The existential threat of global warming amid political gridlock and fossil-fuel dependence

Bob Sheak, Aug 11, 2022

Trump, the Republican Party, and their supporters have either denied the realty of global warming, dismissed its seriousness, proposed untested geo-engineering “solutions,” and/or continued to promote fossil fuels. If Republicans succeed in taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives and/or U.S. Senate in the 2022 midterm elections, any Democratic policies that are aimed at phasing out fossil fuels, or just reducing emissions and increasing support for solar, wind, and geothermal energy or energy efficiency measures, will be eliminated or scaled way back.

In that situation, the rising temperatures associated with global warming will continue to rise as will a myriad of harmful effects associated with it. At some point over the next 1 or 2 decades, a tipping point will be reached at which time global warming will be out of control, societies will crumble, and more and more of the planet will become uninhabitable. See Mark Lynas’ book, Our Final Warning: Six Degrees of Climate Emergency, for an analysis of the effects of each additional degree of warming.  

Republicans and their supporters appear willing to continue the energy status quo, to go on wallowing in right-wing propaganda, and to avoid or reject policies that require serious government intervention.

There are four parts to this post. First, I give examples of the effects of global warming to make the point that it is real and worsening. Second, I identify some of the principal sources of the problem, including large swaths of the corporate community, the Republican Party and its supporters, the lobbyists who sway government lawmakers. Third, I consider what the Biden administration has done to reduce the carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels. Four, I consider the  Democrats’ just passed “Inflation Adjustment Act,” and its positive and negative provisions.

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Part 1 – Global warming is real

The Republican and associated right-wing forces who reject, dismiss, or marginalize the existential threat of global warming, live in a fantasy world divorced from science.

Chris Hedges provides an overview of the unfolding effects of global warming across the world as well as in the U.S. (https://scheerpost.com/2022/07/26/chris-hedges-the-dawn-of-the-apocalypse).

“The past week [last week of July, 2022] has seen record-breaking heat waves across Europe. Wildfires have ripped through Spain, Portugal and France. London’s fire brigade experienced its busiest day since World War II. The U.K. saw its hottest day on record of 104.54 Fahrenheit. In China, more than a dozen cities issued the “highest possible heat warning” this weekend with over 900 million people in China enduring a scorching heat wave along with severe flooding and landslides across large swathes of southern China. Dozens of people have died. Millions of Chinese have been displaced. Economic losses run into the billions of yuan. Droughts, which have destroyed crops, killed livestock and forced many to flee their homes, are creating a potential famine in the Horn of Africa. More than 100 million people in the United States are under heat alerts in more than two dozen states from temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s and low 100s. Wildfires have destroyed thousands of acres in California. More than 73 percent of New Mexico is suffering from an “extreme” or “severe” drought. Thousands of people had to flee from a fast-moving brush fire near Yosemite National Park on Saturday and 2,000 homes and businesses lost power.”

Hedges quotes U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres who told ministers from 40 countries that “half of humanity is in the danger zone, from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires…. No nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction.” Politico reported Thursday that the oil and gas industry—which has spent more than $200 million since last year to tank climate legislation—has “identified provisions that may make the climate medicine go down a little easier.”

Examples of the effects of global warming

Heat waves

Isabella Grullon Paz reports that almost “a third of the U.S. faces excessive heat, with misery spreading to the coasts (https://nytimes.com/2022-07/20/us/heat-adversaries-warnings-oklahoma-texas-arkansas.html). She writes:

“Heat warnings and advisories were in place for parts or all of 28 states. People in the Southeast and the Southern Plains faced the most oppressive temperatures, with triple digits forecast for Wednesday and beyond across parts of Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, said Andrew Orrison, a Weather Service meteorologist.

Oklahoma City broke a daily heat record dating back to the Dust Bowl era on Tuesday with a temperature of 110 — tied for the state’s highest-ever July temperature, the Weather Service said — and Austin is set on Wednesday to see its 40th straight day of highs over 100 degrees.

Droughts

Research scientist Imtiaz Rangwala points out that “[m]uch of the western U.S. has been in the grip of an unrelenting drought since early 2020 ((https://theconversation.com/grim-2022-drought-outlook-for-western-us-offers-warnings-for-the-future-as-climate-change-brings-a-hotter-thirstier-atmosphere-182640).  The dryness has coincided with record-breaking wildfires, intense and long-lasting heat waveslow stream flows and dwindling water supplies in reservoirs that millions of people across the region rely on.”

Water shortages

Daniel Rothberg writes on the “Coming Crisis Along the Colorado River” (https://nytimes.com/2022/08/04/opinion/drought-climate-colorado-river.html).  

 Top of Form

Bottom of Form

Mr. Rothberg is a reporter for The Nevada Independent, where he covers the environment, water and energy. He is writing a book about water scarcity in Nevada. His major point here is captured by the following statements.

“About 40 million people rely on the Colorado River as it flows from Wyoming to Mexico. But overuse and climate change have contributed to its reservoirs drying up at such a rapid rate that the probability of disastrous disruptions to the deliveries of water and hydroelectric power across the Southwest have become increasingly likely. Now the seven states that depend on the river must negotiate major cuts in water use by mid-August or have them imposed by the federal government.

“Those cuts are merely the beginning as the region struggles to adapt to an increasingly arid West. The rules for operating the river’s shrinking reservoirs expire in 2026, and those seven states must forge a new agreement on water use for farmers, businesses and cities.

“What’s worse, all of this is happening in a region that is one of the fastest growing in the United States, even as the signs of an impending crisis become more pronounced. Outside of Las Vegas, Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir by volume, fed by the Colorado and three smaller tributaries, is nearly three-quarters empty and at its lowest level since April 1937, when it was first being filled. The 22-year downward trend is “a stark illustration of climate change and a long-term drought that may be the worst in the U.S. West in 12 centuries,” according to NASA’s Earth Observatory program.”

Deforestation

Kathy Egland and Leo Woordberry report on how logging is slashing the ability of US Forests’to absorb carbon by over one-third (https://truthout.org/articles/logging-is-slashing-us-forests-ability-to-absorb-carbon-by-only-one-third).

“Forests are the only proven, large-scale system we have for soaking up carbon and locking it away for centuries. But logging is slashing U.S. forests’ ability to accumulate carbon by over one-third. And because felled trees immediately release most of the carbon they store, logging in the United States releases about 723 million tons of carbon dioxide every year.”

They also note,

“It doesn’t make sense to keep using taxpayer money and taxpayer-owned land to expand logging, but that’s exactly what’s happening. For example, last year’s giant infrastructure bill called for 30 million acres of additional logging on public land — an area bigger than the state of Pennsylvania. It also featured $400 million to expand markets for wood, while easing environmental standards for logging in national forests.”

Wildfires

Winston Choi-Schagrin points to evidence on how wildfires are intensifying

(https://nytimes.com/2021/07/16/climate/wildfires-smoke-safety-questions.html). Here’s some of what he writes.

“By nearly every metric, the wildfires in the Western United States are worsening. They are growing larger, spreading faster and reaching higher, scaling mountain elevations that previously were too wet and cool to have supported fires this fierce.

They are also getting more intense, killing a greater number of trees and eliminating entire patches of forest.”

The causes. “Wildfires require a spark and fuel. In the forests of the Western United States, half of wildfires are initiated by lightning. The other half are human-caused — frequently started by power lines, cigarettes, cars, camp fires or arson.

“In recent years, there’s been an abundance of very dry fuel. Drought and high heat can kill trees and dry out dead grass, pine needles, and any other material on the bottom of the forest floor that act as kindling when a fire sweeps through a forest.

Wildfire experts see the signature of climate change in the dryness, high heat and longer fire season that have made these fires more extreme. ‘We wouldn’t be seeing this giant ramp up in fire activity as fast as it is happening without climate change,’ said Park Williams, a climate scientist at UCLA. ‘There’s just no way.’”

The National Fire Information Center is a useful source on wildfires (https://nifc.gov/fire-information/nfu). The Center reports that, since January 1, 2022, 39,337 wildfires have burned 5,713,135 acres. Lightning ignited 3,540 that burned 3,281,839 acres. People have caused 35,797 wildfires that consumed 2,431,295 acres. The states with the most human-caused wildfires include: Texas, California, North Caroline, Georgia, and Florida.”

Ice melting

Juan Cole reports on how Greenland lost 6 billion tons of ice in three days, “a harbinger of unprecedented coastal flooding” (https://juancole.com/2022/07/greenland-harbinger-unprecedented.html). The cause: “The melting was because of a heat wave at the top of the world, caused by our burning coal, gasoline and methane gas and spewing billions of tons of the dangerous heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

“These sorts of events are directly responsible for sea level rise and coastal flooding around the world and in the United States (which has a lot of coast if you think about it). Often it is the poorest and most disadvantaged who will suffer most severely from disruptions like storm surges, coastal erosion, salt water invasion of lagoons, and urban flooding.”

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Part 2 – The sources of Global Warming

The principal resistance to action on global warming are the fossil fuel corporations, all levels of the Republican Party and their supporters, and all of the organizations that fund anti-climate-change lobbying efforts. Trump stands as a coalescing and reactionary force behind it all. The war in Ukraine has added to the pressure on governments, including the Biden administration, to find additional sources of oil and natural gas, while the administration simultaneously looks for ways to reduce the heavy reliance of the U.S. energy system on climate disrupting emissions from fossil fuels.

Corporate facilitators go for the profits

Karl Frosch finds that oil executives are bragging about record-breaking $90 billion profits (https://commondreams.org/newswire/2022/08/05/embarrassment-riches-oil-execs-brag-about-record-breaking-90-billion-profits).

“Today, Accountable.US released an updated report showing that the 26 largest oil companies made a record-breaking $90 billion in profit in the second quarter of 2022 – a 183% increase over the same quarter from last year. Some firms, such as Phillips 66, reported net profit increases up to 981%. In the last three months, these big oil companies funneled $15 billion in dividends to their shareholders while raising gas prices to historic levels for American consumers.”

At the same time, “working people and small businesses were forced into an impossible position trying to make ends meet and afford sky-high gas prices.”

According to the investigation by Jake Johnson, “Big Oil Has Spent Over $200 Million to Sabotage Climate Action” since 2021

https://commondreams.org/news/2022/07/28/2021-big-oil-has-spent-over-200-million-sabotage-climate-action-analysis

“The oil and gas industry, one of the most powerful corporate forces in American politics, has spent more than $200 million over the past year and a half to stop Congress from slashing carbon emissions as evidence of their catastrophic impact—from deadly heatwaves to massive wildfires—continues to accumulate in stunning fashion.”

Most of industry’s contributions, nearly 80%, “went to Republican candidates, according to Climate Power, whose analysis draws on data from OpenSecrets.”

And pointedly, Johnson refers to a study published last week showing that “the global oil and gas industry has raked in nearly $3 billion in profit per day over the past five decades as it has sown disinformation about its central responsibility for the climate crisis and tanked efforts to address destructive warming.”

Michael Klare sees evidence that US dependence on oil is not letting up (https://tomdispatch.com/the-enduring-tyranny-of-oil). He calls the situation “the tyranny of oil.” Klare notes that just 15 years ago “many of us were talking confidently about ‘peak oil’ — the moment of maximum global oil output after which, with world reserves dwindling, its use would begin an irreversible decline.” However, the notion of peak oil has been shelved as the technology of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, had boosted production beyond expectations. Here’s what Klare makes of all this.

“Why global oil consumption is expected to hit such heights remains a complex tale. Foremost among the key factors, however, has certainly been the introduction of fracking technology, permitting the exploitation of mammoth shale reserves once considered inaccessible. On the demand side, there was (and remains) a worldwide preference — spearheaded by American consumers — for large, gas-guzzling SUVs and pickup trucks. In the developing world, it’s accompanied by an ever-expanding market for diesel-powered trucks and buses. Then there’s the global growth in air travel, sharply increasing the demand for jet fuel. Add to that the relentless efforts by the oil industry itself to deny climate-change science and obstruct global efforts to curb fossil-fuel consumption.”

The result is that, with more oil use, there will be more carbon emissions and rising temperatures. As temperatures rise, there will be more severe weather events, such as being experienced in the American West, now experiencing the worst drought in 1,200 years.

There is also a connection between the increased demand for oil and the war in Ukraine. They have combined to produce a global crisis unlike any in recent history. Klare offers the following explanation. “Because humanity has become so thoroughly reliant on petroleum products, any significant rise in the price of oil ripples through the global economy, affecting nearly every aspect of industry and commerce. Naturally, transportation takes the biggest hit, with all forms of it — from daily commuting to airline travel — becoming ever more costly. And because we’re so thoroughly dependent on oil-powered machines to grow our crops, any increase in the price of oil also automatically translates into increased food costs — a devastating phenomenon now occurring worldwide, with dire consequences for poor and working people.”

In response to the inflationary prices of oil and as they ripple through the economy, President Biden has resorted to looking for ways to increase the domestic supply of oil and natural gas. He has “been scouring the planet for additional sources of petroleum in a desperate drive to lower prices at the gas pump. At home, he released 180 million barrels of oil from the national strategic petroleum reserve, a vast underground reservoir created after the ‘oil shocks’ of the 1970s to provide a cushion against a time like this, and lifted environmental regulations prohibiting the summer use of an ethanol-based blend known as E15, which contributes to smog during warmer months. Abroad, he’s sought to renew contacts with the previously pariah regime of Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro, once a major oil exporter to the United States. In March, two senior White House officials met with Maduro in what was widely viewed as an attempt to restore those exports.  

“In the most controversial expression of this drive, in July the president traveled to Saudi Arabia — the world’s leading oil exporter — to meet its de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. MBS, as he’s known, was viewed by many, including analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency (and Biden himself), as the person ultimately responsible for the October 2018 murder in Turkey of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S.-based Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist.”

“But most independent analysts suggest that his primary objective was to secure a Saudi promise to substantially increase that country’s daily oil output — a move they only acceded to after Biden agreed to meet MBS, terminating his pariah status in Washington. According to press accounts, the Saudis did indeed agree to boost their rate of production, but also promised to delay announcing the increase for several weeks to avoid embarrassing Biden.”

Klare’s final point is about whether a future based on rising oil and natural gas usage is likely or not.

“Overcoming such a global phalanx of oil-industry defenders will require far more political muscle than the environmental camp has yet been able to muster. To save the planet from an all-too-literal hell on earth and protect the lives of billions of its inhabitants — including every child alive today or to be born in the years to come — petroleum tyranny must be resisted with the same ferocity that anti-abortion forces have employed in their campaign to protect (or so they claim) unborn fetuses. We must, like them, work tirelessly to elect like-minded politicians and advance our legislative agenda. Only by fighting to reduce carbon emissions today can we be sure that our children and grandchildren will live in an unscorched, habitable planet.”

Republican obstructionists

Ari Drennen and Sally Hardin identify the “Climate Deniers in the 117th Congress” (https://americanprogress.org/article/climate-deniers-117th-congress).

“According to new analysis from the Center for American Progress, there are still 139 elected officials in the 117th Congress, including 109 representatives and 30 senators, who refuse to acknowledge the scientific evidence of human-caused climate change. All 139 of these climate-denying elected officials have made recent statements casting doubt on the clear, established scientific consensus that the world is warming—and that human activity is to blame. These same 139 climate-denying members have received more than $61 million in lifetime contributions from the coal, oil, and gas industries.

“While the number of climate deniers has shrunk by 11 members (from 150 to 139) since the CAP Action Fund’s analysis of the 116th Congress—largely in the face of growing and overwhelming public support for action on climate—their numbers still include the majority of the congressional Republican caucus. These climate deniers comprise 52 percent of House Republicans; 60 percent of Senate Republicans; and more than one-quarter of the total number of elected officials in Congress. Furthermore, despite the decline in total overall deniers in Congress, a new concerning trend has emerged: Of the 69 freshmen representatives and senators elected to their respective offices in 2020, one-third deny the science of climate change, including 20 new House Republicans and three-of-four new Republican senators. Of note, no currently serving Democratic or independent elected officials have engaged in explicit climate denial by this analysis’ definition.”

GOP unveils hollow climate proposals

Benjamin J. Hulac reports on recent Republican proposals (https://rollcall.com/2022/06/02/gop-unveils-climate-agenda-with-familiar-proposals).

Hulac finds that “[e]xpanding the use of natural gas and exporting it to allies and other countries is a central pillar to a climate agenda House Republicans unveiled Thursday [June 2] that runs counter to the overwhelming advice from scientists.”

“There are six issues the group said it was focusing on, according to a summary of the agenda, which reads: ‘Unlock American Resources, American Innovation, Let America Build, Beat China and Russia, Conservation with a Purpose, and Build Resilient Communities.’” 

“The agenda endorses a bill to expand hydroelectricity, another to block the president from barring fossil fuel and mining development on federal land without congressional approval, and a third about critical minerals, which are used in modern hardware and machines, including electric vehicles.

“A fourth bill, from Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., which the agenda listed as a climate and energy solution, would approve oil pipelines, greenlight oil and gas leasing on federal lands and in federal waters, and require the president to submit an ‘energy security’ plan about oil and gas imports and to consider steps to increase domestic production of petroleum products to offset Russian imports.”

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Part 3 – Is there a viable Democratic alternative?

Is Biden and his administration doing enough?

A “fact sheet” released by the White House on August 1, 2022, lists ten accomplishments of the Biden administration in “making America resilient to climate change” (https://whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/08/01/fact-sheet-10-ways-the-biden-administration-is-making-america-resiliant-to-climate-change).

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#1 – Providing historic investments for climate resilient infrastructure projects: Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, President Biden secured $50 billion in resilience investments, the most in American history, to protect communities against extreme weather. For example, the Department of Transportation recently announced $7.3 billion in formula funding through the PROTECT program, which will help states and communities make transportation infrastructure more resilient by focusing on resilience planning, making resilience improvements to existing transportation assets and evacuation routes, and addressing at-risk highway infrastructure.

#2 – Combating growing wildfire threats: Agencies are undertaking various actions, such as the joint planning and coordination of historic investments in conservation programs and natural resource infrastructure projects across the West, including the new Community Wildfire Defense Grant Program, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. These investments improve wildfire response and reduce the overall loss of infrastructure and critical resources, while prioritizing assistance to underserved communities. This summer, as directed by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission was established, gathering Federal and non-Federal members to formulate and deliver policy recommendations to Congress for wildland fire prevention, mitigation, suppression, and management.

#3 – Protecting communities and workers from extreme heat: The Biden-Harris Administration is taking a wide range of actions to respond to intensifying heat waves and reduce associated health risks, especially for vulnerable groups and underserved communities. These efforts include using the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to reduce cooling costs and deliver air conditioners and electric heat pumps to homes, developing nationwide standards and enforcement programs to protect workers on the job, launching Heat.gov as a one-stop hub for accessible information and response tools, and supporting community-led urban heat island mappingoutreach and communication strategiesinnovative cooling technologiesurban tree and greening projects, and more.

#4 – Strengthening drought resilience: In June, Vice President Harris highlighted the Drought Resilience Interagency Working Group First Year Summary Report, which details the efforts accomplished and underway to assist drought-stricken communities and build their resilience to worsening conditions. A new Federal-state task force was launched in partnership with Western governors to coordinate conservation programs. Many agencies – in collaboration with states, Tribes, and local governments, as well as non-governmental organizations – are utilizing Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to support projects that improve our Nation’s water infrastructurerehabilitate watershedspromote water reuse, and enhance soil and drought monitoring systems.

#5 – Reducing flood risk for households and communities: President Biden re-established the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard that will reduce flood risk and protect infrastructure investments. The White House is coordinating Federal efforts on flood resilience and ensuring that federal investments include safety standards for flooding and sea-level rise. Agencies are already taking action by implementing guidance to ensure communities are protected from floods. In addition, FEMA launched an updated website for purchasers to evaluate property-level flood risk and released a report highlighting best-practices for states requiring flood risk disclosures during real estate transactions.

#6 – Protecting coastal communities from storms, sea-level rise, and other climate impacts: The Biden-Harris Administration announced $3 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds to strengthen coastal resilience, improve climate data and services, and more. As directed in President Biden’s Earth Day Executive Order, the Administration is exploring greater deployment of nature-based solutions to address coastal and other climate impacts. Through the Coastal Resilience Interagency Working Group, agencies have developed a resource guide to help communities build climate resilience along coastlines with nature-based solutions—streamlining access to more than 100 information resources and 48 federal programs.

#7 – Supporting disadvantaged communities: Through the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC), the White House formed a new WHEJAC Climate Resilience Working Group to advise on how to promote and execute equitable climate change resilience and disaster management. The White House continues to coordinate with agencies to implement the President’s Justice40 Program, ensuring that 40% of program benefits reach disadvantaged communities. This includes benefits offered through the FEMA BRIC program.

#8 – Prioritizing assistance to Tribal communities: Tribal communities and lands face particular risks to climate effects. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $216 million in funding to establish a new Tribal transition and relocation assistance program under DOI, which supports the voluntary, community-led transition for Tribal communities severely threatened by climate change and accelerating coastal hazards. The White House launched a new Community-Driven Relocation Subcommittee, which will convene agencies to explore key considerations, issues, and strategies for working in partnership with communities to support voluntary movement away from high-risk regions.

#9 – Addressing climate risks to the economy: The Biden-Harris Administration launched the first comprehensive, government-wide strategy to measure, disclose, manage, and mitigate the systemic risks that climate change poses to American families, businesses, and economy. Climate change has cost Americans an additional $600 billion in physical and economic damages over the past five years alone. To respond, Federal agencies are taking action to protect the hard-earned life savings of workers and homeowners while protecting the broader financial system and the Federal Government’s fiscal health against climate-related financial risk.

#10 – Leading by example across the Federal Government: The White House worked with Federal agencies to develop more than 20 climate adaptation and resilience plans to enhance climate readiness across their facilities and operations. This will reduce costs and damages caused by extreme weather, minimize disruptions to Federal programs and services, and protect workers and communities. Last week, USDA announced a strategy to address a reforestation backlog of four million acres on national forests and plant more than one billion trees over the next decade as part of its climate adaptation plan. Agencies are implementing the actions identified in their climate adaptation and resilience plans and will provide annual progress updates.

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In addition to these accomplishments, Senate Democrats were able on August 7, 2022, to pass a 755 page “Inflation Reduction Act” without any Republican votes.

Deepa Shivaram provides an overview of the legislation (https://npr.org/2022/08/07/1116190180/democrats-are-set-to-pass-a-major-climate-health-and-tax-bill-heres-whats-in-it).

“The legislation was passed through the budget reconciliation process, which means all 50 Democrats and one tie-breaker vote from Vice President Harris were needed, since none of the 50 Republican senators voted for the bill. It also restricts the measures in the bill to those that directly change federal spending and revenue.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Saturday that despite a few cuts from the Senate parliamentarian, the bill overall is still a legislative win for Democrats.

“It’s been a long, tough, winding road,” Schumer said before the final vote Sunday.

Democrats have argued the measure will tackle voters’ main economic concern, naming it the Inflation Reduction Act. Republicans argue the new spending will aggravate inflation. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says, though, the bill has a “negligible” effect on inflation in 2022 and into 2023.

“Overall, the bill is a very scaled-down solution to what many Democrats, including President Biden, had asked for originally.

In addition to health and tax provisions, the act addresses the climate crisis. Here’s what’s in the bill on climate.

“More than $300 billion would be invested in energy and climate reform, the largest federal clean energy investment in U.S. history.

“The bill has support from many environmental and climate activists but is short of the $555 billion that Democrats had originally called for.

“This portion of the bill takes on transportation and electricity generation, and it includes $60 billion for growing renewable energy infrastructure in manufacturing like solar panels and wind turbines.

“It also includes several tax credits for individuals on things like electric vehicles and making homes more energy efficient.

“The bill would, according to Democrats, lower greenhouse gas emissions by 40%, based on 2005 levels, by the end of the decade, which is short of the 50% Biden had originally aimed for.

“It puts us within a close enough distance that further executive action, state and local government efforts and private sector leadership could plausibly get us across the finish line by 2030,” said Jesse Jenkins from Princeton University, who leads the REPEAT Project analyzing the impact of government climate actions.”

Tony Romm reminds us:

“The package is the byproduct of the political realities in the narrowly divided Senate, where Republicans stood immovably opposed to the bill and Democrats had to negotiate among themselves to shepherd it to the chamber floor. It hinged on a breakthrough deal negotiated in late July between Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), a moderate who nearly eight months ago single-handedly scuttled a previous attempt to advance his party’s agenda. And its fate teetered at one point because of a last-minute snag with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)” (https://washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2022/08/07/senate-inflation-reduction-act-climate).

The legislation is mixed on climate issues.

On the one hand, it has provisions that are aimed at lowering carbon emissions.

“Democrats set aside about $370 billion for energy security and climate change. The investments include a bevy of tax credits to incentivize wind, solar and other renewable power sources, while helping people purchase new or used electric vehicles and install energy-efficient heating and cooling systems in their homes. The bill creates a $1.5 billion program that includes new payments for companies that cut emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, with some penalties for those firms that do not.”

On the other hand, “Democrats coupled it with additional provisions that boost fossil fuels — an approach necessary to win Manchin’s support. Democrats agreed to mandate new oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska, while party leaders committed to pursue a separate bill in the coming months that makes it easier for developers to override some environmental objections. That proposal could greatly benefit a long-stalled pipeline in Manchin’s home state, a trade-off that some Democrats described as an uncomfortable necessity.”

Romm also refers to a report by Politico that the oil and gas industry—which has spent more than $200 million since last year to tank climate legislation—has “identified provisions that may make the climate medicine go down a little easier.”

“For instance, fossil fuel companies that are already posting record profits could benefit massively from the part of the legislation that requires drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska. Another potential boon is the bill’s mandate that oil and gas lease sales be held before the federal government can greenlight new solar and wind development.”

Oil corporations welcomed these provisions.

“The American Petroleum Institute, the fossil fuel industry’s largest U.S. trade organization, responded less enthusiastically, but still welcomed what it described as “some improved provisions in the spending package.”

Barrons reported Thursday that ExxonMobil Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, and Equitrans Midstream could be among the bill’s leading beneficiaries given its incentives for carbon capture technology, which climate advocates and scientists have decried as a false solution pushed by oil companies trying to stop genuine efforts to slash emissions.

“The legislation extends a tax credit for carbon capture and storage that oil companies can claim based on how much carbon they capture and sequester,” Barrons noted. “Exxon has made carbon capture a centerpiece of its low-carbon investments, and wants to build hubs in industrial areas where several companies could collaborate on projects… While it’s still a relatively small business, the big oil companies could start growing their projects quickly with federal help.”

Concluding thoughts

Global warming is rising. There is too little being done to curtail or reverse it. There are powerful forces in the U.S. – and across the world – that oppose any meaningful efforts to change the existentially threatening energy trajectory. The Republican Party and its supporters lead the opposition and they may increase their control of the Congress in the 2022 midterm elections. The Democrat’s have only razor thin edges in the House and Senate and have to deal with two rogue Democratic senators who insist on counterproductive compromises.

Still, there are some experts, such as economist Joseph Stiglitz, who view the Inflation Reduction Act as “a major step in the right direction (https://commondreams.org/views/2022/08/10/far-perfect-inflation-reduction-act-major-step-right-direction). Stiglitz acknowledges that this legislation “is not as good as the original Build Back Better bill, but it is certainly progress.” He makes his main point as follows.

“There is a simmering debate about the causes of today’s inflation; but regardless of what side one takes, this bill represents a step forward. For those worried about excessive demand, there is more than $300 billion in deficit reduction. And on the supply side, the bill would mobilize $369 billion of investments in energy security and decarbonization. That will help bring down the cost of energy—one of the main drivers of current price growth—and put America back on track to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by some 40% (from 2005 levels) by 2030.

There are also experts who view the compromised legislation as doing too little to reduce carbon emissions or avoid the most devastating consequences. Chris Hedges identifies the options in stark terms.

“The greatest existential crisis of our time is to at once be willing to accept the bleakness before us and resist. The global ruling class has forfeited its legitimacy and credibility. It must be replaced. This will require sustained mass civil disobedience, such as those mounted by Extinction Rebellion, to drive the global rulers from power. Once the rulers see us as a real threat they will become vicious, even barbaric, in their efforts to cling to their positions of privilege and power. We may not succeed in halting the death march, but let those who come after us, especially our children, say we tried.”

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