A key climate policy designed to phase out fossil fuels will likely be removed from Democrats’ next reconciliation plan due to opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who reportedly refused to back the measure as negotiations over the budget bill continue.

According to Coral Davenport of the New York Times, who first broke the news on Friday, Manchin, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, will not support the massive clean electricity program that is widely seen as the centerpiece of the country’s climate plan. law Project.

The $ 150 billion program – officially known as the Clean Electricity Performance Program or CEPP – would reward energy providers who switch from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas to sustainable energy sources like power. solar, wind and nuclear, which are Already used by about 40 percent of the industry, and fines for those who don’t.

Experts believe the program is the most effective way to reduce US carbon emissions enough to keep the global temperature from rising from here 1.5 degrees Celsius, a threshold that would have drastic consequences for the planet if it were exceeded.

A clean electricity standard, said Leah Stokes, a climate policy expert at the University of California at Santa Barbara. the New York Times Friday, “is absolutely the most important climate policy in the package. We fundamentally need it to achieve our climate goals. It’s just the reality. And now we can’t. So it’s pretty sad.

Manchin’s rejection of the energy plan is the latest challenge to the beleaguered reconciliation package – also known as the Build Back Better Act – which is now likely to be scaled back in response to demands from moderate Democrats like Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of the Arizona, who said they to oppose the $ 3.5 trillion in spending in the bill’s original plan.

The home state of Manchin, West Virginia, is one of the biggest coal producers in the United States, and Manchin himself financially benefit from the coal industry.

Manchin spokesperson Sam Runyon told the New York Times that Manchin opposed CEPP because he could not support “the use of taxpayers’ money to pay private companies to do things they already do.”

In light of Manchin’s opposition to the clean electricity program, the White House would work to rewrite the bill and find alternative means to fight against greenhouse gas emissions.

But in trying to appease Manchin, the White House could alienate other Senate Democrats like Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), who was the chief architect of the clean electricity program.

“I am open to different approaches, but I cannot support a bill that will not get us where we need to be on emissions”, Smith tweeted Friday. “There are 50 Democratic senators. Each of us is necessary for this to be adopted.

Clean electricity program key to tackling climate change

As Vox’s Rebecca Leber wrote in August, the clean electricity standard “is a bit of a misnomer because the policy being discussed is even more boring: a clean electricity payment program that pays utilities for clean up their act and fines them for missing deadlines. “

As annoying as it sounds, experts say it’s critically important for two reasons.

First, the proposed program provides a financial framework within which energy companies can work. Manchin is right to say that some companies are in fact in the process of switching to sustainable electricity production; currently, almost 40 percent electricity produced in the United States comes from a clean source of nuclear or renewable energy. But companies are ultimately concerned about their bottom line, and the carrot-and-stick approach of the proposed clean electricity program incorporates this reality by pushing companies to make the drastic changes needed to tackle climate change – and by bringing them to the table. penalizing if they don’t.

The other reason why a clean electricity program could prove essential in tackling climate change is that it creates a national standard, as opposed to the patchwork of municipal and state laws and individual efforts currently in place. Among other impacts, the program would help bring areas lagging behind in development to meet the ambitious objectives set by the Biden administration, which predicts that 80% of the country’s electricity will come from renewable sources by 2030 and 100% by 2035.

Ultimately, like Stokes and Sam Ricketts, co-founder of Evergreen action, wrote for Vox in February, a clean electricity program provides a framework for other industries to use sustainable energy as well.

Clean electricity is the backbone of the energy transition – the essential element into which all other sectors will fit. Not only will getting 100 percent clean electricity cut directly more than a quarter carbon pollution from the United States, it will also allow much of our transportation, construction and industry sectors to run on clean energy. Fueling these sectors as much as possible with carbon-free electricity would allow us to reduce US emissions by 70-80%. In short, it would solve much of our climate challenge.

As Stokes and Ricketts argue, a clean electricity standard would not only be effective in avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, but it could work in the very limited time scientists have sketched to limit the rise in global temperature.

It’s also popular: according to a survey by Data for Progress and Vox conducted in early October, 63 percent of voters support the clean electricity program – the same percentage that supports the reconciliation bill as a whole.

Despite broad popular support for the program, however, Manchin had a great influence on his destiny: not only did he hold special influence as the leader of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, but in an equally divided Senate, his vote is crucial for the adoption of any eventual reconciliation plan.

No other legislation matches the impact of the clean electricity program

The clean electricity program is not the only climate legislation on the table, but it is by far the largest and most important, with the potential to get the United States to align its Objective of the Paris Agreement: carbon pollution at 50 percent of 2005 levels by 2030.

The bipartisan $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill, which has already been passed by the Senate, includes provisions such as funding for charging stations for electric vehicles and for public transit and school buses operating at electricity, as well as $ 21 billion for environmental remediation – such as repairing the 3.2 million abandoned oil and gas wells methane leaks across the country.

And even if Manchin succeeds in blocking a clean electricity program, the reconciliation bill will likely still include measures to tackle climate change, including billions in clean energy tax credits and investments in public transport and electric vehicles.

But like David Roberts, former Vox writer and current author of the Volts newsletter, explained on Twitter Friday, CEPP is by far the most important climate legislation in force today, and alternatives are unlikely to result in the kind of change needed for the United States to respect renewables and carbon pollution targets described by Biden’s White House.

The fact that reconciliation could also be one of Democrats’ last chances to pass a clean electricity program or any major climate legislation raises the stakes for Manchin’s objection to CEPP. As Vox’s Leber pointed out earlier this month, the party is at serious risk of losing unified control of government midway through 2022, and if that happens, the window of opportunity for climate action could emerge. close before the Democrats regain a majority in both chambers.

Manchin’s pressure to cut CEPP also comes as the critical moment falls on Democrats in Congress: President Nancy Pelosi set a deadline of October 31 Pass both the Reconciliation Bill and the Infrastructure Bill, which will be crucial as short-term funding for the road infrastructure system runs out on that day.

October 31 is also the day when the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021 starts in Glasgow, Scotland, and without a meaningful policy in place to tackle climate change – like, say, a clean electricity standard – it could be difficult for the United States to rally other nations to the conference to make similar policy changes.

As Rachel Cleetus, director of clean energy policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Leber in October, if Congress can take climate change seriously, other countries should follow suit. But a lack of progress would slow the forward momentum all around.

“There is this feeling of exhaustion about how long it will take for one of the biggest emitters in the world to do its fair share,” said Cleetus.


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