The battle over President Joe Biden’s sweeping clean energy plan isn’t over, but there already appears to be a winner—natural gas.
According to energy experts and lawmakers, fossil fuels will remain a mainstay of America’s electrical grid for some time. This is a major disappointment for moderate Democrats and environmentalists. In protests in cities and campuses nationwide, one of them in front of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, he made natural gas the new climate villain, replacing coal, the dirty fossil fuel that is vanishing in the states.
Climate activists had pinned their hopes on the administration’s proposal to remake the energy industry at an alarming pace. This gives utilities a financial incentive to accelerate the deployment of clean energy sources such as wind and solar and will slow if it does not stop the expansion of gas-fired power plants.
But Sen. Joe Manchin, who controls climate policy as chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in early September that he would block Biden’s ambitious plan and seek a middle ground. The West Virginian’s insistence that there should be enough room for natural gas in any climate policy has been criticized by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez among other progressives in favor of the fossil fuel industry, which has a large footprint in her home state.
As Manchin said, braking on natural gas is a risk he is unwilling to take. While such a move would reduce carbon emissions — a goal the senator shares — it also leaves the country’s aging and weakening grid more vulnerable to dangerous blackouts as wind and solar power play a bigger role. They don’t supply electricity when the wind stops blowing and the sun goes down. So natural gas plants, which have contributed to the shutdown of hundreds of coal burners, need to anchor the grid until viable clean alternatives come of age.
“The United States is at the forefront of emissions reductions in the world and this is largely due to increased use of natural gas,” says Anne Bradbury, CEO of the American Exploration and Production Council, a gas and oil trading group. “It seems extremely short-sighted to demonstrate the use of natural gas.”
The prospect that fossil fuels will have more staying power than detractors is an early sign of America’s energy future as Democrats aim to turn it — and much of society — into its nearly $4 trillion spending snark. . Here are others.
A blow to carbon capture
According to carbon capture advocates, environmental groups are getting in the way of a rollout of a technology that could eventually clean gas plants, which emit about half that of coal.
The Carbon Capture Coalition, a group of energy and advocacy groups, is lobbying for an increase in federal tax credits for a technology that could remove more than 90 percent of carbon emissions from gas plants. Large subsidies are needed to kick-start the commercial rollout of large carbon-capture installations, much like the tax credits that spurred the expansion of wind and solar power.
But groups such as Greenpeace and the National Resources Defense Council are campaigning against federal support for the technology, arguing that it would unnecessarily extend the life of fossil fuels and delay the deployment of renewable energy. They have the upper hand. The House Ways and Means Committee issued earlier this month failed to promote tax credits as part of a larger reconciliation bill that carries out the administration’s climate package.
If the bill reaches the Senate, it could change. Manchin is a huge proponent of carbon capture.
lack of transparency
Americans have only a limited view of the resulting fight in Congress over Biden’s clean energy plan — which affects nearly everyone who relies on electricity, and their pocketbooks. So far, consumers have paid an average of 2.6 per cent more for green electricity.
Democrats are pushing their climate plan through a budget reconciliation process because it requires only 50 votes to pass in a divided Senate and avoids a Republican filibuster. It is also an accelerated process that limits debate and public transparency on the floor of Congress. Without a congressional hearing, consumers haven’t had the benefit of expert testimony who can point out the strengths and flaws of Biden’s plan.
This is a big departure from the sunshine that usually publishes such large resolutions. The last time Congress considered a major climate measure, the Waxman-Markey bill, experts testified at a high-profile public hearing in the House that was covered by national media. Hundreds of hours of public hearings were held in the Affordable Care Act.
Bill Hoagland, a former staff director on the Senate Budget Committee, says, “Something as important as energy policy that could have a major impact on the national economy should be completely debatable and completely modifiable.” Law. “It’s not something that should be done in a partisan way through reconciliation.”
Hoagland says both sides have “abused” the process of making new laws since they were instituted in the 1970s to bring fiscal accountability to existing laws. Biden’s climate plan is the first attempt to transform a major industry through reconciliation. Hoagland, who is now a senior vice president at the Center for Bipartisan Policy, says Senate staff and advocates called on him to seek his advice.
“I told them not to use the reconciliation process for energy policy,” he says. “They said, ‘Thank you very much. But it’s the only tool we have to allow us to get through it and we’re not going to waste any more time.'”
the truth of the computer model
Computer models—a big nod to climate skeptics—remain in the debate over clean energy transformation, providing ammunition for each side.
The controversy boils over the reliability of the electric grid. If intermittent wind and solar power quickly oust natural gas as the major source of energy, as the Biden administration envisions, will the grid become even more prone to blackouts?
Nobody really knows for sure. Enter computer model.
Experts from the University of California-Berkeley earlier this year asked their model the big question: Will the grid be reliable if 80 percent of its electricity comes from clean sources like wind and solar farms and nuclear plants by 2030? The model, which analyzed seven years of weather and energy use data, answered with a resounding yes. In fact, the gas can be used in half, supplying the remaining 20 percent, without any disturbance.
“The expansion of natural gas should stop once the Biden policy is passed,” says Mike O’Boyle, who collaborated on the study as director of electricity policy at Energy Innovation. “I’m sure some utilities will make the case that they need it for reliability. So it will be up to regulators to set their feet on fire and make sure a gas plant is the most economical option.”
But models from Energy and Environmental Economics, a consulting group, draw the opposite conclusion. A 2020 study, which included 40 years of weather data, looked at ways in New England to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. It found that natural gas capacity would need to increase by about a third from today’s levels.
Even a large deployment of wind and solar farms will not be able to meet peak demand — which is expected to increase in the coming decades — when the wind and sun are down, a senior partner at the consulting firm and co. – The author of the study. That means additional gas power needs to be available, especially in areas where coal plants are closing, until the day comes that cleaner fuels like hydrogen can afford the load, he says.
With the best computer models providing conflicting answers, Olson says it makes sense to have lots of natural gas on hand to shore up the grid: “Once we get closer to the other side of the energy transition , so we’ll learn how the systems are going to perform and we can shut down some gas plants if we don’t need them anymore. But in the meantime, people want to make sure they have reliable power.”
Tina Smith takes the stage
If the administration and Munchkin come together on a clean energy plan, Tina Smith will be a big reason.
Since 2019, the Democratic senator from Minnesota, a self-described pragmatist, has focused on creating a pragmatic policy that can support utilities. Biden’s team took some ideas from Smith’s playbook but set a far more ambitious goal: 80 percent carbon-free electricity by 2030.
Even supporters see the Biden plan as “ambitious.” This is in line with the greenhouse gas reduction targets of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which recently concluded that warming of the planet has already caused “irreversible” effects such as rising sea levels.
Some Republicans and moderate Democrats are supporting a very slow transition to 2050 that will not push gas power aside. The influential utility trade group Edison Electric Institute and labor unions, including the United Mine Workers – a supporter of Manchin – have rallied behind the bipartisan bill.
Smith, who was first elected in 2018, now finds himself taking center stage in conversations with Munchkin. They are trying to find a middle ground, which could be somewhere between 2030 and 2050.
There are more knots to twist in the talks. The administration wants to force utilities to adopt any form of clean power by providing federal grants if they achieve an annual growth target of about 3 percent to 4 percent. There will also be a fine to be paid for missing it. (The spending and revenue plan was also drawn up to attempt to qualify the energy plan for the budget resolution process.)
But the proposal does not include gas power, putting it at an economic disadvantage compared to renewable energy. Industry and utility groups object and are lobbying for gas to receive partial subsidies because it is cleaner than coal.
Democratic leaders in the Senate recently put a politically controversial carbon tax back on the table, adding to the uncertainty over a climate policy in Congress. They see it as a way to reduce emissions and increase revenue to help pay for the social spending package.
“I’m always interested in finding out how we can make adjustments to solve problems people see, and frankly, sometimes that makes the bill better,” Smith told RealClearInvestigations. “There’s a lot of issues in this. But I think we’re about to get there.”
This News Originally From – The Epoch Times