Major Climate Action At Stake In Fight Over Twin Bills Pending In Congress

Legislation aimed at infrastructure and social programs also includes big changes in energy, transportation and disaster preparation. They would amount to the most significant climate action ever taken by the United States. The climate provisions are designed to quickly transform energy and transportation, the country’s two largest sources of greenhouse gases, from systems that now mostly burn gas, oil and coal to sectors that run increasingly on clean energy from the sun, wind and nuclear power.

The first piece of legislation, a $3.5 trillion budget package proposed by House Democrats, with no Republican backing, contains hundreds of billions in tax credits for companies that build wind and solar power or retrofit polluting facilities to capture and bury their carbon dioxide emissions before they enter the atmosphere. And it expands tax incentives for Americans to buy electric vehicles, giving consumers as much as $12,500. It would also penalize oil and gas companies if they leak methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The most potent climate measure in that legislation is a $150 billion Clean Electricity Performance Program, which would reward utilities that generate an increasing amount of electricity from wind, solar, nuclear, or other clean energy sources and penalize those that do not.  The second big bill in Congress, a $1 trillion infrastructure plan has bipartisan support. It would provide the largest single infusion of money to prepare communities for extreme weather fueled by climate change that is already underway.  Environmentalists fear that if Democrats in Congress can’t reach an agreement on the legislation this year, it could be the last chance for major climate action in a long time as the party could lose control of Congress in the midterms next fall. 

By Brad Plumer and Winston Choi-Schagrin. New York Times. October 10, 2021.

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