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Ever since the 2009 Waxman-Markey bill — an attempt to create a national cap-and-trade emissions plan — passed in the House but hit a wall in the Senate, the prospects of both houses of Congress being able to pass legislation that meaningfully cuts CO2 emissions have been slim.
Citing an urgent need to address climate change, major electric utilities, large corporations and state governments are pledging to hit net-zero emissions over the next several decades. Renewable energy and battery storage have become competitive to such a degree that the idea of a 100% carbon-free grid is a serious proposal in the scientific and policy world rather than a far-off dream.
In Congress, however, the post-election world of 2021 appears to have many of the same challenges as 2009. The same structural barriers, primarily in the Senate, remain. Democrats’ most optimistic scenarios for the election see them winning control of the Senate by a slim margin, making sweeping climate legislation vulnerable to the filibuster.