How inflation flipped Biden’s climate program

WASHINGTON – A day after what’s left of his climate change legislation seemed to collapse and burn in the SenatePresident Biden flew to Saudi Arabiapoised to put pressure on the region’s oil giants to pump even more crude oil into world markets.

mr. Biden came to power promising to wean the United States off fossil fuels like oil and coal in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions that could cause catastrophic global warming.

He has surrounded himself with experienced and aggressive advisers on international and domestic climate policy, setting himself ambitious goals to accelerate an energy transition that will touch every corner of the American economy. He proved to be a master negotiator who spent almost four decades in the Senate and could form coalitions on important legislation.

One 24-hour stretch at the end of this week showed how thoroughly Mr. Biden has been disappointed by these efforts. His climate goals have been stymied by Democratic infighting and shifting economic priorities brought on by soaring inflation, including the hike in gas prices sparked by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

After more than a year of torturous negotiations, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia has given party leaders yet another reason why he cannot support $300 billion in tax credits for clean energy like solar and wind power. On Thursday, he said he would like to wait for more encouraging inflation data, although administration officials said the clean energy provisions would be part of a broader bill designed to cut health care and electricity costs, cut the deficit and strengthen the economy.

The law was the president’s last remaining hope for aggressive climate action ahead of November’s midterm elections, jeopardizing the package’s prospects.

mr. Manchin was in talks with New York Senator Chuck Schumer, Majority Leader, about a stripped-down version of Mr. Biden unsuccessfully tried to sell to Mr. Manchin last fall. Feeling the nature of the talks back and forth, on Friday, Mr. Manchin told West Virginia radio host Hoppy Kercheval that he was still in the talks and was pushing the idea that he could support the energy bill in September, but not before.

But Mr. Manchin also said he was wary of raising taxes on businesses and high earners to offset energy and climate credits as inflation rises at its fastest rate in 40 years. He said he said Mr. Schumer wanted to wait for the next set of economic indicators in August before proceeding.

“Inflation absolutely kills so many people,” he said. Manchin stated this in a radio program. “They cannot buy gasoline, it is difficult for them to buy groceries, everything they buy and consume in everyday life is hard for them. And can’t we wait to make sure we don’t do anything to add to that? And I can’t make that decision – basically on taxes of any kind, but also on energy and climate, because taxes are needed to pay for the clean technology investments that I advocate. But I’m not going to do something and go too far, which causes more problems.

And yet, Mr. Manchin objected to parts of the climate plan for more than a year, long before the war in Ukraine and before inflation took root. Experts who have been working on the climate package for months have said they have no illusions that there is more to be negotiated with Mr. Trump. Manchin.

“It’s oil and gaslighting, as we started to call it,” said Christie Goldfuss, senior vice president for energy and environmental policy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. mr. Manchin, she says, “just doesn’t want to admit that he was going to block it all this time. It also reduces his power and influence once that conversation is over.”

mr. Manchin’s vote was key, in large part because no Republican is willing to vote for a Democratic climate bill. While several Republicans have moved away from outright climate denial in recent years, none of them said they would vote for clean energy tax credits if they were in a separate bill, as a New York Times poll showed earlier in this article. year.

The news comes at a particularly awkward time for Mr. Biden. On Friday, the president flew from Israel to Saudi Arabia, hoping that the Saudis and their oil-rich neighbors would ramp up production and help lower the gasoline prices that have crippled the US president. Biden’s approval rating this year. On the way to Jeddah, Karine Jean-Pierre, a White House press secretary, refused to speak to Mr. Trump. Manchin’s remarks or say whether The senator gave Mr. Biden a warning before concluding negotiations.

“We’re just not going to have public talks,” she said, adding that Mr. Biden “has always been very clear that he’s going to use every tool in his toolbox, every authority he has to make sure we deal with climate change.” She gave no details about how the administration plans to do so without legislation.

Leaders of some of the country’s largest environmental organizations were scheduled to meet Friday afternoon with two of Biden’s top aides Steve Ricchetti and Bruce Reed at the White House.

The death of the law is just the latest, but perhaps the biggest blow to Mr. Trump. Biden’s climate agenda, as well as his tools to combat global warming, have been discarded one by one.

“The leadership of the party has not been able to solve this problem,” said Varshini Prakash, executive director of Sunrise Movement, an environmental group representing many young climate change activists.

“I want to make sure Biden and his administration hear this loud and clear,” she said. Prakash said. “Within the two and a half years that they remain in office, they must create a response in all public institutions at all levels to do everything in their power to overcome the climate crisis, otherwise they risk becoming a huge failure and disappointment for the American people and youth in particular.”

RS. Goldfuss said she thought it was time for an “honest conversation” about how difficult it will be to date Mr Jones now. Biden’s climate goals without congressional action.

Economists generally agree that there are two main ways to reduce emissions and contain global temperature rise. One is to reduce the cost of low-carbon energy sources such as wind, solar or nuclear power, while improving energy efficiency. The second is to make fossil fuels more expensive to use, either by pricing carbon emissions or by raising the price of fuels.

mr. Biden appears to have squandered his best chance to push clean energy further, at least for now. It could take executive action to regulate emissions in some sectors of the economy, although its options on that front have been crippled by recent Supreme Court decision this limited the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency to limit emissions from power plants, the country’s second-largest source of environmental pollution.

Legal experts say the decision is likely to set a precedent that could also limit the federal government’s ability to more tightly regulate other sources of thermal emissions, including cars and trucks.

At the White House, Mr. Biden’s climate team is currently assembling a set of smaller, less powerful tools to combat global warming that experts say could still reduce the country’s carbon footprint, though not enough to reach the goals it should meet. Mr Trump. Biden made a promise to the rest of the world. He promised that the United States would cut greenhouse gas emissions by about half by the end of this decade.

In the coming months, the EPA is still planning to issue tougher rules to control methane, a potent greenhouse gas that leaks from oil and gas wells, and more modest rules to reduce emissions from utilities.

And while many economists have long pushed for governments to tax fossil fuels to cut emissions, Mr. Biden and his advisers have repeatedly said they want to lower, not raise, gas prices. The President is mindful of the impact of gasoline on household budgets and the political toll that high gasoline prices have inflicted on his presidency.

mr. Biden recognized the contradictions of this position last fall, when gasoline prices rose but were still $1.50 a gallon cheaper on average in the United States than they are today.

“At first glance,” he told reporters at a press conference after the G20 summit in Rome, “it seems ironic, but in fact – you all know, you all know – that the idea is we are going to move to renewable energy overnight. and not to have – from now on, not using oil or not using gas or not using hydrogen is simply not rational.”

When gas rises above $3.35 a gallon, he added, “it has a huge impact on working-class families as they just drive back and forth to work.”

The apparent collapse of climate legislation comes as Mr. Biden’s top environmental advisers are said to be heading for the exit. mr. Biden assembled what many have called a dream team of experts, including Gina McCarthy, who served as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama, to head the White House climate policy office.

RS. McCarthy said she intends to step down from her position this year, but hoped to do so on a high note after the climate bill was passed, aides say.

mr. Biden’s chief international envoy, John Kerry, who served as Secretary of State in the Obama administration, is expected to leave the country after the next round of United Nations climate talks, to be held in November in Egypt.

However, little could be shown from the United States, Mr. It will be difficult for Kerry to get other countries to cut climate pollution, experts say. This is critical to keeping the planet stable at about 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels. This is the threshold beyond which the likelihood of catastrophic droughts, floods, fires and heat waves increases significantly. The earth has already warmed by an average of about 1.1 degrees Celsius, or about 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Historically, the United States has been the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases and has played a pivotal role in the fight to mitigate global warming. President Donald J. Trump turned down the role, but when Mr. Biden was elected, he said that America is “back” and will lead countries in the fight against pollution, which dangerously warms the planet.

Now, the United States “will have a very hard time leading the world if we can’t even take the first steps here at home,” said Nat Keohane, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, an environmental group. “The honeymoon is over.”

Emily Cochrane made a report.