WASHINGTON – The coming weeks on Capitol Hill will be pivotal to President Biden’s climate agenda, including whether the president can convince the rest of the world that the United States will deliver on its promise to reduce emissions Warming planets, drastically reducing them.
In Congress, details of climate and clean energy policies are emerging in a comprehensive budget package of $ 3.5 trillion that the Democrats are working on and hope to send to Mr Biden’s desk by the end of the year.
As the Progressive Democrats and Mr Biden envision, the draft budget, which would include a historic expansion of welfare programs, would also be the single largest piece of climate legislation that will be passed in Congress.
The strongest climate mechanism in this bill is a $ 150 billion incentive and penalty program designed to replace most of the country’s coal and gas-fired power plants with wind, solar and nuclear power plants over the next decade. The program would pay electricity providers to increase the amount of electricity they produce from clean, zero-emission sources and fines those who don’t.
Power plants that burn fossil fuels are the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after cars and trucks, and decommissioning would significantly reduce the country’s heat-storing pollution. When it comes into effect, the program could be at the heart of Mr Biden’s climate agenda.
On Monday, the home’s energy committee will begin reviewing this provision, known as the clean electricity payment program.
Many Democrats returning to Washington from hiatus next week say they are encouraged to move on to clean electricity and others after a summer of deadly droughts, floods, forest fires, and heatwaves in almost every corner of the country Pushing aggressive climate action has been worsened by climate change.
Democrats now argue that the proposed record spending on climate change is an economic imperative.
“In the last year alone, our country witnessed 22 major natural disasters that cost Americans a record $ 95 billion in damage – numbers that are more than double the historical average, but still not the cost of job losses or reflect the trauma of families. “Losing their homes,” said Rep. Frank Pallone, Democrat of New Jersey, chairman of the House of Representatives’ energy and trade committee, which will draft the key climate provisions of the budget. “The climate crisis is here, and the cost of inaction is already staggering.”
Credit…Erin Schaff / The New York Times
The House of Representatives Energy Committee will discuss other climate provisions of the draft budget, including $ 13.5 billion to build charging stations for electric vehicles and promote electrification of heavy-duty vehicles. Another program would spend $ 9 billion upgrading the electrical grid to make it more conducive to the transmission of wind and solar power, and to make it more resilient to the extremes of temperature, floods, and fires that scientists say they do are inevitable now. Another provision would spend $ 17.5 billion to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from federal buildings and vehicles. The draft budget would also include a fee from oil and gas companies for the leakage of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The government would use the revenue from these fees to pay for climate protection programs.
At the same time, Democrats on other committees are designing tax incentives to attract American drivers away from fossil fuel cars – the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country – to electric vehicles and to encourage companies that develop clean energy technologies. You are preparing money for a “Civilian Climate Corps” – a program that young people are supposed to use for environmental protection and climate resilience. And they are preparing to channel billions to help low-income communities and minorities disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change, as well as communities that would lose fossil fuel jobs as a result of climate change policies.
But the adoption of such a policy is far from certain. Republicans have already announced that they will oppose the $ 3.5 trillion budget. That means the Democrats need every vote from their party. Two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin III from West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona, have said they are against the price tag and are looking for programs to cut it. In particular, Mr Manchin could focus on dropping provisions that would harm the coal industry.
In May, the world’s leading energy agency said nations around the world must stop approving new coal-fired power plants and new oil and gas fields immediately and phase out gasoline-powered vehicles quickly if they are to avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change.
Despite a steep decline in the United States, West Virginia’s coal industry still plays a huge role. Mr. Manchin has financial ties to the industry; he owns shares in Enersystems Inc., a coal broker valued at $ 1 million to $ 5 million. Last year, Mr. Manchin made $ 491,949 in dividends from his Enersystems stock, according to his Senate financial report. As chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, Mr. Manchin has extensive powers in shaping the results of the draft budget.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Manchin, Sam Runyon, did not respond to an email asking for a comment from him.
However, several Democrats in Congress who worked on the power plant language say they were in close and frequent contact with Mr. Manchin’s staff during the drafting of the bill. More than one described the senator’s current stance on language as “not a no”.
However, Mr Biden will need something more definitive, and soon if he is to convince other countries that the United States – the world’s largest economy and the second largest greenhouse gas polluter – can change its stance on the former president’s climate after four years Donald J. Trump openly made fun of the science of climate change.
In November, Mr Biden is due to travel to a major United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, where leaders are expected to make new pledges to commit themselves to greater greenhouse gas emissions reductions – and demonstrate domestic policies, they will make it possible to meet these obligations.
Biden has already done the former: earlier this year he made the bold promise that the United States will cut its carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. And he’s also committed to completely eliminating fossil fuel emissions from the electricity sector by 2035.
Without the adoption of the Clean Electricity Payment Program, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to achieve these goals, experts say.
“This draft budget needs to be passed for the United States to have credibility in Glasgow,” said Alice Hill, a senior Council on Foreign Relations official who served as the National Security Council’s climate adviser during the Obama administration.
Regarding the clean electricity program, she said, “This piece is crucial. This will essentially be one of the most effective ways to get significant reductions instantly. “
Unfortunately, if the final bill is passed without the power plant plan, “it will be interpreted as a signal that the United States is not getting involved,” Hill said. “It’s going to be a lot harder for the Biden team to convince the rest of the world that we’re back.”
Correction: September 9, 2021
In an earlier version of this story, the name of the clean electricity program was misrepresented. It’s the Clean Electricity Payment Program, not the Clean Electricity Performance Plan. Due to an editorial error, the previous version also incorrectly stated the month in which the International Energy Agency published a report calling for the closure of new coal-fired power plants. It was May, not July.