Biden’s clean energy goals have a union problem

Biden’s clean energy goals have a union problem

Presented by The Clean Hydrogen Future Coalition (CHFC)

President Joe Biden greets workers as he tours a shipyard in Philadelphia.

President Joe Biden greets workers as he tours a shipyard in Philadelphia Thursday. | Susan Walsh/AP Photo

If you’ve ever listened to President Joe Biden talk about fighting climate change, chances are you’ve heard him connect it to “good-paying” union jobs.

It’s a well-worn line that has echoed across the Biden administration and into the districts that Cabinet heads fanned out across in recent weeks.

“A lot of my friends in organized labor know when I think climate, I think jobs,” Biden declared last week in Philadelphia.

But the relationship between Biden and big labor groups seems to be on the rocks — and it could get more contentious as several major workers’ strikes loom, write Holly Otterbein and Zack Colman.

The tensions underscore the challenge of ensuring that clean energy jobs are also the well-paying union jobs Biden promised.

The United Auto Workers — whose contract with the Detroit Three automakers ends in September — is, for now, withholding support from the president. The union has accused the administration of doling out billions of dollars in subsidies for electric vehicles without demanding higher wages and other protections. It has also lambasted the administration for steering billions of dollars in clean energy money to right-to-work states like Kentucky and Tennessee.

Former President Donald Trump is vowing to undo Biden’s electric vehicle measures as he tries for the UAW endorsement.

Political matters: The potential loss of a powerful ally — particularly in the critical battlefield of Michigan — has the Biden administration and its allies concerned.

Biden’s senior staff has told allies “that the rhetoric from the new UAW leadership is concerning, this is a problem, and we’ve got to figure this out together,” said one person familiar with the administration’s thinking.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told Holly and Zack that if Democrats don’t get this right, it could both hurt them politically and threaten the transition from gas-powered cars to electric vehicles.

Many federal grants and loans from Biden’s climate law are heading to the largely nonunionized battery industry and right-to-work states, which bar unions from collecting mandatory dues. That could set a lower floor for worker standards in a sector crucial to the president’s agenda, say progressives and organized labor.

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) said the Biden administration should steer such grants and loans to more union-friendly locations.

“It’s a matter of targeting in the places where we have historically good jobs working in the auto industry,” he said. “If you come to Michigan, for example, is a different question than going to a place that does not have a history of labor rights.”

Reminder: POLITICO is holding an event Wednesday on whether energy initiatives are paying off and what it will really take to support clean energy jobs. Michigan Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell and Tony G. Reames, the principal deputy director for the Energy Department’s Office of State and Community Energy Programs, are among the event speakers.

It’s Monday thank you for tuning in to POLITICO’s Power Switch. I’m your host, Kelsey Tamborrino. 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]

A message from The Clean Hydrogen Future Coalition (CHFC):

The clean hydrogen future is coming. Let’s get there faster. Clean hydrogen can help power the heavy industries America relies on with lower CO2 emissions. That’s why we support practical clean hydrogen rules in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). So we can build the clean hydrogen industry of the future now using clean power sources America already has today. See who’s working to speed up America’s clean hydrogen economy.

Today in POLITICO Energy’s podcast: Robin Bravender breaks down how major energy industry executives who supported Trump in 2020 are now donating to his GOP rivals.

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The logo for JPMorgan Chase & Co. is pictured.

The logo for JPMorgan Chase & Co. is pictured. | Richard Drew/AP Photo

‘Hidden pipeline’ of fossil fuel finance

Major banks say they’re looking to slash emissions associated with their financing activities, but a new report argues a “hidden pipeline” for fossil fuel finance exists, writes Avery Ellefeldt.

The report, published Monday by the Sierra Club, looked at six of the largest U.S. banks and analyzed equity and bond underwriting activity in the fossil fuel sector — rather than the loans banks gave to oil and gas companies.

It found that between 2016 and 2022, 61 percent of bank financing provided to 30 oil and gas companies came from the underwriting of bonds and equities.

The findings reveal a major gap in some banks’ climate strategies because they’re essentially “omitting two-thirds of their financing for fossil expansion,” said report author and Sierra Club campaigner Adele Shraiman.

Power Centers

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D).

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) speaks after surveying storm damage from tornadoes and extreme weather in Dawson Springs, Ky., on Dec. 15, 2021. | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

Green in the Bluegrass State
As one of the most endangered Democratic governors in the country, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear is avoiding fights over energy and the environment, making it difficult for Republicans to land climate attacks against him, Adam Aton reports. It’s a tactic that will be put to the test as Beshear prepares for an off-year election in a GOP-dominated coal state.

A wind of change
The world’s largest offshore wind developer, Ørsted A/S, is a bellwether for offshore wind in the U.S., reports Benjamin Storrow. Recently, the company received the OK from federal regulators to install turbines off New Jersey and Rhode Island, but rising interest rates and inflation will test its ability to raise money to build the projects — with broad implications for U.S. climate action.

Flood warning
In a series of new reports, officials are warning residents in major U.S. cities, including New York, that they face growing danger as climate change intensifies urban flash flooding, Thomas Frank reports. It comes as FEMA says most cities with urban flooding “do not regulate” development in the vulnerable areas.

A message from The Clean Hydrogen Future Coalition (CHFC):

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In Other News

Bigger in Texas: Corpus Christi, Texas, has long been the dominant U.S. hub for moving crude, but with pipelines nearing capacity and U.S. output ramping up, competition among companies and investors is booming on how to bring U.S. shale production to international markets.

All politics is local: The fate of the clean energy provisions under Democrats’ landmark climate law may largely hinge on the decisions of state and local Republican officials.

A message from The Clean Hydrogen Future Coalition (CHFC):

Clean hydrogen can power the heavy industries our nation relies on with lower CO2 emissions. The Inflation Reduction Act is poised to jump-start the clean hydrogen economy in the US, and help decarbonize critical industries like refining, steel and fertilizer production.

That’s why the Clean Hydrogen Future Coalition supports practical clean hydrogen rules. We can bring clean hydrogen to market faster using the clean power sources America already has today, and annually match that power to hydrogen production, while we invest in the clean hydrogen industry of the future.

America can’t wait to start decarbonizing the industries our nation relies on. We’re working to speed up America’s clean hydrogen economy.

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Flares burn off methane and other hydrocarbons at an oil and gas facility.Pin

Flares burn off methane and other hydrocarbons at an oil and gas facility in Lenorah, Texas. The Biden administration announced new funding to address methane emissions. | David Goldman/AP Photo

The Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Department launched new funding to help states tackle methane emissions leaks from oil and gas wells.

The Energy Department is also moving ahead with new efficiency standards for home water heaters — a move that would shift much of the electric market to more efficient heat pumps.

The Council of the International Seabed Authority — the international body with oversight of the world’s ocean floors — has set a 2025 goal for establishing regulations governing deep-sea mining.

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

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