- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 9, 2022

President Biden on Wednesday met with leaders of the nation’s largest utility companies in a push to revive his $550 billion plan to tackle climate change.

Mr. Biden said his proposals will create good-paying clean energy jobs.

“It’s going to make us more economically competitive while reducing pollution and improving public health and helping us meet the moment on climate change,” he said at the White House meeting. “These investments are about today and also about the future. “

Mr. Biden summoned the utility CEOs to talk up the climate measures in his derailed $1.75 trillion spending package, which went off the rails late last year because of disunity among Senate Democrats.

The utility leaders praised Mr. Biden’s plans, saying it would enable the U.S. to reduce carbon emissions quicker than originally expected.

“Your support … will really allow us to accelerate making energy reliable, affordable and cleaner sooner,” said Patricia Vincent Collawn, CEO of PNM Resources, an electricity provider in New Mexico,

It was the first major effort by Mr. Biden to highlight pieces of the massive spending bill since Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, single-handedly killed it by withdrawing his support. The bill needed support from all 50 Senate Democrats to survive in the evenly split chamber.

Mr. Biden said he will break up the massive legislation and try to pass it in “chunks.”

The $550 billion in energy and climate spending includes more than $300 billion in new and expanded tax credits for wind and solar power, nuclear plants and other items that have won support from utility companies.

Gerald Anderson, chairman of DTE Energy, told the president support for wind and solar has been very high among his customers.

Despite the shift in strategy, the president’s bid to pass his climate agenda is filled with pitfalls. 

Mr. Biden would still need every Senate Democrat on board.
Every Republican has opposed the massive spending plan, arguing that it would increase inflation, which is already at its highest level in 40 years.

“The climate change aspect of the bill is one of the aspects that has the most life to it,” said Antjuan Seawright, a South Carolina-based Democratic strategist. “Joe Manchin has mentioned that he is generally supportive of the climate aspect, and there is support for it in the House.”

Mr. Manchin has said that the climate provisions could be preserved. But he has been vague about which climate provisions he would back.

“The climate thing is one that we probably can come to an agreement much easier than anything else,” he said in December. “There’s a lot of good things in there.”

Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist, said Mr. Biden is zeroing in the climate provisions because it’s an issue that would most resonate with his leftist base and possibly lift the president’s dismal approval ratings. 

Not only is Mr. Biden’s approval rating mired in the mid-30s, but polls show voters are skeptical of his Build Back Better agenda. Only 41% of respondents to a December NPR/Marist poll said they support the spending package. Nearly 75% of Democrats backed the plan, while 36% of independents and 13%of Republicans said they support it.

“The Democrats are excited about the climate change provision, and no one else is,” Mr. O’Connell said. “He’s trying to get a consensus among the base of his party and then build out from there.”

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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