By Abandoning Historic Climate Law, America Is Making The World Dangerous | Kate aronoff
AAs the now very likely collapse of the Build Back Better Act highlights, what is exceptional in the United States is their extraordinary ability to do harm. Along with its ever-increasing military budget and foreign wars, America is also making the world a dangerous place with the stupendous amount of fossil fuels it continues to send around the world.
Oil Change International, Earthworks, and the Center for International Environmental Law have discovered that the burning of oil and gas expected to be drilled in the United States alone over the next decade could swallow up 10% of the of the whole world remaining carbon budget, the amount of carbon dioxide that can be released before the planet warms above 1.5 ° C.
The Build Back Better Act wouldn’t have cut that hole, of course: Restricting the production or exports of fossil fuels to the United States has been a third political rail on both sides of the aisle, although John Kerry spent months harassing other smaller and less wealthy nations over their own use of fossil fuels in the run-up to Cop26.
As recently as last week, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm did all she could to assure oil executives that the administration would not reinstate the long-standing crude oil export ban, assuring them: ” I don’t want to fight any of you.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin – whose pledge not to vote on Build Back Better appears to have driven the nail into Biden’s legislative agenda – made half a million dollars last year from the coal business of his family, and reportedly spoke weekly with ExxonMobil lobbyists this spring. But he’s not the only Democrat defending the interests of the fossil fuel industry.
What the Build Back Better bill represented was at best a bare minimum: the roughly $ 55 billion a year that the bill would spend on incentives for renewable energy deployment, building upgrades, and electric vehicles over the years. the next decade will account for about half of what Americans spent on health care. for their pets in 2020, and is paltry compared to the Pentagon’s $ 768 billion one-year budget that passed through both Houses last week.
Even the White House’s primary goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 is dangerously overdue: that’s when the the whole world should be carbon neutral. With its vast resources and disproportionate historical responsibility for the climate crisis, the United States should get there much, much sooner. But what the United States should do to reduce emissions and what its frozen, corporate-captured democratic institutions are capable of doing right now are two different things.
That doesn’t mean the fight is over. The congressional leadership could finally call the Manchin bluff and force a vote on Build Back Better. Biden has a host of executive actions to cut emissions at his disposal if he chooses to use them, including the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon dioxide. And there are exciting national and local victories to build on.
But the road ahead is rocky. With a deadly wave of Omicron, the child tax credit on the verge of expiring and student loan repayments resuming in February, Democrats will struggle to show voters successes in the midterm election of next year without Build Back Better in hand.
They face a potential blowout in the House, where a Republican majority may well refuse to recognize that any Democrat could win the 2024 presidential election. It is very likely that the United States, the world’s largest economy and the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, will not pass their very first comprehensive climate legislation for at least a decade.
If they regain control in Washington, the Republicans will expand drilling as quickly as possible, damn the rest of the world. Countries determined to see temperatures not exceed 1.5 or 2 ° C should start treating the United States for what it is: an exceptionally dangerous country that must be brought under control.