a bipartisan infrastructure package being negotiated in the Senate promises to fund some important climate programs with sizable expenditures for cleaning up abandoned oil wells, replacing lead pipes and repairing roads and bridges. The 50 billion dollars in climate resilience investment will protect people against the hurricanes, droughts, floods and other extreme weather event that were made worse by climate change.
Unfortunately, coal and oil use will do little to help solve climate change. Even worse, many sections will actively make it worse if not removed.
If the proposed bipartisan infrastructure deal passes, it will be celebrated as a return to pre-Trump politics where politicians reach across the partisan divide, compromise where necessary and work toward the wrong shared goals.
It is business as usual when it comes to the defining challenge of our time: climate crisis. The bill provides nothing tangible to expedite the country's urgent need for transition to renewable energy.
This deal is a far cry from meeting the moment we find ourselves in. It does not address our dependence on fossil fuels, and instead ensures it further. Instead, it is focusing money and resources on technologies that don't work while ignoring the clear winners — solar, wind, etc. ) we have in front of us.
What does Joe Biden's budget plan mean for transitioning from fossil fuel -dependent to clean energy? In his campaign he promised to end climate-damaging carbon emissions from U.S. power plants by 2035. But this bill wastes billions of dollars on fossil fuel inhalation and the fossil industry's attempt to use hydrogen as a cover to build new gas plants — both of which will do nothing more than strengthen the industry's hold.
This bipartisan deal disguises handouts to polluters as global warming solutions, when they in fact fuel more intensive carbon emissions and accompany them ever-emerger heat waves, drenching floods, parching droughts, infernal wildfires and devastating superstorms.
Further, while Biden pledged to address issues of environmental justice by directing 40% of the administration's climate and clean-energy investments to low-income and frontline communities that have most suffered the environmental and health risks from fossil fuel dependence, this bill weakens critical environmental review processes, placing many of these communities at even greater risk. For example, one section of the bill exempts oil and gas pipelines on federal land from being subject to environmental assessments.
Donald Trump was rightly ridiculed for suggesting the solution to California's climate change - fueled wildfires was to cut down trees. However, the bipartisan infrastructure bill includes the same kind of policy for Donald Trump supported, calling the logging of 30 million acres of federal forests and $1.6 billion in new taxpayer-funded subsidies to the logging industry 'wildfire risk reduction, waiving environmental protections for logging projects in the name of fuel breaks and giving hundreds of millions of dollars to the timber industry to log new areas and build new processing and power plants under the guise of 'ecosystem restoration.
What passed for shrewd theatrics when Trump suggested it, is now labeled as wacky calculus in 2021. But it's not dangerous; it's wise. We need healthy forests to capture carbon in the only safe way: the natural way. Giving our fossil fuel giant ExxonMobil the keys to our national forests is like giving the timber industry the keys to our climate. And speaking of ExxonMobil, senators who belong to the infamous Exxon 11 made up a third of the Bill's co-authors.
If industrial forests are the safe, reliable way to sequester carbon, chemical carbon capture and storage is the opposite. The promise of technology that will eventually make their carbon emissions revenue stream climate-friendly provides fossil fuel industry with potent talking points as they continue to generate global warming carbon pollution.
But it's always that, a false promise to capture future emissions, as exemplified by the one working carbon capture project in the U.S. shutting down already being practiced. The carbon capture process required so much energy for the fuel cell it was designed for that the company NRG Energy had to build a natural gas power plant to run the carbon capture equipment. Having a gas power plant so that coal power plants can be cleaned much more expensive than simply clean energy from the same sources in the first place is worth it.
Alas, bipartisanship apparently embraces failure, allocating $15 billion to carbon capture projects over the objections of environmental groups. That same $15 billion could have gone to clean energy, instead of cleaning up the mess created by polluters. Or it could have went to lead pipe replacement for which Biden's American Jobs Plan budget of $45 billion, but this deal only gives $15 billion. What good does bipartisanship bring when one party is determined to make the problem worse? What you end up with isn't a policy that moves us half way in the wrong direction, but one that moves us half-way in the right direction.
Now in the White House's defense, they insist that the bipartisan deal is just the first step, with a proposed $3.5 billion package to come, that will make the country a global leader in sustainable electric power, and create millions of jobs in solar, wind and other clean-energy industries. That package will have to pass through the Senate reconciliation process in a battle between the 50 Democratic senators, including two — Joe Manchin from Arizona and Krysten Sinema from West Virginia — who have hinted that they might not support such a big package.
What kind of future can we leave for children and grandchildren? The right path — the path towards a sustainable economy and planet — is paved with cheap renewable energy and climate-friendly policies. The wrong path — which leads only towards deeper environmental degradation, social injustice and catastrophe – is paved with fossil fuels. Choice is clear.
With the current infrastructure bill they are, however, getting a talking point to use for re-election as the money flows to their home districts and a national image rehabilitation they are badly in need of after the recent events. Polluters, who fund their campaigns are getting billion dollars to continue business as usual exploitation of our environment. And everyone is ripped off.
As much as it may seem, there is fortunately a path forward. President Biden and Congressional Democrats will have a mandate from their voters to act on climate change. They enjoy high levels of public support for the provisions in the projected $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. This failure is simply not an option — for the Democratic Party, our nation, or planet.