By Jeremy Beaman
Washington Examiner, Jul 20, 2022
President Joe Biden announced a series of energy and climate-related executive actions on Wednesday, hoping to demonstrate that he’s taking climate change mitigation into his own hands now that Democrats’ green energy legislative agenda appears all but out of reach.
Biden, whose allies in the Senate have repeatedly come up short in negotiations over the Democrat-only spending bill, visited the site of what was formerly New England’s largest coal-fired power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts, to announce expanded funding for natural disaster mitigation and encourage the development of more offshore wind energy. He also emphasized the risks associated with a changing climate.
The measures are far short of the sweeping, unilateral measures that liberal Democrats and environmental activists have pushed him to pursue — most notably, the declaration of a climate emergency — but White House officials say bigger actions could be in store.
“Extreme weather disrupts supply chains, causes delays and shortages for consumers and businesses,” Biden said during the speech. “Climate change is literally an existential threat to our nation and to the world.”
Biden announced $2.3 billion in funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, which helps state and local governments mitigate the risks of natural disasters and hazards, such as heat waves. The allocation is the largest ever, the White House said.
Biden also announced that he is directing the Interior Department, which oversees management of the Outer Continental Shelf, to propose the first wind energy areas in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as to advance more wind development off the mid- and southern Atlantic coast.
Wind energy developments are already at various stages of development off the north Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and the Biden administration, which wants to reduce all carbon pollution from the power sector by 2035, set a goal of standing up 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030.
Brayton Point, the former coal plant and site hosting Biden’s speech, is a match for the announcement. It’s being repurposed to manufacture subsea cables designed to connect wind farms to the grid.
In addition, Biden is rebranding the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and expanding its reach to fund things such as cooling centers and air conditioning units.
“It used to be something that helped folks deal with heating issues in the wintertime. This administration’s broadening that program out, calibrating it to this new climate-related reality,” a senior administration official told reporters ahead of the speech.
The series of actions is nothing on the scale of the transformative spending Biden wants to pass through Congress in order to cut levels of greenhouse gas emissions associated with climate change.
Biden’s announcements follow a pledge he made Friday to take “strong” executive action where the Senate doesn’t act to pass spending and tax credits for green energy.
In December, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) pulled the plug on negotiations over a nearly $2 trillion spending bill the House had already passed, which provided several hundred billion dollars in incentives for the production and purchase of green energy technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles. Manchin cited inflation in saying he couldn’t support a bill of that size.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats had been negotiating with Manchin since, although on Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Manchin said he couldn’t support energy and climate-related measures as part of a spending deal.
Manchin later challenged that characterization, saying he told Schumer he wanted to see July’s inflation numbers, as well as what the Federal Reserve would do to interest rates, before committing himself to a bill that touches energy and climate. He suggested they pick up talks again in September after seeing updated inflation numbers and after the August recess.
Environmental groups and many Democrats, however, are reacting as if the deal is dead, as is the White House.
“The president is going to be very clear that since Congress is not going to act on this emergency, he will,” the same administration official said. “He is going to state it loudly. He’s going to state it clearly.”
Biden’s agenda to phase out fossil fuels has hit a number of other snags unrelated to Congress. The global energy crisis has sent him asking domestic and international producers for more oil, and he has promised to help Europe to secure more natural gas from the United States and other nations.
Originally posted on Washington Examiner.