announce the legislation by environmental, social justice, business, and labor leaders. The speakers discussed ways that local and regional governments and organizations can begin to plan the transition to 100% now, and the critical importance of bold climate action before it is too late.

“100 is an important number. Instead of making changes around the margins, this bill would finally commit America to the wholesale energy transformation that technology has made possible and affordable, and that an eroding climate makes utterly essential,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder. “This bill won’t pass Congress immediately–the fossil fuel industry will see to that–but it will change the debate in fundamental ways.”

“Burning fossil fuels is polluting our air, water and land.  It’s threatening our health and changing our climate even faster than scientists predicted,” said Margie Alt, Executive Director, Environment America.  “We can have healthier, more vibrant communities today and a livable future for our kids.  In order to do that, we need to transform how we produce and consume energy.  That starts with a commitment to a rapid shift 100 percent clean, renewable energy. The 100 by 50 bill represents the kind of commitment we need. The good news is that 100 percent renewable energy is 100 percent possible. Clean energy is on the rise, its costs are declining. As more people recognize environmental and economic benefits, it’s becoming the go-to energy option for businesses, governments and institutions across the country.

It won’t be easy. Incumbent energy interests like the oil, gas and coal industry and their allies are working hard to stop progress. But, we have no choice. Every day the urgency of our environmental challenges becomes clearer. That’s why we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and work to move America off fossil fuels to a future powered entirely with clean, renewable energy.”

“The Merkley-Sanders bill brings to a national level the work we’ve done in New York to champion climate legislation that prioritizes the needs of environmental justice communities and supports a just transition away from the fossil fuel extraction economy towards the regenerative energy economy,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director of UPROSE and leader with the NY Renews coalition. “The standard that this federal bill sets should compel state leaders to rise to the challenge of pushing equally ambitious climate agendas. We can start in New York, where Governor Cuomo is in the unique position to take a bold stance on climate by supporting the Climate and Community Protection Act, from which the Merkley-Sanders bill has drawn much inspiration. It is imperative that policy makers on the state and federal levels follow the lead of communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis — low-income communities of color — and put justice at the core of their agenda.”  

“Climate change hurts us all, but it especially hurts low income communities and people of color. I know this from personal experience — my zipcode has some of the highest rates of pollution in the country,” said Vien Truong, director of Green For All, a climate justice advocacy group. “For too long, people of color and low-income communities have paid the ultimate price for pollution, with our money and with our lives. Green For All applauds Sens. Merkley and Sanders, and those who stand with them, for delivering a bill with an array of innovative solutions that address this longstanding environmental injustice and puts communities on the frontlines of pollution first.”

“As registered nurses, we see firsthand the negative health consequences of pollution created by fossil fuels, and deal with the sickness and death that results from climate injustice,” said Jean Ross, RN, Co-President of National Nurses United. “We have a duty to advocate for our patients, and we must act now to slow climate change and end the environmental pollution that is killing our patients, our communities and our planet. We commend Senators Merkley and Sanders for their leadership in sponsoring this bill. It is critical that Congress take action immediately to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels.”

Mustafa Ali, Senior Vice President for the Hip Hop Caucus said, “The “100 by ’50 Act” begins to lay the foundation for moving our most vulnerable communities from, “Surviving to Thriving”. As we move to 100% fossil free energy, we have the opportunity to decrease the disproportionate public health impacts in communities facing environmental injustices from pollution.  As we move to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2050 we have the opportunity to strengthen communities and increase economic opportunities, through worker training programs and small business development that is community driven. This act gives our country an opportunity to embrace a just transition, honor the innovation and hard work that exists in communities that are often overlooked and forgotten, and revitalize Communities of color, low income communities and Indigenous populations. The “100 by ’50 Act” provides an opportunity for everyday folks to play a role in mapping a new direction for our country, that is just, equitable and provides a brighter future for all.”

“Senator Merkley is proposing the road we must travel to combat the climate challenge. At last there is a legislative path to survival that we can fight to enact and make progress one year at a time,” said David Freeman, former Chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The 100 by ’50 Act has seven core components driving the complete transition to 100 by ’50:

1.      Greening the Grid—Phase-out fossil fuel electricity by 2050 and replace it with clean and renewable energy, through a mandatory fossil fuel phase-out and major investments in clean and renewable energy, storage and grid infrastructure to ensure reliability and affordability.

2.      Electrifying the Energy Economy—Electrify as much of our transportation and heating systems with power from the clean electrical grid, through a national zero emissions vehicle standard, major investments in zero emission vehicles and zero emission heating systems, as well as carbon taxing authority for commercial aviation, maritime, and rail. 

3.      Clean and Renewable Energy for All—Ensure that low-income and disadvantaged communities share in the benefits of a transition to 100 by ’50, through grants to make clean energy, energy efficiency and public transportation affordable and accessible, and to provide job training in the clean energy sector.


4.      Just Transition for Workers—Provide a just transition for the people who work in today’s fossil fuel economy to find good jobs in growth industries of the future, and get fair benefits between jobs or in retirement.


5.      Ending New Fossil Fuel Investments—Stop approving major fossil fuel projects like the Keystone XL pipeline and Dakota Access Pipeline, and end fossil fuel subsidies.


6.      Ensuring American Competitiveness—Make sure that energy-intensive U.S. products maintain a level playing field with products imported from other countries by imposing a carbon tariff for imported carbon-intensive products.


7.      Mobilizing American Resources—Create a major new source of funding to ensure a rapid and smooth transition to 100 by ’50 by auctioning Climate Bonds and investing the funds in the new programs created by the 100 by ’50 Act. The Climate Bonds will ensure climate resiliency throughout our existing infrastructure and communities, and provide planning grants to organizations, communities, tribes and states to develop their own 100% plans and jump-start the transition.

What they’re saying about the 100 by ’50 Act:

Mark Ruffalo, Actor and Co-founder of The Solutions Project:

“We are on our way to a world powered by 100% clean, renewable energy for everyone. This bill from Senator Merkley and Senator Sanders helps us get there faster by getting there together. Crafted in consultation with local organizations and individuals on the frontlines of the climate fight, the 100% by 2050 bill is a powerful example of political energy, clean energy, and human energy coming together to change what’s possible.”

Heather McGhee, President, Demos:  

“Demos applauds Senators Merkley and Sanders for introducing a bold, and necessary, vision for achieving 100% renewable energy with a plan that will create jobs and build wealth, addressing the twin challenges of inequality and climate change. Senators Merkley and Sanders are right to emphasize that equity at the heart of the solution, requiring, among other things, that at least 40 percent of federal revenue invested go to low-income areas and especially communities of color—which have borne the brunt of fossil fuel pollution and are most exposed to the devastating impacts of climate change on its current course. The crisis of climate change is also an opportunity to redress the inequities of the fossil fuel economy and rebuild a new economy for all of us.

“It is also exciting to see the potential for alignment between federal policy and state-level policies such as the NY Renews coalition’s Climate and Community Protection Act, a 100% renewables bill which first established the bar of 40 percent investment in low-income communities when it was introduced last spring. To deepen such alignment with state and local organizations and strategies, and to improve the federal policy design where needed, we look forward to seeing continuing stakeholder engagement from Senators Merkley and Sanders, especially with community-based environmental and racial justice leaders, who have been fighting this fight all along.”

May Boeve, Executive Director of

“While the fossil fuel billionaires supporting Trump’s administration continue putting profits before people, we now have a legislative roadmap to phase out this dirty industry once and for all. This bill deploys clean energy in communities that need it most and keeps fossil fuels in the ground. From Standing Rock to the People’s Climate March, movement leaders have been calling for these solutions for years. This bill is proof that organizing works.”

Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club:

“This important bill makes the path to powering our economy with 100% clean, renewable sources of energy like wind and solar absolutely clear. Continuing and accelerating this transition is critically important, because it will put a stop to air and water pollution from dirty fossil fuels that makes kids sick, give us the ability to avoid the worst consequences of a deepening climate crisis, and create thousands and thousands of new, good-paying family-sustaining jobs. The Sierra Club applauds Senators Merkley and Sanders for recognizing that the momentum toward a clean energy economy is inevitable, and for acting to seize the opportunity to protect our communities and our planet.”

Gene Karpinski, Executive Director, League of Conservation Voters:

“LCV applauds Senators Merkley and Sanders for their leadership with this legislation. Transitioning to clean energy creates jobs, protects our health, and will avoid the worst impacts of climate change. These are the policies Congress should be debating, not Trump’s pro-polluter agenda. LCV remains committed to working with allies like Merkley and Sanders to fight Trump’s dangerous agenda.”

Kieran Suckling, Executive Director, Center for Biological Diversity:

“This visionary bill is a vitally important step toward avoiding catastrophic climate change,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “If we’re going to get ourselves out of this crisis, we have to turn our back on the fossil fuel addiction being pushed by Trump and his friends in Congress.  This bill is what’s needed to create a viable future for people, wildlife and the planet.”

LeeAnn Hall, co-director, People’s Action:

“Our communities are paying a deadly price for carbon pollution. Low-income communities, communities of color and indigenous communities bear the brunt of this pollution from greater exposure to co-pollutants to leaking pipelines to the worsening impacts of the climate crisis. The time to act is now. That’s why I’m glad to see Sen. Merkley’s proposal to transition to 100% clean energy by 2050. We need clean energy now. And after decades of disinvestment and generations of exposure to toxins, we’ve got to make sure that our energy policies center on the needs of the hardest hit communities.”

Brian Cladoosby, President, National Congress of American Indians:

“NCAI applauds Senator Merkley’s introduction of the 100×50 Act.  This legislation encourages community leaders to implement those efforts that value our natural resources for the generations to come.  Indian Country often leads in discussions around Climate Change so we are encouraged that tribal governments will be able to fully participate in programs that allow us to plan for the sustainable future of our communities.”

Diane Moss, Founding Director, Renewables 100 Policy Institute:

“We salute this initiative for setting a national 100% renewable energy goal for the US and for proposing a framework to put the goal into action.”

Tom Leedham, co-chair of the Oregon Working Families Party and Working Families National Executive Committee member:

“President Trump is willing to let the planet burn as long as there are a few bucks to be made for energy CEOs. But Oregon’s Senator Merkley has a plan that boldly confronts the global problems we face, putting us on a path toward 100% renewable energy and a just transition to get there, creating millions of jobs and investing in the communities that need it most.”

Rahwa Ghirmatzion, Deputy Director at PUSH Buffalo:

“Our communities demand bold action on climate and jobs from all levels of government. We’re fiercely pursuing an equitable transition to a 100% clean energy economy at the grassroots – on the West Side of Buffalo, in coalitions like NY Renews, and with the People’s Action network. On this day, Senator Merkley and Senator Sanders have raised the bar for progressive climate leadership in this country and have signaled what it means to put people and planet first.”

Janet Redman, U.S. Policy Director at Oil Change International:

“The Merkley-Sanders 100 by ’50 Act is an important beginning to a needed national conversation about how to manage the decline of the fossil fuel industry within climate limits. It puts an end to taxpayer handouts to the fossil fuel industry and raises critical questions about how quickly we need to start saying no to new fossil fuel projects. Given the daunting carbon math we face and deadly climate impacts already mounting around the globe, the answer will always be: as soon as possible. We look forward to working with our partners at the front lines of the fossil fuel fight to make sure local, state, and federal policies reflect what science and justice say we need to keep all communities safe and healthy in the face of climate chaos.”