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Tipsheet

Will Manchin Get Screwed Over by His Fellow Democrats?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

It looks like President Joe Biden will get his misnamed Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 passed after all, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) coming to an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Wednesday, after the Senate had already voted in favor of the CHIPS Act. Guy offered a thoughtful analysis about how it looks like Manchin tricked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the rest of his Republican colleagues when it comes to such a deal. He himself may be tricked in the end, though, and by fellow Democrats. 

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As a "Climate Forward" newsletter from The New York Times explained on Thursday:

Mr. Manchin said he had won a commitment from his fellow Democrats that they would approve a separate measure to address the process of issuing permits for energy infrastructure, potentially including gas pipelines, in the weeks ahead.

The bill would also require new lease sales for oil drilling on federal lands and waters, including in the Gulf of Mexico, which environmental groups oppose.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), tweeting an excerpt of an article from The Wall Street Journal, warned that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Leader Schumer won't deliver, and "will screw him over" when it comes to such an agreement with Manchin. 

A newsletter from Inside Climate News highlighted how "Manchin said that he has obtained a commitment from Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that they will advance separate legislation this fall that streamlines the permitting process for energy infrastructure, including pipelines and export facilities."

The newsletter also mentioned that climate activists are irked over the deal, as well as highlighted how President Joe Biden's agenda for addressing climate change comes into play:

But the package—now called the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022?—also would invest in ensuring a future for U.S. fossil energy in a carbon-constrained world. The legislation hikes tax incentives for expensive carbon capture technology 70 percent. It also requires that, for the next decade, the federal government offer tens of millions of acres offshore for oil and gas drilling as a prerequisite to the expansion of offshore wind energy development.

...

Meanwhile, other environmental groups were drafting a letter urging the Senate to reject the compromises for fossil fuel development as incompatible with goals to eliminate greenhouse gases. 

“This is a climate suicide pact,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

...

Perhaps the most controversial provisions of the bill are those that would require continued development of oil and gas on federal lands and waters for a decade. The deal would prohibit the Interior Department from approving renewable energy development over that period unless it also opened lands to oil and gas development.

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“It’s self-defeating to handcuff renewable energy development to massive new oil and gas extraction,” said Hartl of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The new leasing required in this bill will fan the flames of the climate disasters torching our country, and it’s a slap in the face to the communities fighting to protect themselves from filthy fossil fuels.”

Manchin, however, viewed the drilling provisions as a must-have element in what he called “a realistic energy and climate policy.”

“As the super power of the world, it is vital we not undermine our super power status by removing dependable and affordable fossil fuel energy before new technologies are ready to reliably carry the load,” he said in a statement announcing the deal.

While the transition to renewable energy will take time, and everyone agrees that some oil and gas production will be necessary for years, forcing the government to hold large lease sales in 2032 still seems hard to reconcile with the broader goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half from 2005 levels by that time.

But if the administration’s climate policies, and similar ones around the globe, are somehow able to usher in a rapid shift away from fossil fuels over that period, oil companies might have less appetite for submitting large bids to drill ten years from now. The market has already proven to be a powerful force in the global energy transition, driving down the cost of wind and solar power. 

In this way, the bill’s provisions could effectively refocus the Biden administration’s climate agenda to more traditional efforts that curb emissions by curtailing the demand for fossil fuels, through increased use of electric vehicles or heat pumps, and away from his campaign promise to restrict new oil and gas production on federal lands.

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It's worth reminding about the hostility that President Joe Biden has for pipelines, though. On his first day in office, Biden signed an executive order canceling the Keystone XL pipeline. He, along with his fellow Democrats, have continuously resisted reinstating it, even as Americans have experienced significant pain at then pump when it comes to gas prices. 

Instead, Biden has depleted the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to its lowest levels and turned to begging oil-rich countries to produce more oil, such as in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. He also lifted economic sanctions against Venezuela. 

Manchin may have screwed himself over, as it turns out, in that he appears to have gone back on his word. Despite his concerns with inflation, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton Budget Model pointed out that the so-called Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will actually increase inflation. 

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