WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is facing a tough road to achieve his ambitious goal of halving planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, amid a legislative deadlock that halted a $2 trillion package of social and environmental initiatives. Have given.
Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which includes $550 billion in spending and tax credits aimed at promoting clean energy, was scuttled by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who said just before Christmas that he would I cannot support the law.
Democrats insist they are moving forward on a comprehensive package, which would also boost family services, health care and other programs. Manchin had indicated in recent days that the climate-related provision was unlikely to be a deal-breaker, but the bill has backfired on voting rights legislation and other Democratic priorities.
Even without the law, Biden can advance his climate agenda through rules and regulations. But they can be undone by subsequent presidents, as demonstrated by Biden reversing the rules of the Trump administration that rolled back protections under Barack Obama.
Experts cite Biden’s executive authority to regulate tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks, as well as restrict emissions from power plants and other industrial sources, and to approve renewable energy projects on federal land and water. The enormous power of the federal government.
Indeed, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new tailpipe rules for cars and trucks the day after the Manchin bombing was announced on December 19. The next day, the Interior Department announced the approval of two large-scale solar projects in California and proceeded to open up public land. to solar development as part of the administration’s efforts to combat climate change by shifting from fossil fuels to other western states.
The administration has access to tens of billions of dollars under a bipartisan infrastructure law approved in November, including $7.5 billion to build a national network of electric vehicle chargers; $5 billion to distribute thousands of electric school buses nationwide; and to reduce $65 billion in costs to upgrade the electricity grid and to facilitate the expansion of renewable energy such as wind and solar power.
“I think the US has a lot of tools and a lot of options to leverage on climate over the next decade,” said John Larsen, an energy systems expert and partner at Rhodium Group, an independent research firm.
“Build Back Better is helpful” to meet Biden’s goals, “but if you don’t have Build Back Better, that doesn’t mean nothing happens,” Larsen said. “It just makes the task a little more challenging.”
Larson is a co-author of the Rhodium Group’s previous study, which found that the passage of the Build Back Better package, as well as bipartisan infrastructure laws and regulations by major federal agencies and states, reduced US greenhouse gas emissions by 45% to 51%. can cut. below 2005 levels in 2030.
The Biden bill provides incentives for electric car purchases, the development of technology to capture and store carbon emissions, and the construction of wind and solar farms, among other provisions.
Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann said global leaders made progress at November’s climate summit in Scotland, “but much more needs to be done”. “And for America to be able to do its part, we need the climate provisions of Build Back Better to pass Congress as soon as possible.”
Jesse Jenkins, an energy systems engineer at Princeton University who has led the effort to model the impact of the Build Back Better Bill on US emissions, said that between where US emissions are today and “where we need to hit”. There is “a yawning gap”. President Biden’s climate goals. ,
“Such a gap is unlikely to be bridged by executive action or state policy alone,” Jenkins said in an email. Biden’s 2030 climate commitment.
The carbon dioxide equivalent is a standard measurement for the range of so-called greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, that result from the burning of coal and petroleum and other industrial uses and agriculture, and trap heat in the atmosphere.
Still, Jenkins remains optimistic about US 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 passes some combination of climate provisions and social policies” by Democrats. being pushed.
“The consequences of failure are unstable, and the climate clock only moves in one direction,” Jenkins said.
Sen. Tina Smith, D-Min., said she is confident Biden and her administration will make good use of their current regulatory authority, as well as billions of dollars in new spending in bipartisan infrastructure legislation. But in themselves, those tools are not enough to meet Biden’s climate goals, she said. Rules imposed by one administration can be undone by the next, as both Biden and former President Donald Trump have repeatedly demonstrated.
Trump withdrew the US from the global Paris climate accord and rolled back dozens of rules imposed by his Democratic predecessor, Obama. Biden, in turn, has gone on to overturn Trump on a range of actions, from reneging on the Paris Agreement to canceling the Keystone XL oil pipeline and pausing new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters.
Biden has raised the issue of climate change in the US government, signing an executive order calling for the government to be carbon-neutral by 2050 and converting to an all-electric fleet of cars and trucks by 2035.
Still, Biden’s efforts can only proceed without Congress’s aid.
“The regulatory authority is no substitute for Congressional action,” Smith said. “That’s why it’s so important that we pass the strongest bill, and that’s what we’re focused on doing.”
Implementing the clean-energy investment in the Build Back Better Act would cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of a cumulative 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2030, Jenkins said, an amount that complements Biden’s commitment to cuts “making America easier.” within reach”. By 2030, emissions will drop to half the 2005 level.
Manchin, who is the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee and whose state’s economy relies heavily on energy production, suggested he could support a number of climate provisions in the bill, including some tax credits. He also wants to include funding to promote nuclear power and capture emissions from industrial facilities that take out greenhouse gases.
“I think the point of the climate is that we can probably come to a much easier agreement than anything else,” Munchkin told reporters on Tuesday.
Democrats would need all of their 50-50 Senate votes to advance the measure over Republican opposition by consensus.
AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this story.