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In just under two weeks, the United States has gone from leaking its climate promises to step one in trying to meet them.
The nearly $370 billion energy and climate spending deal reached between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and conservative Democrat Joe Manchin would be the biggest federal investment in clean energy in state history -United. Although it falls short of the $555 billion package proposed by Democrats last year, preliminary assessments of the legislation by climate change modeling experts indicate that it would put the United States in a much worse position. stronger to meet their commitments.
“It really makes me incredibly optimistic,” said Jesse Jenkins, head of the REPEAT project at Princeton University, which analyzes the impact of government climate actions.
With the bill’s new policies, Senate Democrats have estimated that the United States could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the decade. That doesn’t quite meet President Biden’s stated goal of cutting emissions by at least half at this point.
“It doesn’t bring us on its own, but it keeps us in the climate fight,” Jenkins said.
The Rhodium Group, which in previous projects has shown that the United States is far from meeting its climate goals, is still analyzing the text of the legislation, but has also shared a preliminary assessment.
“This could plausibly put the United States on track to reduce emissions by 40% in 2030. Additional action by the Biden administration and states can help close the rest of the gap to the goal. of a 50-52% reduction in emissions by 2030,” said director Ben King.
The bill still needs to pass procedural steps in the Senate and win the support of all 50 Democrats to have a chance of passing through the budget reconciliation rules.
But moving closer to the country’s main goals is “hugely meaningful,” said Sarah Ladislaw, chief executive of RMI, a nonpartisan organization that is pushing the country to transition to cleaner energy faster.
She said the Biden administration has set an aggressive climate target, and “everyone in the climate community’s deepest fear is that promises are promises and actions don’t necessarily follow.” Securing investments in the reconciliation bill would lend credibility to such ambitious goals, Ladislaw said.
The new Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 targets transportation and power generation, the two most greenhouse gas polluting sectors of the U.S. economy, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
It includes $60 billion for domestic manufacturing of clean energy components, to develop local supply chains for renewable energy infrastructure such as solar panels and wind turbines.
It also expands tax credits that encourage the development of wind and solar energy projects, and expands them to cover new energy technologies such as hydrogen.
There are also a series of budget lines aimed at boosting the adoption of electric vehicles, making it cheaper for Americans and American businesses to turn off the gas. Those eligible in the market for an electric vehicle would get a tax credit of $7,500 for the purchase of a new vehicle or $4,000 for a used vehicle.
The sheer scale of the proposed spending is unusual, Ladislaw said, noting the inclusion of $60 billion for environmental justice work, which is part of an existing plan to direct dollars to communities suffering disproportionately from climate change. effects of climate change and pollution. A long-debated methane emissions program would reduce global warming pollution from fossil fuel production.
Whether it’s subsidizing manufacturing and construction, mitigating pollution or making green technologies more affordable for consumers, “it contains everything you would want to see in energy legislation that takes seriously the transition we need,” says Ladislaw.
Compromises win a lot, but not all
Although many Democrats and climate advocates have agreed to compromises to get Manchin on board, the language on new oil and gas production has soured support from some climate activists.
Brett Hartl, director of government affairs at the Center for Biological Diversity, called the provisions allowing leasing for oil and gas drilling on public lands and offshore waters a “climate suicide pact” and a blow to communities living near.
“More oil and gas leasing is completely incompatible with maintaining a habitable planet, so we are compelled to fight against that,” Hartl said.
Fossil fuel producers and GOP lawmakers have also raised concerns about costs.
“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. , CEO of the American Exploration and Production Council, a lobby group for oil and gas producers.
But the approach of supporting renewable energy technology and further fossil fuel extraction has won support from other fossil fuel players.
“We’re excited to see how it turned out and what language has actually made it into this bill,” said Erik Milito, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, a group that represents both offshore wind and offshore. oil and gas producers.
Proponents hope these compromises, if successful in Congress, will also help hold the policy together.
“It’s clearly a politically necessary compromise,” Jenkins said. “If the alternative is not a bill, then it is clearly preferential.”