President Biden has embraced the ambitious goal of achieving “a carbon pollution-free electricity sector no later than 2035” and made this a centerpiece of his job creation platform.[xiv] But many of the so-called “clean energy” proposals in Congress allow false climate solutions such as carbon capture and sequestration, biomass energy, nuclear power, and even some fossil fuels to qualify as “clean.”[xv] This “all of the above” energy strategy, also embedded in many of the deep decarbonization pathways proposed by states and energy studies, will not achieve zero GHG emissions needed to stabilize the climate.
The IPCC defines renewable energy as any form of energy from solar, geophysical (including wind, geothermal, tidal, hydro), or biological sources that is replenished by natural processes at a rate that equals or exceeds its rate of use.xvi We amend this definition to add that renewable energy must not be harmful to our communities or the environment.
At least 80% pollution-free renewable energy by 2030 and 100% by 2035
Replenish by natural processes at a rate that equals or exceeds its rate of use
Consider only renewable energy that does not result in adverse effects
The following should not be treated as renewable energy because of their adverse health, climate, environmental, and/or social justice impacts:
o Waste incineration (including municipal solid waste, medical waste, and construction and demolition debris)
o Woody biomass combustion (including wood chips, pellets, trees and woody plants, logging residues, wood wastes, and treated lumber).
o New large-scale hydroelectric power using impoundment dams
o Biofuel policies have failed as climate solutions. The overwhelming majority of biofuels used today are crop-based biofuels. Corn ethanol, in particular, can actually be worse than oil. Biofuels derived from corn, soy, other crops, municipal solid waste, wood, or other sources that are not sustainable, pollute, result in land use change or compete with food crops.xvii Biofuels should not be considered a climate solution, particularly for areas such as personal transport or heating, where the technology for electrification and truly clean renewables already exists.