Why the defeat of the Manchin reform bill could be a loss for the climate

On Tuesday, when Senator Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.) announced that he was withdrawing his proposal to expand energy development across the country from a government operations bill that must pass, Many environmental groups celebrated. “This is a good day for the climate and the environment,” said Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

But the bill also included a provision to quickly expand transmission lines across the country. Without these lines, the United States is in danger of missing out on its climate goals altogether, limiting the impact of a massive climate bill passed by Congress last month.

The Manchin bill, known as the Energy Independence and Security Act, included provisions to accelerate the development of both clean energy and fossil fuels across the country. (The bill is also known in the parlance of Congress as “Allow repair. It would have expedited approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (a natural gas pipeline through West Virginia that has long been a priority for Mansion). It would also have set a two-year target for environmental reviews of energy projects and would expand the federal government’s authority to allow transmission lines nationwide.

This last point is most important for attempts to wean the country off fossil fuels. Renewable energy, such as wind and solar energy, does not produce energy all the time and everywhere. To convert the US grid to renewables, huge, high-powered transmission lines are needed to deliver electricity from the country’s sunny and windy areas to its urban centers.

According to an analysis by Princeton Energy Modelers, the Inflation Cuts Act, a landmark climate law passed in August, is expected to cut US emissions by 40 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. But that’s only If the US increases transmissions by 2.3 percent annually – a rate more than double historical averages. If transmission grows only 1 percent per year, designers estimate that 80 percent The benefits of the bill can be lost.

Opponents and proponents of the bill wrangling over one crucial question: Is it important to build clean energy quickly, or to stop the continued breeding of fossil fuels?

Many environmentalists have argued that the bill included too many endowments for the oil and gas industry and that provisions for accelerating clean energy would also speed up fossil fuel production. Activists Fight Mountain Valley Pipeline walked in the capital to oppose the legislation.

“We are in a full climate emergency,” said Abigail Dillen, president of the environmental organization Earthjustice. “This deal was based on the all-of-the-above approach that developed fossil fuels.” Dillen says provisions in the bill – such as a two-year target for environmental reviews – would harm communities that live near fossil fuel infrastructure. She says existing laws can help build faster transmission lines.

But others have argued that increasing oil and gas infrastructure is a small price to pay to accelerate the transition to clean energy. said Paul Bledsoe, a strategic advisor at the Institute for Progressive Policy and a former climate advisor to President Bill Clinton.

In the end, the bill failed because Manchin was unable to get 60 votes in the Senate; Republicans refused to join the ship and offered them (more suitable for fossil fuels) suggestion response. Some Democrats have also refused to support it, citing environmental concerns.

This leaves two options going forward: the bill can be attached to a Must pass the defense billor Manchin can wait until after the term expires – during what is often called a “lame duck” session – and try to attract more support afterward.

Regardless, most agree that some form of permitting is needed that accelerates clean energy and builds massive transmission lines to meet the country’s climate goals. “We need a fast and dynamic buildup of clean energy,” Bledsoe said. “And this is hampered by our rigid permit system.”

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