Manchin blocks climate bill, Biden said he will take executive action

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Senate Democrats found themselves once again thwarted by Joe Manchin (D-WV) as the moderate announced he does not support the clean energy and climate related provisions in the reconciliation bill. His vote is a must-have in the 50-50 split on the Senate floor.

“If we make a real commitment on the climate front and we pay for it by making big corporations pay their fair share in taxes, that’s going to help us,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, (D-MA).

This March, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said the world will need 5.2 TW of solar power generation capacity by 2030, and 14 TW by mid-century, to have any chance of limiting global average temperature rises this century to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a critical threshold in limiting the worst effects of climate change.

Manchin told Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) he “unequivocally” won’t support a reconciliation package that includes climate and clean energy provisions, according to a Democrat briefed on the conversation.

This is not the first time Manchin has single-handedly blocked legislation that is designed to address the ongoing climate crisis. Last December, he shocked Democrats as he did not vote to pass the Build Back Better bill. Now, he blocked the reconciliation bill, much to the chagrin on climate-focused Democrats.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat my disappointment here, especially since nearly all issues in the climate and energy space had been resolved,” said Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR). “This is our last chance to prevent the most catastrophic — and costly — effects of climate change.”

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said Manchin’s decision to hold back his vote “sabotaged the president’s agenda.” Sanders pointed to Manchin’s connection to the fossil fuel industry as a concern. “This is a guy who is a major recipient of fossil fuel money … a guy who has received campaign contributions from 25 Republican billionaires,” he said.

While Sen. Manchin said his focus is on helping families who are struggling with healthcare costs and inflation, Democrats and renewable energy advocates argue his move will only make life more costly for the average American, who would benefit from a stable supply of low-cost clean energy.

“Last night’s report that climate provisions and tax incentives for residential renewable energy will be stripped from the reconciliation bill is a major defeat for millions of American households who want to reduce skyrocketing utility bills, build healthier communities, and protect our climate,” said Residential Renewables for All, a coalition of environmental justice advocates. 

“The passage of 25D refundability would have allowed all families, regardless of their income level, to make the switch to an affordable and green energy solution. This commonsense provision would have helped combat inflation, helped working families make ends meet, and helped respond to the climate crisis. Failure to pass it is as reckless as it is disappointing,” said the group.

“Manchin represents the very wealthiest people in this country, not working families in West Virginia or America,” Sanders added.

Executive action

President Joe Biden stated his office will now take further executive action to address the climate crisis.

“If the Senate will not move to tackle the climate crisis and strengthen our domestic clean energy industry, I will take strong executive action to meet this moment. My actions will create jobs, improve our energy security, bolster domestic manufacturing and supply chains, protect us from oil and gas price hikes in the future, and address climate change. I will not back down: the opportunity to create jobs and build a clean energy future is too important to relent,” wrote Biden.

Last month, the Biden administration began taking strides to support clean energy buildout and combat climate change. Executive action was taken to invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA), which has wide implications in its applicability. It will specifically be used to boost domestic production of solar panel parts including modules and module components, insulation for buildings, efficient electric heat pumps for heating and cooling, equipment for making electricity-generated fuels, including electrolyzes, fuel cells, and related platinum group metals, and critical power grid infrastructure like transformers.

The Defense Production Act will enable DOE to fund rapid expansion of solar manufacturing. The White House is also boosting federal procurement, supporting local job development, and tackling environmental justice issues.
Image: 02 EMC

Image: Department of Energy

The Act will encourage strong labor standards, including agreements for project labor and community benefits that ensure prevailing wages are paid and a quota of local hiring is met.

Concurrent with the invoking of the DPA, the White House announced it will apply super-preference to the US solar manufacturing industry. Master Supply Agreements will be put in place to enable domestic clean electricity providers to sell products to the US government rapidly and efficiently. Such agreements standardize contracts, making them easier to administer, and supporting transparent quality control for all parties involved.

It also enacted the use of “Super Preferences”, which apply domestic component content standards for federal procurement of solar projects.

The White House said these actions combined will pave the way for 10 GW of solar procurement over the next decade by the United States government alone. In cooperation with local and state governments and municipal utilities, the administration said the actions will make a potential market impact of as much as 100 GW over the next decade.

It remains to be seen what further actions the Biden Administration will take, and how the DPA will be administered. As the reconciliation package remains locked up by Manchin, executive action may serve as the main legal remedy for the United States to address the ongoing struggles with costly energy and climate change.

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