Change country:

Biden Cannot Declare Victory on Climate Without One of These Policies

In the past few years, a historic shift has occurred in American public opinion: For the first time ever, and across a variety of polling outlets, a majority of Americans say that they want to see the government take serious action on climate change. This shift has accompanied an eruption of climate-related disasters. Wildfires now paralyze the West Coast. Heat waves have killed elderly people in their homes. And record-breaking floods have destroyed farms, shut down cities, and drowned children in basements.

Since he entered the race for his current job, President Joe Biden has stressed the danger of climate change, naming it one of the “four historic crises” that the country faces now. He has promised to zero out carbon pollution from the electricity system by 2035, with 80 percent of U.S. electricity coming from zero-carbon sources by 2030.

These goals are the backbone of Biden’s climate agenda. He cannot meet his climate commitment without a realistic, trustworthy plan to hit these electricity goals. There are two different ways to achieve them: the Clean Electricity Program, which incentivizes utilities to increase the amount of zero-carbon power that they generate each year, or a carbon tax, which levies a fee on each ton of greenhouse-gas pollution released into the atmosphere.

If Congress can pass either of these policies, then Biden’s climate agenda will succeed, and the world will have a much better shot of avoiding the worst ravages of climate change by the middle of the century. If not, then Biden’s climate agenda will fall short.

The fate of these policies is being decided now. Last night, The New York Times reported that Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, opposes the Clean Electricity Program proposed in the reconciliation bill. But Manchin himself has not said so publicly, and House progressives, too, have some leverage left: If that bill does not address climate change to their satisfaction, then they can veto the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Today, remarkably, 60 percent of U.S. electricity is generated by fossil fuels. In order to meaningfully address climate change, that number must decline and rapidly reach zero. Building a zero-carbon electricity system isn’t some environmentalist fantasy; it is the first and most important step to actually managing climate change in the next two decades.

This is because of the basic restrictions of chemistry and technology. Right now, a huge portion of economic activity is powered by the controlled combustion of fossil fuels, which produce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Humanity knows how to generate energy without causing carbon pollution—using wind turbines, solar panels, nuclear plants, and more—but only in the flexible yet specific form of electricity. Nearly every plan to limit climate change in the United States follows a two-step process: First, the country must scale up the power grid, generating nearly all of its electricity from zero-carbon sources. Second, it must bring almost every fossil-powered industrial process onto the electricity grid.

Between the Clean Electricity Program and a carbon tax, the Clean Electricity Program is Biden’s best option. It would directly incentivize utilities to clean up their grid by offering federal grants for those that boosted zero-carbon electricity production by 4 percent each year. Utilities that do not meet that standard can buy credits or pay a small penalty. The policy is designed to keep electricity rates low for consumers, has support from large utilities, and resembles clean-electricity programs that have been successfully implemented in 29 states. With this program in place, the U.S. electricity grid would generate 73 percent of its energy from zero-carbon sources within a decade, preventing at least 400 million tons of carbon pollution, according to the Rhodium Group, an energy-analysis firm. (Climate tax credits would bump zero-carbon energy’s share of the energy mix the rest of the way to Biden’s 80-percent goal.) Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan think tank, has found similar results.

Biden’s other option is to support a carbon price. Such a policy has traditionally been a favorite of economists, and it would reduce carbon pollution. A carbon fee of $15 per ton, rising 5 percent each year and exempting gasoline (as any Biden plan reportedly would), promises to eliminate 45 percent of U.S. carbon pollution by 2030 compared with its all-time high, according to Resources for the Future. That makes it roughly comparable to the Clean Electricity Program, and it would make Biden’s goal of halving carbon pollution by 2030 feasible.

But there are good reasons to be skeptical of a carbon tax. A carbon tax is, by design, intended to raise fossil-fuel prices, which strikes me as politically unwise, amid a global spike in energy prices and an ongoing producers’ strike in the Texas oil patch. Taxing carbon also turns fossil fuels into an enduring source of government revenue, when the goal should instead be to eliminate them.

Yet for all these quibbles, a carbon tax would undoubtedly work. And the passage of either a carbon tax or the Clean Electricity Program would amount to a colossal political achievement, finally allowing the United States to sit among its peer countries that have passed significant climate policy.

Manchin is the greatest opponent of both these policies. He has reportedly told Biden that he cannot accept the Clean Electricity Program, even though he seemed to accept it in a secret agreement that he signed with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer this summer. Senate Democrats respect Manchin and understand his unusual political acumen—he has, after all, found a way to win elections as a Democrat in a state that Donald Trump won by 39 points last year. Although Manchin’s family owns a coal-brokerage company from which he might still draw an income, he may have broader goals as a politician. He seems determined to ensure that the roughly 31,000 fossil-fuel workers in his state can envision a future for themselves in a decarbonizing economy—much as climate activists are desperate to see a safe and prosperous future for themselves in the hot years ahead.

If the Times is wrong that Manchin has categorically rejected Clean Electricity Program, there is plenty about these policies that Manchin and Biden can and should negotiate about. They could slow the Clean Electricity Program’s pace of change (should utilities go zero-carbon at 3 percent a year, rather than 4?) or adjust the amount of carbon capture permitted (should natural-gas plants that capture 80 percent of their pollution count?). They could exempt certain states from the program during its early years. The Clean Electricity Program would supercharge one of Manchin’s own provisions in the bill—a tax credit that would help companies build clean-energy technologies in America—by creating 15 to 30 percent more jobs than the policy would alone.

These details matter—they will decide how fast America’s significant share of global carbon pollution falls—but ultimately either the Clean Electricity Program or carbon tax would allow the U.S. to further drive down the cost of producing zero-carbon energy. That benefit would redound worldwide, shaping a far larger share of global climate pollution.

Is there a third option here? According to the Times, White House staff is now “trying to cobble together a mix of other policies that could also cut emissions,” and they could plausibly find some provisions that are acceptable to Manchin that would also encourage utilities to replace some of their fossil-fuel generation with renewables. But barring a miracle, the administration would be forced to fall back on using Environmental Protection Agency rules to reduce carbon pollution, a potentially costly and arduous process that would be vulnerable to challenges at the conservative Supreme Court or rollbacks from future presidents. And there is no guarantee that it would become settled law by the 2024 election.

These political concerns may seem quotidian, and they are—but how and whether any of these policies pass is a question of world-historical importance. Lawmakers, the press, and Americans of good character must understand that the U.S. has more at stake than the particular makeup of its electricity system. Over the past few years, some of the most famous institutions in the country—the biggest companies, universities, states, and cities—have pledged to act on climate change. Leading diplomats have flown around the world to proclaim the seriousness of America’s commitment.

But what have they concretely accomplished? For all its climate-destroying coal plants, China still installs more solar power than any other country, sells more electric vehicles than any other country, and operates a weak but expanding carbon market. Trans-Atlantic strategists worry that the European Union, which also maintains a carbon price, could eventually fuse its system to that of its largest trading partner, China. For the U.S. to fail to follow through after so much blabber would suggest, as China’s leaders reportedly believe, that our democracy is too sclerotic to meet the current crisis. That is a mortifying conclusion for the country, and a potentially dangerous one for the world order. If the U.S. cannot pass one of these policies, cannot bring itself to actually reduce carbon pollution, then it will strengthen the perception that American democracy is fundamentally sick, dying, unable to act on an issue on which its leaders’ credibility and its international stature rides. We will look like a decadent, soul-sick nation, too feeble to govern our basest instincts. And, well, aren’t we?

Read full article on:
‘PEN15’ was a radically honest, thoroughly singular show about Asian American girlhood
"PEN15," whose final episodes debut Friday, was a delightfully cringeworthy comedy underrated for its portrayal of Asian American tween angst.
9 m
Amazon, can we have our name back?
Amazon's use of Alexa as a wake word for its voice assistant turned the name into a command, impacting daily interactions for people with the name, myself included.
9 m
America's cash bail system has many flaws, here's a better solution
To require cash bail is to criminalize poverty. That’s the kind of bogus claim you’d expect to hear from an overzealous criminal defense lawyer. To hear it, instead, from a prosecutor is quite something else.
Ultimate Christmas music guide: 50 of the best songs to get you into the holiday spirit
There's a Christmas song for all tastes – jolly to melancholy – so corralling them into one list is not only futile, but impossible. Still, we try.
She mistakenly called a stranger across the country 20 years ago. The two became friends — and finally just met in person.
“I asked her where she was from, and we just started talking,” said Mike Moffitt, explaining how he and Gladys Hankerson became friends.
She mistakenly called a stranger across the country 20 years ago. The two became friends — and finally just met in person.
“I asked her where she was from, and we just started talking,” said Mike Moffitt, explaining how he and Gladys Hankerson became friends.
Cook Political Report's Wasserman on redistricting and 2022 midterms
Wasserman talks with "Takeout" host Major Garrett about the increasing partisanship and polarization in our congressional districts.
Stop Avoiding The Facts About Waukesha | Opinion
It is stunning how much reporting and liberal commentary distorted the massacre at a Christmas parade last week.
Omicron Poses New Threat to Joe Biden's Ratings, Gives Critics Another Opening
The COVID-19 strain has put the world on high alert, and its ramifications could spell bad news for the president.
December is holiday train garden season. Here’s where to find the festive displays.
Epic layouts created by model train enthusiasts are a long-standing Christmastime custom.
As drone popularity increases, feds look to rein in bad behavior
A Virginia case is among drone-related incidents to catch the attention of prosecutors.
Anthony Broadwater was wrongfully convicted four decades ago — and fought to get his life back
Last week Anthony Broadwater was exonerated for the rape of author Alice Sebold, a case that has exposed inequities in the criminal justice system.
In the galleries: Artist’s works criss-cross the paths of U.S. colonialism
Raises questions about who has access to resources, citizenship, and the right to sovereignty.
When it comes to China, sports and entertainment often tread lightly
The WTA and the IOC have taken different approaches to China amid the Peng Shuai controversy. What have other sports and entertainment entities done at similar moments?
November Jobs Report Expected to Show Another Month of Healthy Gains
The trajectory of the economy as the holidays approach and a tumultuous year nears its end will come into focus as the government releases new data. The emergence of the Omicron variant threatens some employment gains, but it is too soon to gauge the risk to the economy. Here’s the latest.
Omicron Variant Is Found in Several U.S. States
Health officials say that community spread of Omicron is inevitable, even as much remains unknown about the new variant. Follow updates on Covid.
Dear Care and Feeding: My Son’s School Called About His Laptop Usage, and I’m Extremely Worried
Parenting advice on school laptops, cruel grandparents, and sleep training.
Pakistan police: mob kills Sri Lankan over alleged blasphemy
Pakistan police say a Muslim mob has attacked a sports equipment factory in the eastern Punjab province, killing a Sri Lankan man over allegations of blasphemy
Daughter's Adorable Sign for Uber Driver Dad Learning English Resurfaces: 'My Hero'
The note asked passengers to have patience with the father, who was still learning English.
Think You’re Smarter Than Slate’s News Director? Find Out With This Week’s News Quiz.
Test your knowledge of this week’s big stories.
Report: ISIS attack on Iraqi village leaves 12 dead
Iraqi Kurdish media says an attack by Islamic State militants on a village in northern Iraq has killed at least 12 people, including a number of Kurdish forces
U.S. white supremacists blamed for targeting Aboriginal Australians with covid vaccine misinformation
Officials in Western Australia, led by Premier Mark McGowan, said some misinformation was coming from Facebook groups, including one with a cover image of Donald Trump.
Thefts, Always an Issue for Retailers, Become More Brazen
In recent months, robberies have been more visible, with several involving large groups rushing into stores and coming out with armloads of goods.
'I've never seen anything like that': Bizarre goal marks thrilling Manchester United and Arsenal clash
Manchester United bounced back from conceding one of the most unusual goals you're ever likely to see to eventually beat Arsenal 3-2 in Thursday's Premier League clash.
Didi’s Brief U.S. Foray Is Ending. What Happens Next?: QuickTake
Didi Global Inc. said Thursday it plans to delist from the New York Stock Exchange, barely five months after its initial public offering drew the wrath of Beijing. The Chinese ride-hailing giant said it plans to list in Hong Kong instead, allowing existing shareholders to convert their holdings in the company. But the announcement was scarce on details, leaving investors -- already nursing roughly $40 billion of losses -- with many unanswered questions.
Space station's orbit adjusted to dodge debris from old U.S. rocket
The debris avoidance maneuver comes amid heightened concern about space debris following a controversial Russian weapons test.
Appeals court hears arguments in E. Jean Carroll's defamation lawsuit against Trump
Former magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll squares off against the Justice Department before a New York federal appeals court Friday in an oral argument that will likely decide the fate of her defamation lawsuit against former President Donald Trump.
Julia Child’s Georgetown house on the market for $3.5 million
HOUSE OF THE WEEK | The circa 1869 house, which has undergone a complete renovation, was where she taught cooking lessons and tested recipes for her famous cookbook.
They've read the briefs and heard oral arguments. Here's what the Supreme Court justices do next.
In their private conference room, no one is allowed to talk twice until everyone has talked once.
Lamine Diack, Olympics Power Broker Convicted of Taking Bribes, Dies at 88
The former head of the world governing body for track and field was convicted of accepting bribes to cover up a Russian doping scandal.
'Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson Gave Me His Truck—He Was So Inspiring'
The minute I walked out, I saw cameras and photographers and a gift bag. I was wondering what was going on, and felt like maybe I was being "Punk'd". But it was actually the opposite!
Christmas Delivery Services: When Is the Last Day to Send Post Before the Holidays?
The last day to post packages may be in early December for deliveries to be made by December 24 or Christmas Day.
When Are the Game Awards 2021 and How To Watch the Livestream
This year's Game Awards promises to feature exciting trailer reveals and celebrity musical performances. Of course, its main focus will be celebrating the year in gaming.
Carbon Monoxide Leak Inside Plane Prompts Emergency Landing
A Frontier Airlines plane was forced to make an emergency landing at El Paso International Airport because of a "passenger medical emergency and a fume event," the airline said.
Alec Baldwin 'Couldn't Give a S***' About His Career After 'Rust' Shooting
"I said to myself, 'Do I want to work much more after this? Is it worth it?'" the actor said during the ABC interview.
14 arrested over L.A. smash-and-grab thefts, but none kept in jail
Most suspects either bailed out or met no-bail criteria under a policy meant to ease prison overcrowding during the COVID pandemic – a policy local leaders want lifted.
1 h
South Africa's Covid cases are 'increasing rapidly'
1 h
How Pfizer developed a COVID pill in record time
Pfizer researchers looking for a drug to treat SARS found clues that gave the company a head start in its quest for a pill to treat COVID-19, including the omicron variant.
1 h
J.D. Vance’s Investment Firm Got Canceled—by the State of Delaware
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/APVenture capitalist and Republican senatorial candidate J.D. Vance has made his crusade against “woke capital” a cornerstone of his campaign. And in fact, his own firm, Narya Capital, appears to have fallen victim to corporate cancel culture.This spring, the Delaware division of corporations canceled all three of Narya’s entities in the state—not for its politics, mind you, but seemingly for clerical oversights.Records with the Delaware secretary of state show that the company’s registered agent, Cogency Global, resigned in March. One month later, the state changed the firm’s status to “cancelled.” Nayra had lost its business charter.Read more at The Daily Beast.
1 h
Meghan Markle vs. the Mail Is a Grudge Match That’s Far From Over
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/GettyMeghan Markle won a dramatic legal victory Thursday over Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), the publishers of the Mail on Sunday, the Daily Mail and MailOnline. However, her gloating reaction to the judgement, in which she referred to the “daily fail” and named and shamed the newspapers’ proprietor, Jonathan Rothermere, may only serve to intensify negative coverage of her in the British media, experts and tabloid insiders have told The Daily Beast.After three years of argument and millions of dollars in legal fees, it took less than 10 minutes for a senior judge to demolish ANL’s argument that the outlets were entitled to publish extensive extracts from a letter that Meghan wrote to her father.The key moment came when Sir Geoffrey Vos, Master of the Rolls, emphatically declared: “The Duchess had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of the letter. Those contents were personal, private and not matters of legitimate public interest.”Read more at The Daily Beast.
1 h
Tucker Carlson Asked Hunter Biden for Help Getting His Son Into College—Leaked Email
The QAnon-supporting lawyer Lin Wood, who is threatening to sue the Fox host, shared what he said was a 2014 exchange between Carlson and the president's son.
1 h
Enrolling in my first health plans felt intimidating, so I got this expert advice on open enrollment.
I'm 26 and have never chosen my own health insurance. Here's what two experts taught me about navigating open enrollment.      
1 h
Governor Steve Bullock Warns: Democrats Face Trouble in Rural America
It’s time to ditch the grand ideological narratives and talk to voters about their real needs.
1 h
Omicron variant found in at least 5 US states; Congress avoids shutdown after vaccine mandate clash: COVID-19 updates
The omicron variant has been discovered in at least five U.S. states as senators narrowly avoided a government shutdown. The latest COVID-19 updates.      
1 h
Food Delivery and Ride Hailing Apps Will Have to Shell Out Billions Under an E.U. Plan
As many as 4.1 million people working for the apps could be reclassified as employees, costing the sector billions more a year
1 h
NAACP Legal Defense Fund: This is the first step to end police violence. But not the last.
Qualified immunity is a serious barrier to police accountability and fairness. Courts routinely excuse officers who shoot first and think later.       
1 h
Police Chief Charged With Going Rogue Has a Very Ugly Past
Village of Loving City Hall & Police Department Frank Methola, 50, a veteran law-enforcement officer and the police chief of the tiny town of Loving, New Mexico, was criminally charged this week for allegedly attempting to make an arrest outside of his jurisdiction and tasing someone in the process.The charges were not a shock to people who’ve had past run-ins with Methola during his career. Not only because what is alleged lines up with their description of a cop who they said has a history of going rogue and using excessive force, but because they could not fathom that Methola was still working in law enforcement.The saga is one of countless examples of a larger national trend of seemingly problem cops bouncing around various agencies, even within the same state, and even getting promoted along the way.Read more at The Daily Beast.
1 h
The Last-Ditch Pressure Campaign to Cancel Student Loans
Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily BeastAs the White House sweats over the rising price of milk, bread and gas, tens of millions of Americans are bracing for an even larger hit to their budgets on the horizon: the return of student loan debt.That is, unless the administration moves to cancel those debts first.Payments on federal student loans have been paused and interest rates set to 0 percent since passage of the CARES Act in March 2020. After repeated extensions, they were set to resume in September 2021, but a final extension allowed the pause to continue through January 2022. That’s been a dramatic financial relief for the nearly 45 million people with student loans who hold more than $1.7 trillion in outstanding student debt nationwide.Read more at The Daily Beast.
1 h