Congress Is Debating Its Biggest Climate Change Bill Ever. Here's What's At Stake
President Biden's ambitious climate change plan could soon become a reality if Democrats in Congress succeed in passing a $3.5 trillion budget package. But first Democrats, who are crafting the legislation without Republican support, must overcome powerful opposition, some of it within their own party.
This legislation would bring extraordinary changes to the country's energy sector. It would lead to huge reductions in the climate-warming greenhouse gases the U.S. emits and change the kind of car many Americans drive.
A key element is a $150 billion Clean Electricity Performance Program, or CEPP, that would pay utilities to switch from greenhouse gas-emitting electricity sources, such as coal and natural gas, to non-emitting sources such as wind, solar, hydropower and nuclear.
Of course, the deal is far from assured. Because Democrats lack a majority large enough to overcome the 60-vote threshold that has become all but required to pass major legislation through the Senate, they plan to use an arcane process known as budget reconciliation to pass the bill with just a simple majority vote. That would require every single Democratic vote. But some moderates have already expressed concerns about the package, and there's pressure to strip out some major elements.
Coal would be the big loser
If the clean electricity plan passes, analysts said it's possible new gas power plants could still be built if they had costly systems to capture their carbon emissions. But the plan mostly favors renewable and nuclear power. Coal would take the biggest hit.
"The CEPP would eliminate coal-fired electricity by 2030, if not sooner," wrote Michelle Bloodworth, president and CEO of America's Power, a trade group for the coal-fired power industry. She made the prediction in a letter to lawmakers expressing her industry's opposition to the plan.
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