Editorial: Climate call

The USD1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package unveiled by the Senate includes more than USD150 billion to boost clean energy and promote climate resilience by making schools, ports and other structures better able to withstand extreme weather events such as storms and wildfires.

But the bill, headed for a Senate vote this week, falls far short of President Joe Biden’s pledge to transform the nation’s heavily fossil-fuel powered economy into a clean-burning one and stop climate-damaging emissions from US power plants by 2035. Notably, the deal omits mention of a Clean Electricity Standard, a key element of Biden’s climate plan that would require the electric grid to replace fossil fuels with renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydropower.

Nor does it include a Civilian Climate Corps, a Biden favorite and a nod to the Great Depression-era New Deal that would put millions of Americans to work on conservation projects, renewable energy and helping communities recover from climate disasters.

The White House says the bipartisan deal is just the first step, with a proposed USD3.5 trillion, Democratic-only package following close behind. The larger bill, still being developed in Congress, will meet Biden’s promise to move the country toward carbon-free electricity, make America a global leader in electric vehicles and create millions of jobs in solar, wind and other clean-energy industries, supporters say. While the bipartisan plan is ‘a good start, lawmakers will deal with the climate crisis in the magnitude, scope and scale that’s required’ in the Democratic-only bill, said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

For now, the focus is on the bipartisan deal, which includes USD550 billion in new spending for public works projects, USD73 billion of that to update the electric grid and more than USD50 billion to bolster infrastructure against cyberattacks and climate change. There’s also USD7.5 billion for electric charging stations.

Citing the deadly Texas power outages earlier this year, the White House touted spending to upgrade the nation’s power grid and boost renewable energy. An Energy Department study found that power outages cost the US economy up to USD70 billion a year. The bill also invests in demonstration projects for advanced nuclear reactors, carbon capture and storage and so-called clean hydrogen that can be burned with few emissions. Still, the measure falls far short of meeting Biden’s promise to address the climate crisis, even as triple-digit temperatures across the West caused hundreds of deaths this summer and a busy Atlantic hurricane season causes extensive damage.

The bill offers glimmers of hope such as a multibillion-dollar commitment to clean up and remediate old oil wells and mines, Redman said, calling on Democrats to demonstrate the courage to be visionary and go bigger in the partisan bill expected later this year. The plan will help communities near contaminated industrial sites and rural areas where abandoned oil wells pose a continuing a hazard, the White House said.

 

NT Bureau