WASHINGTON — Senator Joe Manchin III’s announcement that he cannot support his party’s $2.2 trillion Build Back Better bill has significantly reduced the prospects for climate action, which scientists say will help the United States to become a global leader. Steps must be taken to prevent the most devastating effects of warming.
Mr Manchin, who first expressed his opposition in an interview on Fox News Sunday, issued a follow-up statement that aimed at climate and clean-energy provisions in the bill, saying they would “remove our electric grid.” risk the credibility of and increase our dependence on foreign supply chains.”
In the form of the swing Democratic vote in an evenly divided Senate where all Republicans are opposing the law, Manchin is in the unique position of deciding whether the bill can pass.
The news of their protests has alarmed environmentalists. “I don’t think we can tackle the climate crisis on the scale needed without passing this legislation,” said Leah Stokes, a professor of environmental policy at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who is advising Senate Democrats.
While the administration can use executive action and regulations without legislation, experts say it will be nearly impossible to achieve President Biden’s goal of aggressively cutting pollution generated by the United States, the country that has historically been the most Has pumped out more planet-warming gases. Atmosphere. Environmentalists said this would be a serious bet for the planet.
Senator Jeff Merkle, a Democrat from Oregon, said on Twitter that failing to pass the law “would be a climate disaster.”
Mr Biden and other world leaders have pledged to curb greenhouse gas emissions enough to limit the planet’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to pre-Industrial Revolution temperatures. That is the threshold beyond which scientists warn that the planet will tip into an irreversible future of persistent deadly heat waves, droughts, wildfires and storms, rising sea levels, food shortages and mass migration. The planet has already warmed by about 1.1 degrees Celsius.
Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geology and international affairs at Princeton University, said that although the social programs in the Build Back Better bill are important, the climate crisis is an existential threat that calls for immediate action. “We cannot change the basic physics of the problem,” he said. “So there’s a special urgency to it — we can’t miss it.”
The bill rejected by Mr Manchin would have cost the country the largest expenditure in the country’s history to address the hotter planet. Of the $2.2 trillion bill, about $555 billion will be aimed at moving the US economy away from its 150-year-old reliance on fossil fuels and toward cleaner energy sources.
Instead of penalties to penalize polluters, the bill relies largely on incentives for industries, utilities and consumers to convert from burning oil, gas and coal for energy and transportation to wind, solar and other forms of electricity. Shift to harnesses that do not emit carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gases in the highest amounts that are warming the world.
According to the Rhodium Group, a non-partisan analysis firm, the Build Back Better bill would almost halve Mr Biden’s goal of the United States slashing its emissions to nearly half of 2005 levels by the end of this decade.
It would provide about $320 billion in tax incentives for producers and buyers of wind, solar and nuclear power. Buyers of electric vehicles will get up to $12,500 in tax credits. This included $6 billion to make buildings more energy efficient and about $6 billion to replace gas-fired furnaces and appliances with electric versions. And it provided billions of dollars for research and development of new technologies to capture carbon dioxide from the air.
The version of the bill that passed the House would expand existing tax credits to cover up to 30 percent of the cost for homeowners to install solar panels, geothermal pumps and small wind turbines to reduce costs.
For months, Mr Manchin, who personally profited from investing in a family coal brokerage he founded, opposed various provisions of the bill, which advocates say would reduce the burning of coal, oil and gas. are important to do.
Mr Manchin rejected the part of the bill that would have been the single most effective tool for cutting greenhouse gases, a clean electricity program that would reward power plants that switch from burning fossil fuels to solar, wind and other clean sources. and punished those who did not. He objected to a provision that would impose tariffs on emissions of methane, a potent planet-warming pollutant that leaks from oil and gas wells. And he opposed a provision that would give a tax credit to consumers who bought electric vehicles produced by Union Labor.
He also rejected a provision that would have banned future oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well as the Gulf of Mexico.
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Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, who leads the Senate finance committee and who wrote most of the clean energy tax stimulus package, said it was supported by major electric utilities. “This is our last chance to prevent the most devastating effects of the climate crisis, and failure is not an option,” Wyden said on Sunday.
Climate activists, particularly from youth-led groups who campaigned for Biden during his run for president, said on Sunday they were furious and blamed the president and the Democratic leadership as much as That Mr Manchin.
“Biden and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have failed us,” said Paul Campion, 24, who joined a hunger strike outside the White House in November to push for the spending package to be passed.
“He enabled Senator Manchin to set the terms of the bill and eventually derail it,” Mr Campion said. He added that failing to implement the climate law “will have huge consequences for Democrats next year when they have nothing to show for their trifecta government.”
Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement, a climate advocacy group, blamed Biden for not working hard for the climate provisions he campaigned on. “It’s disappointing to see the way he didn’t go out and champion and fight for his agenda,” Ms Prakash said.
With the prospect that Democrats could lose control of the House in the midterm elections next year, the prospects for climate action are rapidly disappearing, she said. “From here, the political map just looks more competitive and less promising,” she said. “This is our moment and they are blowing it.”
It may be possible to salvage key elements of the climate package, said Christy Goldfuss, senior vice president for energy and environmental policy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. While the $2.2 trillion version that passed the House is unlikely to go ahead, she said aspects or other versions of the bill may still pass.
“Build Back Better isn’t dead. We’ve been on the Munchkin roller coaster for a long time, and we see him publicly share his feelings,” she said. “What is incredibly important now is that Biden and Manchin begin to discuss what is acceptable.”
Others were less sure there was extra room for compromise. “The climate provision is historic and necessary and necessary and already a compromise,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president for government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters. “There’s really nothing more to offer.”