Wind turbines frame an Iowa sunset. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)
Clean energy tax credits President Joe Biden proposed in his massive domestic spending and climate measure last year would help electric utilities build resilience and transmission lines, utility CEOs told Biden at a White House event Wednesday.
But the $1.9 trillion budget measure, which Biden and allies call Build Back Better, is in limbo because it failed to pass the evenly divided Senate after West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III publicly opposed it in December. Biden has said the proposal can be broken up to pass certain parts, including roughly $500 billion in tax credits to help utilities transition to clean energy, in “big chunks.”
The utility CEOs told Biden those tax credits would be crucial to switching from fossil fuels to renewable sources such as solar and wind.
Biden opened the meeting with a reference to the devastating Western wildfires in recent years caused, in part, by climate change. He said the damage “stunned” him, and got people to take climate change seriously.
Carbon emissions from fossil fuels, including those used to generate electricity, contribute to climate change.
The climate impact was the most important of several benefits to a clean energy transition, Biden said.
“The investments are going to support the creation of hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs all across the country,” he said. “It’s going to make us more economically competitive, while reducing pollution and improving public health and helping us to meet the moment on climate change — the most important piece, in my mind.”
Patricia Vincent Collawn, CEO of PNM Resources, an electricity provider in New Mexico, told Biden that credits would help the utility to become carbon free. She added it would help provide job retraining and other services to assist workers joining the clean energy sector.
“Your support of clean energy and the clean energy tax policies will really allow us to accelerate that making energy reliable, affordable and cleaner sooner,” she told Biden.
Gerard Anderson, chair of DTE Energy, said he expected solar energy in Michigan to be “a well-received renewable resource in the state” because of the jobs it would create and potential for savings on electric bills.
The executives thanked Biden for proposing the tax credits, but the credits will not become law without a major reworking of the Build Back Better bill.
Biden has said Manchin is open to aspects of the budget proposal, including the clean energy tax credits.
Some congressional Democrats have pushed for the climate elements of the bill to be passed separately.
Manchin, though, has told reporters in recent days that the overall proposal is dead and that he has had no recent talks about taking up portions of the bill.
Earlier Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration would be open to rebranding Build Back Better if it would help pass some of its priorities.
Asked if the White House had considered a name change to the package, Psaki replied, “Sure.”
“Our objective is working with Democrats, Republicans… to determine how much of the president’s Build Back Better agenda — whatever you call it — can be moved forward,” she said.
“And there is agreement on a number of big components, including with Sen. Manchin.”
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