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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Climate Change

President Joe Biden

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President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats are still trying to work out an agreement on a compromise Build Back Better investment package. A new poll shows the vast majority of Americans want them to pass its key components.

The new survey, released Wednesday by the political advocacy groups Data for Progress and Invest in America, found that likely voters strongly back legislation to lower health insurance premiums and prescription drug copays and invest in clean energy. Those polled backed such a bill by a 75 percent -- 17 percent margin; Republicans supported it 65 percent -- 25 percent.

Biden proposed these and other human infrastructure investments as part of his Build Back Better framework in October. His $1.75 trillion plan would have paid for the new spending by raising taxes on those earning $400,000 or more and cracking down on wealthy tax cheats. It passed the House in November — over unanimous GOP opposition — but stalled in the Senate after every Republican opposed it and moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) objected to its price tag.

The Biden administration and Manchin have reportedly been trying to reach an agreement on a smaller package that would focus mostly on climate change infrastructure and addressing prescription drug costs while collecting more revenue from the richest Americans and reducing the budget deficit.



Despite Republicans and their allies spending millions of dollars on ads to convince the public that the Build Back Better agenda is a "reckless spending spree" and a step toward socialism, the original package itself was popular with voters. A December Monmouth University poll found 61 percent of American adults backed the plan.

"We're very happy with these results," TJ L'Heureux, press secretary for Invest in America, told the American Independent Foundation. "These numbers clearly show that Americans want investments that lower energy costs and lower health care costs, all of which would be incredibly popular."

"President Biden's American Rescue Plan and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law have been a game-changer for the economy and he's created more jobs in his first year than at any point in US history. But to make the economy work better for everyone, we need to keep momentum going and get these policies over the finish line," L'Heureux added.

Wednesday's poll shows the popularity of the main elements being considered.

Asked if they supported "giving Medicare the power to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs" and "capping out-of-pocket costs for insulin at $35/month," 83 percent of respondents said yes and eight percent said no to each.

By a 71 percent -- 20 percent margin, voters backed "raising taxes on the wealthiest 0.02 percent of Americans." An identical number favored "increasing funding for the IRS to make sure that the wealthiest Americans and large corporations pay all the taxes they owe."

Those surveyed also backed "ramping up the use of clean energy, like solar and wind power," by a margin of 68 percent -- 23 percent.

"These findings make clear that President Biden's investment package — including its key provisions and pay-fors — isn't just popular: it's bipartisan, too. Congressional lawmakers should feel confident that pushing for Biden's bill will improve, not harm, their standing with voters," Lew Blank, a political analyst with Data for Progress, said in an emailed statement.

Under budget reconciliation rules, the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate could pass a package containing each of those key items without any Republican votes — if they stay united.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

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Russian attacks on Ukraine have spiked the already high price of oil. But going up with that are the economic incentives to ditch this primitive fuel — the environmental reasons being well known.

Russia provides about 40 percent of Europe's imported gas, and its squeeze on supply has forced some factories to cut back on production. The case for moving to renewable energy grows only stronger.

The CEO of the Portuguese utility EDP made this point on CNBC Europe. "These are (indigenous) ... resources — wind, solar — that we have in Europe," Miguel Stilwell de Andrade said. "We need to accelerate (their development) and do it much faster."

Americans, meanwhile, can dismiss conservative claims that President Joe Biden has set back America's "energy independence." Policies to replace fossil fuels with low-carbon energy have hardly shut off the flow of domestic oil and gas. Actually, the U.S. became the world's top exporter of liquefied natural gas this year.

On a related topic, Biden's infrastructure bill set aside $6 billion to stop the premature retirement of nuclear plants. Another $2.5 billion is going for work on advanced nuclear technologies. Biden backed this zero-carbon energy source while fighting off some opposition from the left.

Germany's outsized dependence on Russian oil resulted from former German Chancellor Angela Merkel's unwise decision years ago to shutter her country's nuclear plants — and replace that source of power with Russian natural gas. (Imagine Europe launching its largest fossil fuel project in the year 2022.)

In retaliation for Russia's assault on Ukraine, Germany has suspended approval of Nord Stream 2, an underwater pipeline designed to transport Russian natural gas to Germany. Good for the new chancellor, Olaf Scholz.

Some Europeans are reportedly dealing with the convulsion in fuel prices by installing solar panels and burning wood for heat. Hooray for solar. (Boo for wood-burning, though understandable in an emergency.)

Clean energy means more energy, which, when added to improving green technology, eventually means less-expensive energy. By 2020, solar already provided cheaper power than that from plants fired by coal or natural gas in most countries, according to the International Energy Agency.

The U.S. has just passed the milestone of 200,000 megawatts of utility-scale clean energy capacity, according to the American Clean Power Association. Do you know which state installed the most wind and solar power capacity last year? Texas.

Natural gas prices were, of course, surging before Russia started pummeling Ukraine. That reflected an upturn in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic started to retreat.

But companies in Europe that had made long-term agreements for renewable energy at fixed prices found themselves in a far better place, The Wall Street Journal reports. Orange SA, the huge French telecom company, for one, is securing power from nearby solar and wind farms, as well as its own installations. It plans to obtain half its energy from renewable sources in three short years.

Such businesses, George Bilicic, head of power and energy at the investment banking firm Lazard, said, "should be better positioned than others given current fossil fuel price spikes."

Steep gas prices are, of course, a great selling point for electric cars, not that they need it at this point.

Moving the world away from fossil fuels would erase Russian President Vladimir Putin's biggest nonnuclear weapon. After all, oil and gas accounted for 39 percent of Russia's budget revenue and 60 percent of its exports in 2019.

We, on our part, must make major investments in power grids to accommodate the diverse types of low-carbon energy. But there's nothing like international turmoil at the hands of a distressed country run by an unstable leader to provide a major push in that direction. Let's get pushed.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.