Big climate bill; Spending green bucks to boost green energy

By Seth Borenstein, Matthew Daly and Michael Phillis

11 August 2022 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) — After decades of inaction in the face of increasing natural disasters and continued global warming, Congress hopes to make clean energy so cheap in all aspects of life that it’s almost irresistible. The House is poised to pass a transformative bill on Friday that would provide the largest spending by any nation to fight climate change in one fell swoop.

Friday’s expected action comes 34 years after a top scientist made headlines by warning Congress about the dangers of global warming. In the decades since, there have been 308 climate disasters that cost every country dearly At least $1 billionThe record for the hottest year has been broken 10 times and forest fires have started Burned an area larger than Texas.

A key point of the long-delayed bill, which has been pushed single-handedly by Democrats in a closely divided Congress, is to use incentives to encourage investors to accelerate the expansion of clean energy such as wind and solar power, moving away from oil, coal and transit. A gas that causes massive climate change.

The United States puts the most heat-trapping gases into the air, burning dirtier fuels cheaper than any other country. But the nearly $375 billion in climate incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act are designed to significantly reduce the already declining costs of renewable energy in homes, on highways and in factories. Together these could help cut US carbon emissions by about two-fifths by 2030, and emissions from electricity should be cut by up to 80%.

Experts say that’s not enough, but it’s a big start.

“This law is a real game changer. It will create jobs, lower costs, increase US competitiveness, reduce air pollution,” said former Vice President Al Gore, who held the first hearings on global warming 40 years ago. “The momentum this legislation will bring cannot be underestimated.”

U.S. action could inspire other nations to do more — especially China and India, the two biggest carbon emitters along with the U.S., which could drive down renewable energy prices globally, experts said.

The specific legislative process in which this compromise was created limits it to actions related to the budget, the bill does not regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but mainly deals with spending, mostly tax credits as well as exemptions to industries, consumers and utilities.

Leah Stokes, a professor of environmental policy at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said investments work better to promote clean energy than regulations. The climate bill is likely to spur billions in private investment, she said: “That’s what’s going to be so transformative.”

The bill promotes key technologies such as battery storage. Clean energy generation gets a big boost. It will be cheaper for consumers to make climate-friendly purchasing decisions. There are tax credits to make electric cars more affordable, help for low-income people to make energy-efficiency improvements, and incentives for rooftop solar and heat pumps.

There are also incentives for nuclear power and projects that aim to capture and remove carbon from the atmosphere.

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(AP Video/Heaven Daily, Rick Bomer, Godfredo A. Vasquez)

The Bill has come forward to ensure that poor and minority communities who bear the brunt of pollution get the benefit of climate spending. Farmers will receive support to switch to climate-friendly practices and energy research and promotion of electric heavy-duty trucks to replace diesel.

The Superfund program, used to clean up the nation’s most polluted industrial sites, would receive more revenue from a bigger tax on oil.

The Rhodium Group research firm estimates that the bill would dramatically alter the arc of future US greenhouse gas emissions, reducing them by 31% to 44% in 2030, from 24% to 35% in 2005 without the bill. , said Rhodium partner John Larson. Clean power on the grid, an upcoming Rhodium report says, will increase from 40% now to 60% and 81% by 2030, he said.

“It’s not as big as I would like, but it’s bigger than anything we’ve ever done,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, the Hawaii Democrat who leads the Senate climate caucus. “A 40% Emissions Cut Is Never Closer Than the U.S. Has Ever Come Before.”

As decisive as this shift is for US policy and emissions, it still falls short of the official US goal of roughly halving carbon pollution by 2030 to achieve net-zero carbon emissions across the economy by 2050.

Not everyone is impressed.

“This legislation is huge for the US but globally it’s long overdue,” said Niklas Höhne, co-founder of the New Climate Institute in Germany. “America has a long way to go on climate change, and it’s starting with extremely high levels of emissions.”

According to Brian O’Callaghan, lead researcher of the Oxford Economic Recovery Project at the University of Oxford, when US historical carbon emissions are factored in, US spending still lags behind Italy, France, South Korea, Japan and Canada. He noted that the bill does nothing to fulfill America’s promise of billions of dollars in climate aid to poor nations.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly said America is back in the fight against climate change, but other leaders are skeptical with no legislation to back up their claims.

And it can be frustrating. Americans hoping to buy an electric car may find many models ineligible for the rebate Until more components are built in the U.S., local fights over installing new renewable energy plants could also hamper the pace of the buildout, some experts said. The environmental justice community is concerned They will be asked to adopt new carbon capture projects.

Republicans, who unanimously opposed the bill in the Senate, say it will increase energy costs for consumers, with House GOP Whip Steve Scalise claiming it “wastes billions of dollars in Green New Deal slush funds.”

Rhodium’s Larson, who crunched the numbers on the bill, said it would result in consumers paying $112 less a year in energy costs.

“For as long as I’ve been in the game, climate change has always been more costly for consumers. That’s not how this bill works,” Larson said in an interview.

Democrats lacked a single vote in the evenly divided Senate, and Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from coal-producing West Virginia, had long hoped for an ambitious deal. But two weeks ago, facing public embarrassment from environmental groups and sharp criticism even from his own colleagues, he stunned Washington by announcing his support for the bill. One that lowers drug costs, targets inflation and boosts renewable energy. Since the deal was announced on July 27, Manchin has been an enthusiastic cheerleader for his path. Sen. Kristen Sinema, D-Arizona, cast the crucial 50th vote, allowing Vice President Kamala Harris to break a Senate tie.

It has an effect 755 page bill It costs money without directly buying fossil fuels, a frustration for many on the left. Gore said the fossil fuel industry has waged “a highly immoral campaign to deceive people around the world” for decades, casting doubt on the science of climate change.

The industry will face higher royalties and new fees for some of the extra methane it emits, a potent greenhouse gas — a rare stick among carrots. But the fossil fuel industry will remain a powerful force, and opportunities to expand on federal land and offshore are guaranteed before renewables are in place.

Still, “the indisputable result will be a real expansion of wind and solar,” said Harrison Fell, a professor who focuses on energy policy at North Carolina State University.

On a steamy summer day in 1988, NASA climate scientist Jim Hanson first brought the decades-old concept of global warming to public attention when he told Congress that carbon dioxide was warming the Earth. That year was the hottest on record. Now, many warm years have passed The hottest is ranked 28th And Hanson has said he doesn’t want his warnings to come true About climate change.

“It’s a shame that it took so long for our political system to react,” said Bill McKibben, a longtime climate activist who says the fossil fuel industry gets a lot of power. “But it will help catalyze action elsewhere in the world; It’s a declaration that hydrocarbons are finally on the decline and clean energy is on the rise, and the climate movement is finally a match for Big Oil.”


Michael Phillis reports from St. Louis.


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On Twitter, follow Seth Borenstein here @borenbearsAt Matthew Daly @MatthewDalyWDC and at Michael Phillis @mjphillis.


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