By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The nearly $370 billion in climate and energy security measures in the budget compromise deal that U.S. Senate Democrats reached on Wednesday were cut from previous versions of the bill but were widely praised. by supporters of clean energy.
Early versions of the bill had $555 billion in tax breaks for clean energy, such as wind and solar power, as well as batteries and nuclear reactors.
Still, Wednesday’s package would cut US emissions by 40% by 2030, according to a summary released by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office.
The baseline for the cut was 2005, Leah Stokes, a climate and energy policy professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who advised Democrats on the bill.
Clean energy supporters said it would go a long way toward President Joe Biden’s goal of decarbonizing the US economy by 2050.
“It’s an absolutely transformative package,” Stokes said. She said the bill would boost American manufacturing in everything from batteries to solar power to electric vehicles, and contains the largest investment in environmental justice in history.
Biden, who has faced rising oil prices and record gasoline prices that have helped drive inflation to 40-year highs, said in a statement that the bill would “enhance our energy security and address the crisis climatic”.
Heather Zichal, director of American Clean Power, a group of renewable energy companies, said Congress is now close to approving “the largest climate clean energy investment in American history.”
Democrats hope to pass the bill by a simple majority in the Senate. The bill must also pass the House, where Democrats also have a slim majority, and must be signed by Biden.
It contains a “methane emissions reduction program” to reduce leaks of the potent greenhouse gas methane from natural gas drilling, according to the summary.
It was not immediately clear whether a methane tariff that many Democrats wanted on emissions that would penalize energy companies for leaks had been changed.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat and the swing vote who has received more donations from oil and gas companies than any other lawmaker in recent years, had pushed for companies not to pay the fee if they couldn’t build a pipeline to transport the gas. to the market.
Manchin said the bill will invest in hydrogen, nuclear power, renewable energy, fossil fuels and energy storage.
“This bill does not arbitrarily shut down our abundant fossil fuels,” said Manchin, who for months has sought to preserve federal oil and gas lease projects and natural gas pipelines in talks about the bill.
Democrats, he added, “have committed to promoting a series of common-sense permitting reforms this fall that will ensure that all energy infrastructure, from transmission to pipelines to export facilities, can be built efficiently and responsibly.” to safely deliver power across the country and to our allies. .”
The measure has more than $60 billion in environmental justice programs to combat pollution and address public health harms in disadvantaged communities. It also has $20 billion for “climate-smart” farming practices, the summary said without providing details.
The bill contains a $10 billion investment tax credit to build clean-tech manufacturing plants for EVS, wind turbines and solar panels, according to the summary.
It also has an estimated $30 billion investment in production tax credits to accelerate US manufacturing of wind and solar energy batteries and components and the processing of critical minerals.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Bradley Perrett and Michael Perry)