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Large companies rally around US clean power standard amid political battles

Nearly 90 companies and organizations, including several tech giants and two large power producers, signed on to a letter urging the U.S. Congress to enact a federal clean electricity standard.

The standard, which would require a growing portion of U.S. electricity sales to come from carbon-free sources, "should achieve 80% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2030 on the pathway to 100% clean power by 2035," the companies said. Signatories to the July 7 letter included Apple Inc., eBay Inc., General Motors Co., Google LLC, Tesla Inc. and Unilever PLC as well as power companies Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. and Exelon Corp.

"By acting now to enact a federal clean electricity standard, Congress and the president can spur a robust economic recovery, create millions of good-paying jobs, and build the infrastructure necessary for a strong, more equitable, and more inclusive American economy for the next century," the letter said.

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The letter's proposed clean electricity standard, or CES, aligns with U.S. President Joe Biden's goals to decarbonize the power sector by 2035 and achieve a 50%-52% cut in economywide emissions from 2005 levels by 2030.

Biden promoted the adoption of a nationwide CES in a sprawling infrastructure plan released in March, but the policy was excluded from a recent infrastructure deal the president reached with a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

The White House has pledged to still pursue a CES through budget reconciliation, an expedited process that could allow Democrats to pass legislation without GOP support. But even under that scenario, Biden would need to persuade centrist Democrats from fossil fuel-heavy states to go along with the policy.

Natural gas and coal combined still make up a substantial portion of many states' generation mix, making a swift transition to zero-emissions generation potentially difficult.

Ahead of the companies' July 7 letter, several conservative groups spoke out in opposition to both the bipartisan infrastructure framework and a potential, more partisan infrastructure bill.

The compromise agreement would "spend $1.2 trillion on left-leaning priorities," such as mass transit projects, and "funds leftist climate change and resiliency funding, subsidies for electric vehicle use, and unnecessary environmental clean-ups," Heritage Action, Club for Growth, the Coalition to Protect American Workers, FreedomWorks, and Taxpayers Protection Alliance said in a joint statement July 6.

Moreover, the bipartisan framework "is tied to a hyper-partisan reconciliation package," the groups said.