WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden faces a steep road to achieving his ambitious goal of halving global warming greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, amid a legislative deadlock that has stalled a whole $ 2,000 billion in social and environmental initiatives.
Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which contains $ 550 billion in spending and tax credits to promote clean energy, was hijacked by West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who said just before Christmas that ‘he could not support the legislation as it was drafted.
Democrats insist they are pushing forward on the broad package, which would also strengthen family services, health care and other programs. Manchin has signaled in recent days that climate-related provisions are unlikely to be a deal-breaker, but the bill has taken a back seat to voting rights legislation and others. democratic priorities.
Even without the legislation, Biden can continue his climate agenda through rules and regulations. But these can be overruled by subsequent presidents, as demonstrated by Biden who overturned Trump administration rules that overruled protections put in place under Barack Obama.
Experts cite Biden’s executive power to regulate car and truck tailpipe emissions, as well as restrict emissions from power plants and other industrial sources, and the federal government’s broad power to approve plans to renewable energy on federal lands and waters.
Indeed, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new exhaust rules for cars and trucks the day after the Manchin Bomb news was announced on December 19. The next day, the Home Office announced the approval of two large-scale solar projects in California and decided to open public lands in California. other Western states to solar development as part of the administration’s efforts to tackle climate change by switching from fossil fuels.
The administration also has access to tens of billions of dollars under the bipartisan infrastructure law approved in November, including $ 7.5 billion to create a nationwide network of electric vehicle charging stations; $ 5 billion to deliver thousands of electric school buses across the country; and $ 65 billion to modernize the electricity grid to reduce blackouts and facilitate the expansion of renewable energies such as wind and solar power.
“I think the United States has a lot of tools and a lot of options to make climate gains over the next decade,” said John Larsen, energy systems expert and partner of the Rhodium Group, a company independent research.
“Build Back Better is useful” for achieving Biden’s goals, “but if you don’t have Build Back Better, that doesn’t mean nothing is happening,” Larsen said. “It makes it a bit more difficult.” ‘
Larsen is a co-author of a Rhodium Group study last fall that found that adoption of the Build Back Better package, along with bipartite infrastructure law and regulations from major states and federal agencies, could reduce costs. US greenhouse gas emissions of 45 to 51%. below 2005 levels by 2030.
Bill Biden offers incentives for the purchase of electric cars, the development of technologies to capture and store carbon emissions, and the construction of wind and solar farms, among other provisions.
World leaders made progress at a November climate summit in Scotland, “but a lot more is needed”, said Penn State climatologist Michael Mann. “And for the United States to do its part, we need the Build Back Better climate provisions to be passed by Congress as soon as possible. “
Jesse Jenkins, an energy systems engineer at Princeton University who led an effort to model the effect of the Build Back Better bill on U.S. emissions, said there was “a yawning gap” between where where US emissions are today “and where we need to be to meet President Biden’s climate goals.”
Such a gap “is unlikely to be closed by executive action or state policy alone,” Jenkins said in an email. Rebuild a better law.
Carbon dioxide equivalent is a standard measurement for the range of so-called greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, which are generated by the combustion of coal and oil and gas. other industrial and agricultural uses, and trap heat in the atmosphere.
Still, Jenkins remains optimistic about U.S. climate action.
“I do not accept the premise that the Build Back Better package is dead,” he wrote, adding that he thinks “there is still a very good chance that Congress will pass the provisions on the climate and a combination of social policies “pushed by Democrats.
“The consequences of failure are untenable and the climate clock only moves one way,” Jenkins said.
Senator Tina Smith, D-Minn., Said she is confident Biden and his administration will make good use of their current regulator, as well as billions of dollars in new spending in bipartisan infrastructure law. But on their own, these tools are not enough to meet Biden’s climate goals, she said. Rules imposed by one administration can be overruled by the next, as both Biden and former President Donald Trump have repeatedly demonstrated.
Trump withdrew the United States from the global Paris climate agreement and rolled back dozens of regulations imposed by his Democratic predecessor, Obama. Biden, in turn, has decided to overthrow Trump on a range of actions, from re-adhering to the Paris Agreement to canceling the Keystone XL pipeline and suspending new oil and gas leases. on federal lands and waters.
Biden has raised the issue of climate change throughout the U.S. government, signing an executive order to make the government carbon neutral by 2050 and converting to a fleet of fully electric cars and trucks by 2035.
Even so, Biden’s efforts cannot go this far without help from Congress.
“Regulatory authority is not a substitute for the action of Congress,” Smith said. “This is why it is so important that we pass the strongest bill possible, and that is what we are focused on. “
Enacting Clean Energy Investments as Part of the Build Back Better Act would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by a cumulative total of 5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by now 2030, Jenkins said, an amount that would “put the United States within reach” of Biden’s pledge to cut emissions to half of 2005 levels by 2030.
Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee and whose state economy relies heavily on energy production, suggested he could support many of the bill’s climate provisions, including some appropriations to ‘tax. He also wants to include money to promote nuclear energy and capture emissions from industrial facilities that emit greenhouse gases.
“I think the climate issue is one that we can probably come to an agreement on a lot easier than anything else,” Manchin told reporters on Tuesday.
Democrats would need all of their Senate votes at 50-50 to advance the measure against the unanimous Republican opposition.
AP science writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this story.