Biden’s climate plan threatened, Democrats scramble for alternatives

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WASHINGTON (AP) – With a centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s strategy on climate change Nearly wiped out, Democratic lawmakers took to the White House on Tuesday looking for new ways to cut and reshape what had been its sweeping $ 3.5 trillion budget plan.

A guest list of nearly 20 centrist and progressive lawmakers were scheduled to meet separately with Biden as Democrats examine a “menu” of alternative emission reduction strategies – one of the most crucial issues for voters who support the president and his side.

Some of the climate change proposals being considered include a carbon tax, a charge on methane emissions, tax breaks for energy providers who meet certain targets and others, as alternative tactics that can be adopted. without losing the support of key members of Congress whose votes will be crucial before the month-end deadlines.

Biden’s main plan seems almost dead. One key, Conservative Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia Coal State, has made it clear that he opposes President’s proposal t o ask the government to provide financial rewards to electric utilities that meet clean energy standards and to impose penalties on utilities that do not, consistent with the president’s goal of reaching 80 % of “clean electricity” by 2030.

Alternative strategies compiled and evaluated could align with Manchin’s stated goal of maintaining a “fuel neutral” approach to federal policy that does not favor renewable energy sources over coal and natural gas which are. dominant in his state.

Biden wants to show progress on all of his expanded social service package and climate change efforts, now reduced to around $ 2 trillion, by the time he leaves for a world climate summit next week. And he is not alone.

“It is time we get this straightened out as soon as possible,” Senator Bernie Sanders, progressive chairman of the Budget Committee, told reporters as Congress resumed Monday night. “I hope we get to see some real action over the next week.”

The fight against climate change was the cornerstone of the president’s proposal “Build better”, his sweeping plan to boost federal spending on health care, child care and other social services while tackling the climate crisis which Democratic voters say is one of their most important issues.

Without Manchin’s backing, however, the Clean Energy Performance Plan – also known as the Clean Energy Payment Plan – will almost certainly be knocked out of the package, according to lawmakers and their collaborators.

“I’ve been told it would be prudent to plan for alternatives,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, DR.I.

Instead, lawmakers are considering a range of alternatives and claim that production tax credits along with a tax on carbon and methane emissions are among the most important ways they think they can cut. pollutants.

It is the daily backdrop as the President works to position the United States to regain a leadership position in climate change strategies, preparing to leave for the United Nations Summit. on the climate at the end of the month. Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry warned of the failure of Congress.

Representative Ro Khanna, D-Calif., A leading progressive leader for White House meetings, said he plans to push for climate strategies.

“I will make it clear that ending fossil fuel subsidies is one of our highest priorities,” Khanna said Monday evening during a call with supporters of Our Revolution, a group aligned with Senator Sanders, the independent from Vermont.

Khanna recognized the headwinds for the clean electricity proposal. “If this is unacceptable, then determine which alternative will allow us to meet the target of 50% reduction in emissions by 2030, which is what we are committed to doing,” he said.

For months, Manchin has publicly and repeatedly rejected the size and scale of Biden’s plan, and the state coal senator has particularly opposed green energy strategies.

He and other centrist lawmakers, including Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have forced Biden to admit the end price will likely be much smaller, likely around $ 2 trillion – largely paid for in taxes. higher on corporations and the wealthy, those who earn more than $ 400,000 a year.

As chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Manchin is testing the patience of his colleagues who see a unique opportunity to reshape government programs away from his personal preferences. With Republicans totally opposed to Biden’s plans, the president needs all Democrats in the 50-50 split Senate to pass.

As part of Biden’s initial climate proposal, the federal government would offer subsidies to power companies that increase clean energy production by 4% each year and impose fines on those that do not.

An alternative could be the proposal of Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Chairman of the finance committee, who argued that the bulk of the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions would come from an overhaul of the gas tax. energy that he directs.

Among the tax changes his committee is considering include tax credits for energy producers that reduce emissions and pollution charges to be paid by industries for every tonne of carbon dioxide they emit.

A carbon tax is seen by economists as the most effective way to reduce fossil fuel emissions, and the American Petroleum Institute, the main lobbying arm of the oil and gas industry, has endorsed the idea of ​​a price on carbon emissions.

With the weather slipping, Congress set an Oct. 31 deadline for passing Biden’s big package – though even that could slip.

Majority leader Steny Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday: “If we make significant progress, it will also be a success.”

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Associated Press writer Alan Fram contributed to this report.

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