Build Back Better May Be the Green New Deal in Disguise?

As Democrats discuss a reduced version of the Build Back Better Act with Senator Manchin, we should remember that the Biden Administration is attempting to pass version 2.0 of the Green New Deal.

Washington and most of the media have declared the Green New Deal a failure. In fact, the formal resolution that embodied its most ambitious objectives was never enacted, even when endorsed by the President. In essence, the Green New Deal requires a federal budget with a mix of green investments that will transform the economy, in addition to social and environmental protections. Franklin Roosevelt had stumbled upon that perfect combination, and this is the same combination that Biden is currently approaching.

The year 2021 marked the legislative apex of Biden’s first term for climate, as David Robert points out in his 2021 annual review on Volts which Salon reported. But, such predictions may not possible because politics is so unpredictable, especially today.

Roberts does have a point when he said that such congressional gridlock means that “those of us hoping for climate progress will have to forget about first-best solutions and begin thinking in terms of guerrilla actions, in states, cities, and the private sector. That’s a very different mindset than the push for a centralized solution.”

Neither Franklin Roosevelt nor his contemporaries won their battles through centralized solutions. In the narratives of the 1930s, the Soil Conservation Service is almost never mentioned as one of his greatest environmental achievements.

Biden calls it “all government.” This reflects a completely different mindset. Yet, this is neither one that is less ambitious nor defensive. According to the Obama Administration, its centralized solution for the power sector was the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The courts and Congress completely destroyed this. In contrast, other types of regulatory and community action, such as emission limits imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), achieved the emission reduction goals of the CPP decades sooner than Obama anticipated.

The federal government may not be frozen if Congress is frozen.  Until now, most of the Biden Administration’s efforts have been focused on undoing Trump’s climate rollbacks.  The EPA, Department of Energy, and Department of the Interior should set obvious, and potent, standards – but they haven’t yet done so, probably because they would have given the Democrats Congressional bargaining chips on climate change.  Congress no longer serves as a venue for the fossil fuel industry, so a handful of pro-fossil Democrats may seem to have a weaker hand.

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As a result of the wrapping up of major legislative opportunities, a second phase of the Green New Deal could be launched, embedded in a vast array of economically appealing, climate-friendly regulatory reforms.

Taking the offensive or letting Congressional gridlock dictate Biden’s Administration will be the choice Biden faces.

Nonetheless, Build Back Better is a better choice if it is relatively climate-resistant. Choosing carrots and sticks together could be the best.

Just recently, EPA released draft standards that require auto carbon emission standards to decarbonize twice as rapidly as those released four months earlier. But, did anything change?

Well, there are billions of dollars invested in Eletric Vehicles (EV) charging networks and consumer incentives for electric vehicles in both the bipartisan and Build Back Better budgets, along with states creating independent (and ambitious) car and truck standards. When President Obama put in place his original, ambitious auto rules in 2009, he used a similar combination of state leadership and federal finance.

EPA’s authority over emissions of carbon dioxide might be weakened by the Trump Supreme Court. Even If EPA did have power, it is not as powerless as the media often claims.

Combustion of fossil fuels emits carbon dioxide unavoidably. Additionally, other Clean Air Act-covered health pollutants, such as nitrous oxide, are also hazardous.  The federal government offers generous tax credits for carbon capture and storage, so that it is now a legally  “available” technology. If the EPA required carbon capture and storage, utility sector emissions would be decarbonized. Energy from coal and gas is already more expensive than power from wind and solar. When Combined capture and system (CCS) is included, the market share of this sector shrinks even more.

The health concerns raised by the Clean Air Act are not limited to power plants and vehicles. Both carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides are emitted by home furnaces, water heaters, and stoves. Unvented gas stoves in the average home produce enough nitrogen pollution to breach air quality and produces carbon monoxide levels that cause health problems. The majority of households in the country already use only electricity, as such it is advisable that the federal government and local governments offer a zero-carbon alternative to this obvious health risk.

Despite the Clean Air Act being enacted 50 years ago, 40% of Americans are still breathing unhealthy air. Considering recent developments in zero emission technologies, it is inexcusable that that scandal continues.  As well as causing health problems, fossil fuel combustion contributes to global climate change. So, Combustion should be phased out. The era of Prometheus should finally be over.

Investing in federal financing will affect industries that change more slowly and become more decarbonized. Local and state incentives will encourage businesses to test new innovations. Moreover, they will facilitate the expansion of zero-emission technologies.

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Both will also assist in building the necessary transmission, storage, and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. As a final step, high bar regional mandates will be established which will lead industry to the negotiating table with EPA on the best way to reach national adoption.  Indeed, according to a major study, only full-throated cooperation between Washington and the rest of American society could help Biden achieve his goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030.

To fully leverage Biden’s regulatory opportunities, the Build Back Better Act must be passed. In order to advance the EV revolution at top speed, more funding for EV charging is necessary. Better Business Bureau (BBB)’s loan programs will be crucial to speeding up the decarbonization of the industry sector.

The Republicans’ recalcitrance remain the chief obstacle to congressional climate action for how long? All you need to know is, the Republican Party will need to deliver amply for the American people if it will successfully seizes the levers of power in Congress.

Increasingly, the “coal and oil forever” slogan will have a heavier burden on Republican shoulders as Americans realize that where energy is concerned, all that is there to be will be newer and cleaner = cheaper and safer.  Therefore, the second phase of Biden’s Green New Deal could be a game-changer in terms of politics. It just has to be bold enough.

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