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Major U.S. science group offers plan to speed shift from fossil fuels to renewables

Wind turbines with white spinning blades are generating renewable energy. The turbines are standing in a field with blue mountains visible in the background.
Dominic Gentilcore
Adobe Stock
Wind turbines generating renewable energy in Spring Valley in White Pine County, Nev.

The nation’s top scientists recently laid out a roadmap for achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, a goal set by the Biden administration.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine made more than 80 recommendations to help policymakers speed the nation’s shift to renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.

The group’s 600-plus-page report recommends expanding programs that help people make their homes more energy-efficient. It also calls for accelerating the permitting process for building out the electrical grid.

Failing to expand and strengthen the nation’s power grid may be the greatest threat to a successful energy transition, said Stephen Pacala, the report’s lead author and an ecologist at Princeton University.

“This is really a serious problem,” Pacala said during a recent webinar. “We're going to electrify home heating and transport. And if we can't move the new renewable power, the demand will have to be met by fossil resources.”

Pacala and his co-authors also want Congress to create a national carbon emissions budget and an economy-wide carbon tax, with provisions to protect people with low incomes. They also urge Congress to codify environmental justice goals to protect those most affected by climate change. The report notes that air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels causes up to 350,000 deaths in the U.S. per year, disproportionately impacting communities of color and low-income households.

The science group’s report is their second in recent years. The first document, which was released in 2021, laid out a federal policy blueprint for drastically shrinking the nation’s carbon footprint over the next decade. Its recommendations helped shape policies included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021 and Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.