Reviews | Democrats Should Accept Joe Manchin’s ‘Big Oil Side Deal’

Senate Democrats are racing to figure out how to keep the government lights on, facing a Friday deadline to pass a spending bill funding federal operations. It shouldn’t be difficult. No one wants a government shutdown with November’s midterm elections looming. But a fight broke out over whether to add to the necessary spending bill what opponents call “the big oil side deal” – legislation designed to speed up the clearance of energy projects, which Sen. Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.) demanded in exchange for his summer vote on the Cutback Act from inflation, the climate and the Democrats’ historic health- care bill.

There should be no controversy: including Mr. Manchin’s bill would improve the package. This is true even – or especially – if the primary concern is climate change.

Mr. Manchin’s bill has sparked controversy because it contains a concessionary provision that would benefit a pipeline project in West Virginia that Mr. Manchin wants to pass. But, while unattractive, it doesn’t even come close to the most important piece of legislation; the fact that the bill would facilitate the construction of power lines is.

The country needs to build a lot of new infrastructure if it is to quickly transition from greenhouse gas-intensive fossil fuels to renewable energy. Aside from more solar panels and wind turbines, perhaps the greatest need is for transmission – large cables that carry large amounts of electricity from power stations to cities and towns. The sun does not shine and the wind does not blow everywhere at the same time. A grid filled with renewables will require transmission lines to pull electricity from places with favorable weather conditions to where people live. In addition, electricity will have to replace gasoline as the fuel for the country’s cars and trucks, power heat pumps and water heaters in homes, and run stoves that will replace natural gas stoves, which means the country will need more of it – and more wires to move it across the country.

Yet building such things as power lines is unreasonably difficult in the United States. Large transmission projects, even those expressly designed to carry clean electricity, die after years allowing purgatory. Princeton’s ZERO Lab, which models the effects of climate policies, found that if the U.S. didn’t increase the rate at which it extended transmission lines, 80% of emissions reductions could come from the new bill. on the climate of Democrats during the process. of this decade would not happen. Even increasing the pace by 50% would leave 25% of the policy’s potential emissions reductions on the table. Failure to improve the rate at which the country builds transmission lines would even increase natural gas consumption this decade, which would be an ironic outcome given that opposition to Mr. Manchin’s bill reflects concerns concerning the construction of a gas pipeline.

The Manchin legislation would strengthen the federal government’s power to approve transmission lines it deems to be in the national interest and would facilitate funding for new cables. It would also encourage more speed in lengthy reviews which may thwart other necessary developments. Democrats should embrace reform — not tie up government funding in a gratuitous squabble.

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