A surprise deal would boost Biden's promise on climate change

WASHINGTON (AP) — A unexpected deal reached by Senate Democrats It would be the most ambitious action ever taken by the United States to tackle global warming and could help President Joe Biden move closer to fulfilling his promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, experts said Thursday, as they examined a massive bill that revives action on climate change weeks after the legislation seemed dead.

The deal would spend nearly $370 billion over 10 years to power electric vehicles, boost renewable energy such as solar and wind power, and develop alternative energy sources like hydrogen. The agreement surprised lawmakers and activists who had given up hope that the legislation could be enacted after West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said he could not support the measure because of inflation concerns.

While analysts were still poring over the 725-page bill, the deal announced Wednesday night includes a long-term extension of clean energy tax credits that “could possibly put the US on track to cut emissions by 40% by 2030,” said Ben King. , associate director of Rhodium Group, an independent research firm.

Additional action from the Biden administration and Democratic-controlled states could “help close the rest of the gap toward the goal of a 50-52% emissions cut by 2030,” King said.

But passage of the bill is far from certain in a 50-50 Senate where the support of all Democrats will be needed to overcome unanimous Republican opposition. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, who forced changes to earlier versions of the plan, declined to reveal her position on Thursday.

In the closely divided House, Democrats cannot lose more than four votes and prevail on a potential party-line vote.

Yet, Biden called the bill “historic” and urged a quick step.

“We will improve our energy security and address the climate crisis by providing tax credits and investments for energy projects,” he said in a statement, adding that the bill “will create thousands of new jobs and help reduce energy costs in the future”. .”

Environmental groups and Democrats also praised the legislation.

“This is an 11-hour respite for climate action and clean energy jobs, and America’s greatest legislative moment for climate and energy policy,” said Heather Zichal, executive director of America’s Clean Power, an energy group. clean.

“Passing this bill sends a message to the world that the United States is leading on climate issues and sends a message at home that we will create more great jobs for Americans in this industry,” added Zichal, a former energy adviser to President Barack Obama. .

Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of the League of Conservation Voters, summed up her reaction in one word: “Wow!”

Sen. Tina Smith, a Democrat from Minnesota, tweeted that she was “stunned, but in a good way.”

Manchin, who chairs the Senate energy panel, insisted he had not changed his mind after saying Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Two weeks ago he couldn’t support the bill because of inflation concerns.

“There should be no surprises. I have never walked away from anything in my life,” he told reporters on a Zoom call from West Virginia, where he is recovering from COVID-19.

Manchin said the bill is an opportunity to “really give us an energy policy with the security that we need for our nation” while reducing inflation and high gas prices.

The bill, which Manchin called the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022,” includes $300 billion for deficit reduction, as well as measures to lower prescription drug prices and extend subsidies to help Americans who buy health insurance on their own.

In addition to investments in renewable energy such as wind and solar, the bill includes incentives for consumers to buy energy-efficient appliances such as heat pumps and water heaters, electric vehicles and solar panels on roofs. The bill creates a tax credit of $4,000 for used vehicle purchases electric vehicles and up to $7,500 for new electric vehicles.

The tax credit includes income limits for buyers and caps on the sticker prices of new electric vehicles: $80,000 for trucks, SUVs and pickups and $55,000 for smaller vehicles. A limit of $25,000 would be set for used vehicles.

Even with the restrictions, the credits should help spur electric vehicle sales that are already on the rise, said Jessica Caldwell, a senior analyst at Edmunds.com. Electric vehicles accounted for about 5% of new vehicle sales in the US in the first half of the year and are projected to reach as much as 37% by 2030.

The bill also invests more than $60 billion in environmental justice priorities, including block grants to address disproportionate environmental and public health harm related to pollution and climate change in poor and disadvantaged communities.

Beverly Wright, executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, called the bill a step forward but said she was concerned about tax credits for “polluting industries” such as coal, oil and gas. “We need bolder action to achieve environmental and climate justice for ourselves and future generations,” she said.

The bill would establish a fee for excess methane emissions from oil and gas producers, while providing up to $850 million in grants to industry to monitor and reduce methane.

The bill’s mix of tax incentives, grants and other investments in clean energy, transportation, energy storage, home electrification, agriculture and manufacturing “makes this a real climate bill,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat. from Hawaii. “The planet is on fire. This is enormous progress. Let’s do it.”

But not all environmental groups were celebrating.

The deal includes promises by Schumer and other Democratic leaders to pursue permitting reforms that Manchin called “essential to unlocking domestic power and transmission projects,” including a controversial natural gas pipeline planned in his home state and Virginia. More than 90% of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline was completed, but the project was delayed due to court battles and other issues.

The pipeline should be “at the top of the heap” for federal approval, Manchin said, and is a good example of why permitting reform is needed to speed energy project approvals. Manchin, a longtime supporter of coal and other fossil fuels, said environmental reviews of such major projects should be completed within two years, rather than taking up to 10 years as current practice.

“Other countries around the world, developed nations, they do it extremely well and they do it in a very short period of time. We should be able to do the same,” she said.

While the permitting reforms would be considered in separate legislation, the budget deal would require the Interior Department to offer at least 2 million acres of public land and 60 million acres of offshore water for oil and gas leasing each year. . If the Interior does not offer minimum lease amounts, the department will not be able to grant approvals for any large-scale renewable energy projects on public lands or public waters.

That requirement “is a climate suicide pact,” said Brett Hartl, director of government affairs at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group.

“It is counterproductive to link renewable energy development to massive oil and gas extraction,” Hartl said, adding that the new fossil fuel leasing required by the bill would “fan the flames of climate disasters burning our country.” .

But an oil industry group criticized the bill as punitive and inflationary.

“We are very concerned about the potential negative impact of this bill on energy prices and American competitiveness, especially in the midst of a global energy crisis and record inflation,” said Anne Bradbury, executive director of the American Council on Exploration. and Production, which represents the independent oil industry. and natural gas companies.


AP reporters Tom Krisher in Detroit and Drew Costley in Washington contributed to this report.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.