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Climate pragmatism or Faustian bargain? — Beyond Nuclear International

A (rotten) compromise

The Inflation Reduction Act, with its hodgepodge of climate measures, is what remains of progressive Democrats’ multi-trillion dollar Green New Deal agenda of 2019 and the $2 billion Build-Back-Better framework legislation that President Biden pushed last fall……..……………………………

the enacted climate action bill is technology agnostic, and includes, for example, tax support for nuclear plant lifetime extensions. Rhodium Group estimates that without the bill’s funding commitments, about one-third of U.S. nuclear plants would have to shut down by 2030 due to cost. Hundreds of millions of dollars also support nuclear fusion research………….

New US laws will prop up old nukes

Climate pragmatism or Faustian bargain? — Beyond Nuclear International What the new US climate law does—and where it fails
By Liane Schalatek, Heinrich Böll Stiftung 2 Oct 22,
Analysis: U.S. climate policy is currently putting observers through a roller coaster of emotions: just a few weeks ago, the Supreme Court limited the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue far-reaching climate regulations. Now, after decades of unsuccessful legislative attempts, the U.S. Congress has passed the most comprehensive American climate legislation ever by a razor-thin majority.

The $369 billion package is now law with President Biden’s recent signature. The legislation is intended to lead to drastic emissions reductions over the next decade and transform the U.S. energy sector and the U.S. economy. What some see as an expression of goal-oriented climate pragmatism, in which the perfect must not become the enemy of the good, others see as a Faustian bargain that tightens rather than loosens the fossil fuel industry’s stranglehold on the U.S. economy. So what exactly is in the package?

The sweeping climate package, embedded alongside health care and tax reforms in the surprise passage of the more than 700-page Inflation Reduction Act, represents the largest U.S. funding boost to date to reduce greenhouse gases and promote climate-friendly “green” technologies. It is roughly four times what was authorized for climate action under President Biden’s Democratic predecessor Obama in 2009 in what was then the American Recovery and Reinvestment ActThis spending is in addition to the more than $200 billion in clean energy and climate action investments that a majority Democratic Congress already approved last year in a massive infrastructure funding bill.

Passage of the bill is a much-needed win for the Biden administration, whose approval ratings are extremely low given the impact of inflation on American households. It comes just months before the November midterm elections, in which Republicans are expected to win.

Carrots instead of sticks: financial incentives instead of bans

The law includes neither a carbon price nor a CO2 cap under a federal emissions trading system. It also fails to radically address the main cause of climate change, namely the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. Thus, the measure clearly relies on carrots rather than sticks, in part because previous attempts to push a climate bill through Congress that relies on carbon taxation have repeatedly failed over the past several decades. Then-Vice President Al Gore’s push in 1993 failed to gain traction, as did the Markey-Waxman emissions trading plan of 2010.

So instead of punitive measures and restrictions, the package prioritizes financial support as an incentive and emphasizes how much the investments will support the American economy, create jobs and benefit consumers. This also secured the almost euphoric support of the U.S. business sector for the proposed legislation, with letters of support from more than 1,000 companies, investors and trade groups, including major oil companies, as well as labor unions. The Biden administration has purposefully pursued this approach, which justifies climate protection with green jobs and economic growth, since the beginning of his term in office as part of his reconstruction strategy to Build Back Better after the pandemic-related economic crisis.

Accordingly, the White House stressed that the Inflation Reduction Act “secures America’s position as a world leader in domestic manufacturing and clean energy supply chains,” creates and sustains “good-paying union jobs in construction and manufacturing, including in rural communities,” and lowers annual energy costs for Americans by an average of up to $1840, according to expert estimates.

Expansion of the US markets for renewable energies and e-mobility…………………………………

A (rotten) compromise

The Inflation Reduction Act, with its hodgepodge of climate measures, is what remains of progressive Democrats’ multi-trillion dollar Green New Deal agenda of 2019 and the $2 billion Build-Back-Better framework legislation that President Biden pushed last fall…………………………………..

The majority of Democrats and climate experts celebrates the package as a historic success of pragmatic climate policy, in which good legislation was not sacrificed in the name of hoping for an even better ideal—especially in the face of the expected Republican win in the midterm elections, which could block U.S. climate legislation for the rest of the decade so critical for accelerated climate action. …………………………..

Safeguarding the fossil fuel industry

The many-voiced chorus of those hailing the legislative coup drowns out the critical voices from the progressive U.S. climate movement, who castigate what they see as a rather rotten compromise and a Faustian bargain.

That’s because in order to win Manchin’s approval, numerous pledges were made that solidify the fossil fuel industry’s stranglehold on the U.S. economy instead of reducing its influence. Chief among these is the provision requiring the U.S. Department of the Interior to agree to millions of acres of new oil and gas development concessions over the next decade as a precondition to leases for offshore wind and solar and wind farms on federally owned land, including in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook Inlet. Each year, for example, an area of ocean the size of the U.S. state of Wyoming, about 60 million acres, could be opened to offshore drilling. While such extraction concessions need not necessarily lead to expanded fossil fuel production, their forced linkage to permits for new renewable energy projects could slow such clean investments…………………………………………..

the enacted climate action bill is technology agnostic, and includes, for example, tax support for nuclear plant lifetime extensions. Rhodium Group estimates that without the bill’s funding commitments, about one-third of U.S. nuclear plants would have to shut down by 2030 due to cost. Hundreds of millions of dollars also support nuclear fusion research……………………………………………………..

even in the best-case scenario, emissions reductions are still well below what would be needed to meet the climate pledge President Biden has made to the global community, which calls for the U.S. to reduce emissions by 50 to 52 percent from 2005 levels by 2030………………………………..

Climate justice deficits

Many U.S. climate activists view the passage of the legislative package with mixed feelings , if not outright anger and disappointment, including in light of critical equity deficiencies in its design and foreseeable implementation. After all, it was their political pressure on Democrats, their mobilization of votes, and their implementation proposals over recent years, which made the Inflation Reduction Act even possible. 

………………………………………………………………………. Many progressive climate groups in the U.S. see the passage of the climate package, despite or more precisely because of all its flaws, as an incentive to ramp up their climate activism in the run-up to the midterm elections and to keep up the pressure on Democrats to implement more progressive legislative goals if more progressive climate activists can be elected to Congress. They have not yet given up hope that President Biden might yet declare a national climate emergency, as they have requested, which would allow him, via presidential decrees, to, for example, halt U.S. crude oil exports, limit private investment in fossil fuel projects abroad, or spend defense budget money on renewable energy. And they are also counting on young climate activists in particular to become more involved at the local level in the coming years in order to politically implement their vision of far more comprehensive climate-just social and environmental protection rules in cities and municipalities in all U.S. states.

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October 2, 2022 - Posted by | climate change, politics, USA

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