April 21, 2022: As a candidate, Joe Biden made climate change a pillar of his White House campaign, pledging to decarbonize the U.S. economy, end drilling on public lands, and lead the world in a historic shift away from fossil fuels fuels.
But more than a year after taking office, Biden was instead forced by rampant inflation and a war in Europe to prioritize energy security, causing his administration to release record amounts of crude oil from strategic reserves and urging drillers to pump harder to keep up with demand.
The shocking shift in Biden’s energy policy priorities reflects the difficulties a U.S. administration could face in attempting a sweeping, decades-long reform of the country’s vast energy economy to curb global warming while simultaneously addressing geopolitical issues. allies and keep consumer prices under control.
If that balance is not struck, it could have major political ramifications for Biden’s fellow Democrats in the November midterm elections: Conservatives will blame the party if pump prices remain high, while progressives will punish her if she falls back on her. climate promises.
“The reality is that there has to be a short-term cost to long-term gain and I’m not sure this government is willing to pay the price,” said Ed Hirs, an energy economist at the University of Houston, referring to the political and financial costs of the fight against climate change.
White House spokesman Jen Psaki this week asked if the president was still confident the US could meet its climate goals given the headwinds, predicting no success. “We will continue to pursue it and we will continue to do everything we can to achieve it,” said Psaki.
On the campaign trail, Biden had pledged to put the nation — the world’s largest oil consumer — on track to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050 and transform the electric grid to be carbon-free by 2035, lofty goals he hoped to set during the first two years of his administration, while his party had a wafer-thin majority in Congress.
Renewables accounted for only 12% of US oil, coal and natural gas dependent energy consumption in 2020, compared to more than 20% in the European Union.
Biden’s multibillion-dollar climate change legislation, which included many of the steps to achieve those goals, has stalled in Congress amid opposition from conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Republicans. Senate Democrats need the support of all 50 members plus Vice President Kamala Harris to pass the bill through a party-line vote known as Reconciliation.
“He can’t deliver on his climate commitments without the reconciliation package,” said Jamal Raad, executive director of Evergreen Action, an advocacy group that helped draft some of the legislation.
“The next few weeks really are his last chance to get through it and his legacy is at stake. We are in a make-or-break moment.”
The Build Back Better Bill would have poured $300 billion in tax credits for producers and buyers of low-carbon energy and would extend tax breaks for renewables and launch new ones for nuclear and accelerate the transition to electric vehicles. Manchin, of coal producer West Virginia, thinks it is too expensive, and Republicans have labeled it expensive and dangerous to the economy.
Behind the scenes, there are no signs the White House and Manchin are any closer to a deal on a massive spending bill. The two sides do not operate on a specific timeline and many of the key details remain unresolved, according to three sources familiar with the discussions.
TURNING TO FOSSIL FUELS
Biden also pledged during his campaign to halt federal drilling auctions to help fight climate change, but that effort was thwarted by a lawsuit from Republican-led states.
The administration said late Friday https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-resume-oil-gas-drilling-public-land-despite-biden-campaign-pledge-2022-04-15 for a holiday weekend it resumed the leasing of public lands, albeit on far fewer hectares than initially proposed, after the court ordered it to do so.
Meanwhile, the government is forced to face a potent mix of rising global consumer energy demand after the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has curbed global oil supplies.
The Biden administration has imposed sweeping criminal sanctions on Russia that have curtailed supplies to global markets from one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers, a factor that caused gasoline to hit record highs of more than $4.30 a gallon last month and helped inflation reach 40-year highs.
The White House has turned to the fossil fuel industry to keep pump prices in check. The government has tapped the country’s oil reserves to squeeze prices, begged domestic producers to drill more, and encouraged everyone from OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia to Brazil to increase production.
To be sure, the Biden administration has also taken several executive steps to address the climate crisis, including tightening federal regulations on vehicle emissions, hydrofluorocarbons and methane leaks, and announcing that the government would purchase electric vehicles for the federal fleet and federal buildings energy efficient. † It also rejoined the Paris climate agreement which pushes countries to make commitments to cut emissions that become more difficult over time.
But experts say Biden will struggle to meet his climate goals without taking the brunt of his climate legislation.
Amy Myers Jaffe, a research professor and director of the Climate Policy Lab at Tufts University, said Biden will likely have to compromise on climate legislation to get it through if it happens.
“I don’t see it as a comprehensive bill,” she said. “I think it would be more focused legislation to address immediate energy issues and the long-term importance of making it a linchpin to improve our clean energy competitiveness, which is ultimately the future for US energy technology exports.” .”
Significantly, White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy is expected to step down from her position next month. McCarthy, a trusted Biden aide and regulatory expert, is said to be in charge of the government’s efforts to implement climate change legislation, and her departure points to some skepticism about the possibility of approval.
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