Biden wants coal country to rise like a phoenix

Biden wants coal country to rise like a phoenix

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm testifies before a House Appropriations subcommittee.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm testifies before the House Appropriations Energy-Water Subcommittee on Capitol Hill on March 23. | Francis Chung/POLITICO

The Biden administration is trying to herd renewable energy companies toward communities where coal-fired power plants and mines have shuttered.

The latest carrot to tease that interest? A bonus tax credit for clean energy projects.

But even as White House officials promoted the new support on Tuesday — contrasting it with the failed efforts of the Trump era to revitalize coal country — experts warned that rebuilding these economies will take a long time and beleaguered communities may need help in accessing federal benefits.

Why Biden is focusing on coal country: President Joe Biden is pitching his climate commitments as an opportunity to build up the places that have long relied on drilling, mining, or making power from coal, oil and gas.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said coal country would rise like a phoenix — the mythical bird that’s reborn from its own ashes — during a briefing Tuesday also attended by labor, environmental and energy groups.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen struck a more practical tone, saying coal communities often have the experience and workforce to benefit from the energy transition, “but in many cases, these communities would benefit significantly from an initial public investment to jumpstart that process.”

The nuts and bolts: The Biden administration is offering a 10 percent tax credit for renewable projects in old coal and oil towns that comes on top of the expanded tax benefits for clean energy under the Inflation Reduction Act.

The administration also announced Tuesday a handful of other efforts, including a mapping tool to help investors find areas eligible for tax credits and an agreement between federal agencies to collaborate on getting resources to legacy energy communities.

The government has already directed $14 billion in investments to legacy energy communities over the last two years, including $480 million in stimulus funds during the Covid-19 pandemic. Biden officials also say federal programs have encouraged $7.4 billion in private sector investment. TerraPower, for example, is leveraging federal funds for its planned nuclear project in a Wyoming coal town.

But both environmental advocates and clean energy investors say numerous challenges remain. Tom Cormons, executive director of the environmental group Appalachian Voices, called revitalization a “Herculean effort” that will require the federal government to commit to ongoing collaboration with communities.

And Hy Martin, chief development officer at the D.E. Shaw Group, pointed out the difficult task of finding enough workers.

“It’s a very hard thing to do,” said Martin, whose company operates renewable energy projects.. “You have to find hundreds of people that are willing to do the work that is available.”

It’s Tuesday thank you for tuning in to POLITICO’s Power Switch. I’m your host, Heather Richards. Arianna will be back soon! Power Switch is brought to you by the journalists behind E&E News and POLITICO Energy. Send your tips, comments, questions to [email protected]

Today in POLITICO Energy’s podcast: A tough-on-China sentiment is sweeping both sides of Capitol Hill, worrying the exporters of liquefied natural gas. POLITICO’s Ben Lefebvre explains the fraught ties between Washington and Beijing and the position of gas companies that say they need Chinese contracts.

Power Centers

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) at a recent hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Capito has quizzed EPA officials on the agency’s projections for the power sector under the Inflation Reduction Act. | Francis Chung/POLITICO

IRA paves way for EPA to toughen carbon rules

As Democrats’ massive clean energy law reshapes the nation’s grid, it could help federal regulators enact tougher carbon regulations, writes Jean Chemnick.

That’s because the cost of limiting heavy emissions from coal and gas power plants will be less costly when the grid is flush with alternatives. Plus, the structural market decline of those dirtier fuels could far outweigh the burden of emissions rules from EPA.

Europe hasn’t seen the end of e-scooters

Paris prefers not to have rental scooters scooting its streets. But that doesn’t mean the electric scooter industry is giving up, write Aitor Hernández-Morales, Alexandre Léchenet and Joshua Posaner.

After a weekend referendum barred EV scooter rentals in the French capital, scooter companies panned the results as unrepresentative of city sentiment due to a generally low turnout that consisted mostly of older voters. They are looking ahead — if not in Paris, then in other French cities.

Will U.S. oil boom offset OPEC cuts? Probably not.

Oil prices rose after news that some OPEC countries, led by Saudi Arabia, plan to cut production. But as Shelby Webb writes, that may not translate to a burst of new drilling in U.S. oil fields.

U.S. oil companies are still pleasing shareholder by not freely spending cash, and fears of a recession and persistent inflation have kept oil and gas production flat for months.

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In Other News

New battery factory: The automaker of Chrysler and Jeep may team up with Japan’s Panasonic to build an electric car battery factory in North America, underscoring the feverish interest in growing battery capacity. Panasonic specializes in cylinder batteries, such as those used in Teslas, rather than the rectangular and prismatic ones usually preferred by legacy car makers.

Environmental justice: The oil and gas industry drew Black Americans to places like Beaumont, Texas, in years past. Now, they face the illnesses that come from living within breathing distance of the pollution from refineries.

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Offshore wind turbines spin.

Dominion Energy’s offshore wind pilot program off the coast of Virginia Beach, Va. | Jordan Wolman/POLITICO

A showcase of some of our best subscriber content.

Fishing groups opposed to offshore wind faced tough questions from a judge in Massachusetts on Monday, in a federal lawsuit closely watched by the growing renewable energy industry as it tries to establish itself in the United States.

U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani, an Obama appointee, questioned whether the fishermen had legal standing to oppose Vineyard Wind on the grounds that it violated the Endangered Species Act. The 62-turbine offshore wind farm is being built off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pressuring the U.S. Geological Survey to designate copper as a critical mineral, citing its importance to the energy transition.

The federal agency did not put copper on a list released last year of “critical minerals,” defined as those essential to U.S. economic or national security interests but vulnerable to supply chain disruptions. The decision has sparked a debate between supporters of the copper industry and environmental groups and a tribe fighting a copper mine in Arizona.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline, a favorite of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D), faces delays. Again.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit yanked a permit needed to complete the 303-mile pipeline project, a would-be conduit of natural gas through West Virginia. The court cited errors in how a state agency assessed whether the pipeline posed a threat to the state’s water quality.

That’s it for today, folks! Thanks for reading.

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