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Russian Crisis Should “Amplify” Climate Efforts in Build Back Better 2.0: Memo


A progressive climate group is seeking to put Russia’s war and its impact on the global energy market at the center of any revival of talks on President Joe Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ plan, pushing for the inclusion of more than a dozen investments to boost clean energy and reduce America’s dependence on oil and gas.

After murder the original version of last year’s huge climate and social spending package, Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) recently reported its willingness to come to the table on a stripped down version, as long as it focuses specifically on climate change, prescription drug prices and federal deficit reduction. The $1.7 trillion reconciliation package House Democrats passed in November included about $555 billion in total climate spending.

In a memo shared with HuffPost and to be distributed to Capitol Hill and White House officials, climate advocacy group Evergreen Action outlined 15 specific climate investments that were part of the House-approved bill it hopes see prioritized in any resurrected bill. version. The group says the provisions would go a long way to accelerating the transition to renewable energy and breaking free from a global oil and gas market that empowers Russian President Vladimir Putin and other bad actors.

“We want to connect the dots here, to galvanize more support for Congress to take the action it needs to address this issue,” Lena Moffitt, the group’s chief of staff, told HuffPost. “The war in Ukraine is a terrible humanitarian tragedy that is unfolding and has captured everyone’s attention, and also highlights one more reason why we must abandon fossil fuels.

“Congress happens to be considering a bill that would enhance our ability to do that,” Moffitt added.

While Evergreen Action supports all climate provisions of the now stalled Build Back Better Act, its memo highlights those that would have the most immediate impact on reducing U.S. demand for oil and gas. They include tax credits on everything from electric vehicles and solar panel manufacturing to energy-efficient buildings and green hydrogen production; huge investments to decarbonize the industrial, building and manufacturing sectors and electrify the federal vehicle fleet; and $29 billion for a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to kick-start the deployment of clean energy infrastructure.

President Joe Biden answers questions after delivering remarks on gasoline prices at the White House on March 31.

Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The note cites a recent investigation from the Data for Progress think tank which found that more than two-thirds of all likely voters support federal investments to advance clean energy in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He also cites a study from political firm Energy Innovation which concluded that the climate provisions of Biden’s Build Back Better would reduce US oil consumption enough by 2027 to offset the amount of Russian oil imported into the US last year.

“The takeaway is clear: Investing boldly in electrification and clean energy offers the best path to reducing America’s demand for fossil fuels, protecting the bottom line of American families, and ending our dependence on electricity. ‘regard to authoritarian oil states,’ Evergreen’s memo reads.

Last month, Evergreen took aim at the Senate Majority Leader chuck schumer (DN.Y.), releasing a video demanding that he keep his promise to fight “with force, insistence and urgency” against climate change via a climate spending bill. The group doubled down on that pressure in Monday’s memo, writing, “President Biden and Majority Leader Schumer must strike a deal and pass the climate provisions of the House-passed reconciliation bill now.”

Dozens of House Democrats sent Biden a letter in mid-March calling on him to relaunch reconciliation negotiations, with the climate as the primary objective. Reconciliation is a special budget process that only requires 51 votes to pass through the Senate.

Biden has faced tremendous pressure from both sides of the aisle in recent weeks. Republicans are demanding he “unleash” oil and gas production in the United States to combat rising energy costs and help European allies reduce their dependence on Russian oil, while Democrats widely call for an even faster shift to renewable energy sources.

Biden last week ordered a massive release of the country’s strategic oil reserves – up to 1 million barrels a day for the next six months – to relieve high gas prices, but stressed that the current crisis puts highlights the urgent need for the kind of climate and clean energy investments in its stalled plan.

“Ultimately, we and the whole world must completely reduce our reliance on fossil fuels,” Biden said. “We must choose long-term security over energy and climate vulnerability. We must redouble our efforts in our commitment to clean energy and the fight against the climate crisis with our partners and allies around the world.

“We need to embrace all the tools and technologies that could help break free from our dependence on fossil fuels.”



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