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Unexpected deal would boost Biden’s pledge on climate change

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WASHINGTON (AP) — An unexpected deal reached by Senate Democrats would be the most ambitious action the United States has ever taken to tackle global warming and could help President Joe Biden meet his pledge to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, experts said on Thursday, while they sifted through a massive bill that revives action on climate change weeks after the legislation seemed dead.

The deal announced late Wednesday would spend nearly $370 billion over 10 years to boost electric vehicles, jump-start renewable energies such as solar and wind, and develop alternative energy sources such as hydrogen. The deal stunned lawmakers and activists who had given up hope that legislation could pass after West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said he could not support the measure due to inflation concerns.

Clean energy tax credits and other provisions in the 725-page bill could “put the US on track to cut emissions by 31-44% below 2005 levels by 2030,” according to an analysis released late Thursday. by the Rhodium Group, an independent study. firm.

Additional measures from the Biden administration and Democrat-controlled states could “help close the rest of the gap with (Biden’s) target of 50-52% emissions reductions by 2030,” said Ben King, the group’s associate director.

But passing the bill is far from certain in a 50-50 Senate where the support of every Democrat will be needed to overcome unanimous Republican opposition. sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who forced changes to earlier versions of the plan, declined to make her position known on Thursday.

In the narrowly divided House, Democrats can lose no more than four votes and win in a possible party vote.

Still, Biden called the bill ‘historic’ and urged speedy passage.

“We will improve our energy security and tackle the climate crisis — by providing tax credits and investments for energy projects,” he said in a statement, adding that the bill “will create thousands of new jobs and help reduce energy costs in the future.

Environmental groups and Democrats also welcomed the legislation.

“This is an 11-hour reprieve for climate action and clean energy jobs, and America’s biggest legislative moment for climate and energy policy,” said Heather Zichal, CEO of America’s Clean Power, a clean energy group.

“Passing this bill will send a message to the world that America is a leader in climate change and a message to the home that we will create more great jobs for Americans in this industry,” added Zichal, a former energy consultant. of President Barack Obama.

Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of the League of Conservation Voters, summed up her response in one word: “Wow!”

sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., tweeted that she was “stunned, but in a good way”.

Manchin, who chairs the Senate energy panel, insisted he hadn’t changed his mind after telling Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer two weeks ago that he was unable to support the bill due to inflation concerns.

“There should be no surprises. I’ve never walked away from anything in my life,” he told reporters during a Zoom call from West Virginia, where he is recovering from COVID-19.

Manchin called the bill an opportunity “to really give us an energy policy with security we need for our nation,” while also reducing inflation and high gasoline prices.

The bill, which Manchin called the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022,” includes $300 billion for deficit reduction, as well as measures to lower prescription drug prices. and expand grants to help Americans who buy health insurance for themselves.

In addition to investments in renewable energies such as wind and solar, the bill includes incentives for consumers to purchase energy-efficient appliances such as heat pumps and water heaters, electric vehicles and rooftop solar panels. The bill creates a $4,000 tax credit for the purchase of used electric vehicles and up to $7,500 for new EVs.

The tax credit includes buyer income limits and sticker price limits for new EVs – $80,000 for pickups, SUVs and vans and $55,000 for smaller vehicles. A $25,000 limit would be set on used vehicles.

Even with the restrictions, the credits should boost already soaring electric vehicle sales, said Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst for Edmunds.com. Electric vehicles accounted for about 5% of new vehicle sales in the US in the first half of the year and are expected to rise to 37% by 2030.

The bill will also invest more than $60 billion in environmental justice priorities, including block grants to address disproportionate damage to the environment and public health related to pollution and climate change in poor and underserved communities.

Beverly Wright, executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, called the bill a step forward but said she was concerned about tax cuts for “polluting industries” such as coal, oil and gas. “We need bolder action to achieve environmental and climate justice for ourselves and future generations,” she said.

The bill would provide compensation for excess methane emissions from oil and gas producers, while providing up to $850 million in subsidies to industry to monitor and reduce methane.

The mix of tax incentives, subsidies and other investments in clean energy, transportation, energy storage, residential electrification, agriculture and manufacturing in the bill “makes this a real climate law,” said D-Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz. “The planet is on fire. This is huge progress. Let’s get it done.”

But not all environmental groups celebrated.

The deal includes promises from Schumer and other Democratic leaders to implement reforms that Manchin called “essential to unlocking domestic energy and transmission projects,” including a controversial natural gas pipeline planned in his home state and Virginia. More than 90% of the proposed Mountain Valley pipeline has been completed, but the project has been delayed by lawsuits and other issues.

The pipeline should be “at the top of the heap” for federal approval, Manchin said, and it’s a prime example of why allowing reforms is needed to accelerate approval of energy projects. Manchin, a longtime proponent of coal and other fossil fuels, said environmental assessments of such major projects should be completed within two years, rather than taking up to 10 years as in current practice.

“Other countries around the world – developed countries – are doing extremely well, and they are doing it in a very short time. We should be able to do the same,” he said.

While allowing reforms in separate legislation would be considered, the budget deal would require the Department of the Interior to provide at least 2 million acres of public land and 60 million acres of offshore waters in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska for oil each year. and gas lease. If the Home Office fails to offer minimum lease amounts, the Department should not approve any utility-scale renewable energy project on public lands or waters.

That demand “is a climate-suicide pact,” said Brett Hartl, director of government affairs at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group.

“It’s self-defeating to handcuff renewable energy development to massive new oil and gas extraction,” Hartl said, adding that the new fossil fuel leasing required under the bill “ignite the flames of the climate disasters that set our country ablaze.” sting” would fuel.

But an oil industry group dismissed the bill as punitive and inflationary.

“We are deeply concerned about the potential negative impact of this bill on energy prices and U.S. competitiveness, especially amid a global energy crisis and record high inflation,” said Anne Bradbury, CEO of the American Exploration and Production Council, which is responsible for the independent oil company. and natural gas companies.

____

AP reporters Tom Krisher in Detroit and Drew Costley in Washington contributed to this story.

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