Unexpected deal would bolster Biden’s commitment to climate change

WASHINGTON (AP) — An unexpected deal reached by Senate Democrats would be the most ambitious action ever taken by the United States to fight global warming and could help President Joe Biden come closer to his commitment to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, experts said Thursday, as they considered a massive bill that jump-starts action on climate change weeks after the legislation appeared dead.

The deal announced late Wednesday would spend nearly $370 billion over 10 years to boost electric vehicles, jump-start renewables like solar and wind, and develop alternative energy sources like hydrogen. The deal stunned lawmakers and activists who had given up hope that legislation could be enacted after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said he could not support the measure due to inflation concerns.

Clean energy tax credits and other provisions of the 725-page bill could ‘put the United States on track to reduce emissions 31-44% below 2005 levels by 2030 “, according to an analysis published Thursday evening by the Rhodium Group, an independent research firm. solidify.

Further action by the Biden administration and Democratic-controlled states could ‘help close the rest of the gap with (Biden’s) goal of a 50-52% reduction in emissions by 2030’ , said Ben King, associate director of the group.

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

In the tightly divided House, Democrats cannot lose more than four votes and win a possible party vote.

Still, Biden called the bill “historic” and urged rapid passage.

“We will improve our energy security and fight 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 will help reduce energy costs in the future.″

Environmental groups and Democrats have also welcomed the legislation.

“This is an eleventh-hour reprieve for climate action and clean energy jobs, and America’s greatest legislative moment for climate and energy policy,” said Heather Zichal, CEO of Clean Power, an American clean energy group.

“Passing this bill sends a message to the world that America is leading on climate and sends a message home that we are going to create more great jobs for Americans in this industry,” added Zichal, 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, D-Minn., 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 telling Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for two weeks he could not support the bill due to inflation concerns.

“There should be no surprises. I’ve 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 was an opportunity “to really give us an energy policy with the security that we need for our nation” while bringing down inflation and high gas prices.

The bill, which Manchin dubbed the “Cut Inflation Act of 2022,” includes $300 billion for deficit reduction, as well as measures to reduce prescription drug prices. and expanding subsidies to help Americans who buy health insurance themselves.

Along with investments in renewable energy like wind and solar power, the bill includes incentives for consumers to buy energy-efficient appliances like heat pumps and water heaters, electric vehicles and solar panels. rooftop solar panels. Bill creates $4,000 tax credit for the purchase of used electric vehicles and up to $7,500 for new electric vehicles.

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

Even with the restrictions, the credits should help boost already-rising electric vehicle sales, said Jessica Caldwell, principal analyst for Edmunds.com. Electric vehicles accounted for about 5% of new vehicle sales in the United States in the first half of the year and are expected to reach up to 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 from pollution and climate change in communities. poor and disadvantaged.

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

The bill would set a levy on excess methane emissions by oil and gas producers, while providing up to $850 million in grants to industry to monitor and reduce methane.

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

But not all environmental groups were partying.

The deal includes pledges from Schumer and other Democratic leaders to pursue licensing reforms that Manchin called “essential to unlocking national energy and transmission projects,” including a controversial gas pipeline planned in his State of origin and Virginia. Over 90% of the Mountain Valley pipeline project has been completed, but the project has been delayed by 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 permit reform is needed to speed up energy project approvals. Manchin, a longtime proponent of coal and other fossil fuels, said environmental reviews for such major projects should be concluded within two years, instead of lasting up to 10 years as in current practice.

“Other countries around the world – developed countries – are doing it extremely well, and they are doing it in a very short time. We should be able to do the same,” he said.

Although authorizing the reforms is being considered in separate legislation, the budget deal would require the Home Office to offer up at least 2 million acres of public land and 60 million acres of waters off the Gulf. of Mexico and Alaska for oil and gas leasing each year. If the Interior fails to offer minimum amounts for lease, the department would not be allowed to grant approvals to any large-scale renewable energy projects on public lands or waters.

The 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 limit renewable energy development to massive new oil and gas extraction,” Hartl said, adding that the new lease of fossil fuels required by the bill “would fan the flames of climate disasters.” who are burning down our country.

But an oil industry group called the bill punitive and inflationary.

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

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

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