Daily on Energy: Labor to pressure Biden to deliver unionized clean energy workforce

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CLEAN ENERGY JOBS CHALLENGE: Labor leaders want to see President Joe Biden’s aggressive climate policies include strong protections for workers to guarantee that the clean energy jobs created would carry the same benefits that unionized fossil fuel jobs do.

Biden has repeatedly promised to build a domestic clean energy workforce that is unionized, a key piece of bringing labor leaders on board with his agenda.

“These steps are going to create good-paying union jobs and spur demand for domestic manufacturing, accelerating clean energy and clean cars, growing our capacity to build those technologies on factory floors with union workers, here in the United States,” Biden said in a speech yesterday in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

He was referring to boosting clean energy tax credits (which the White House expects to total roughly $300 billion over 10 years) and a clean electricity standard requiring utilities to reach carbon-free power by 2035.

The AFL-CIO, the country’s biggest labor group, is throwing its support behind those policies, but it is promising to keep the pressure on Biden to fulfill his promise of a unionized clean energy workforce. He’ll be starting from a low baseline.

“The pattern that we’ve seen is the family-supporting union jobs are in the traditional sector” such as fossil fuels, said Liz Shuler, AFL-CIO’s secretary-treasurer, in a virtual event yesterday hosted by the Center for American Progress.

Renewable energy jobs, meanwhile, tend to be ones that don’t pay well and depend largely on imported goods, she said. Of the 50 largest wind and solar projects in the U.S., less than one third are being built by union jobs, Shuler added.

Labor standards attached to tax credits: Labor groups will be pushing to ensure clean energy tax credits encourage domestic production and a unionized workforce, instead of the status quo. Shuler pointed to efforts from Democrats in Congress to attach labor standards to clean energy tax credits. For example, a clean energy tax bill from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden would offer extra incentives for electric cars that are manufactured entirely in the U.S. and with union workers.

“We believe we shouldn’t be subsidizing foreign production with U.S. tax credits,” Shuler said. “It runs counter to what President Biden is trying to do.”

Even so, boosting domestic clean energy production does present a conundrum for the U.S. workforce, in part because some clean energy manufacturing and operation doesn’t require as big a workforce.

Shuler noted that switching to electric vehicles will mean the loss of 25% to 30% of auto industry factory jobs because electric cars have less components than their gas-powered counterparts. She added that most engine and transmission manufacturing facilities pay well, at around $28 to $32 per hour, while manufacturing of battery and other electric car components is being “outsourced” to non-union companies that pay around $15 to $20 an hour.

Welcome to Daily on Energy, written by Washington Examiner Energy and Environment Writers Josh Siegel (@SiegelScribe) and Abby Smith (@AbbySmithDC). Email jsiegel@washingtonexaminer.com or asmith@washingtonexaminer.com for tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email, and we’ll add you to our list.

THE LATEST ON INFRASTRUCTURE: Biden is reiterating his climate priorities for a Democrats-only reconciliation bill, including renewable energy tax credits and a clean electricity standard, as Politico reports the administration and top Democrats in the Senate will push to bring the bipartisan infrastructure deal to the floor as early as the week of July 19.

“I want to provide tax cuts for businesses and consumers who invest in clean energy technologies like renewables, battery storage, next-generation aviation fuels, electric vehicles. I want to set the clean electricity standard that moves us to a fully clean and reliable grid,” Biden said yesterday during a speech in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

Biden also stressed his plans to create a Civilian Climate Corps, modeled off a New Deal-era program, to put people to work weatherizing homes, restoring coastlines, managing forests, and other climate-related projects.

Biden’s speech comes as the White House is working to reassure climate activists that the administration will fight to pass its more aggressive climate policies, even though those measures don’t appear in the bipartisan deal.

Senate Democratic leaders are taking similar steps. In a statement yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would work to include a Civilian Climate Corps proposal in the reconciliation bill, backing a key priority of liberal climate activists.

“A robust Civilian Climate Corps will spark a green jobs transition, improve the resilience of our communities, and reinvigorate our sense of shared purpose in the fight against climate change,” Schumer said in a statement posted on Twitter.

RELATED...UTILITY LOBBY BACKS INFRASTRUCTURE DEAL: The Edison Electric Institute, which represents U.S. investor-owned utilities, is throwing its weight behind the bipartisan infrastructure deal, praising its investment in the electricity grid, electric vehicle charging stations, and broadband.

Interestingly, though, EEI doesn’t mention whether it would also back Biden’s separate push for a clean electricity standard, undoubtedly the climate measure that would affect the industry most. Some major utilities have said they would back a goal to cut emissions 80% below 2005 levels by 2030, but power companies and the utility lobby have expressed some concerns that a 2035 requirement for carbon-free power is too aggressive.

EEI does leave the door open to backing other climate measures, though. “We will continue to work with the Biden administration, and with policymakers on both sides of the political aisle in Congress, to advance the policies needed to benefit customers, to support infrastructure development, and to accelerate the clean energy transformation that is underway,” said Tom Kuhn, EEI’s president.

WIND AND SOLAR GROWTH WILL REMAIN STRONG: The Energy Information Administration expects renewable energy to reach a 23% share of total U.S. electricity generation by 2022, with roughly 50 gigawatts of wind and solar power slated to come online in the next 18 months.

2022 will also be the first year utility-scale solar capacity additions will surpass wind, the EIA said in its latest short-term energy outlook released yesterday.

As the economy recovers, the EIA expects consumption and production of fossil fuels to also grow. This year, the EIA predicts consumption of oil and other liquid fuels will rise by 5.3 million barrels per day. Consumption will continue to grow in 2022 to surpass pre-pandemic levels, the EIA said.

In addition, the EIA expects coal production to increase by 15% this year, compared to 2020 (when coal power saw a massive dip amid the pandemic). The slight rebound for coal comes amid expected higher natural gas prices, though the EIA expects coal production to fall 1% in 2022.

The EIA sees U.S. energy-related carbon emissions rebounding strongly, too, after falling 11% last year during the pandemic. This year, the EIA expects energy-related carbon emissions to rise 7.1%, and then again another 1.5% in 2022.

Hydropower, however, will see a significant decline this year as the extreme drought conditions in the Northwest and California deplete water reserves. The EIA expects an 11% dip in hydropower in those regions alone, and a 12% decline nationally.

CLIMATE CHANGE DROVE PACIFIC NORTHWEST HEAT WAVE: The extreme heat the Pacific Northwest experienced last week was “virtually impossible without human-caused climate change,” a global team of climate researchers with the World Weather Attribution said yesterday.

“The observed temperatures were so extreme that they lie far outside the range of historically observed temperatures,” the scientists wrote. In several places in the Pacific Northwest, the triple-digit heat broke records. The scientists say it is difficult to say exactly how rare the heat wave was, but estimate it to be a 1 in 1,000-year event in today’s climate.

The scientists say the heat wave was a “rare or extremely rare” weather event, but it was exacerbated by climate change. As climate change worsens, the scientists say, events like the heat wave would become more frequent. According to their findings, a heat wave like the Pacific Northwest experienced last week could occur every five to 10 years in a future where the world warms 2 degrees Celsius.

“Our results provide a strong warning: our rapidly warming climate is bringing us into uncharted territory that has significant consequences for health, well-being, and livelihoods,” the scientists wrote. “Adaptation and mitigation are urgently needed to prepare societies for a very different future.”

RENEWABLES GROUP BLASTS TEXAS GOVERNOR: The American Council on Renewable Energy is pushing back strongly on a letter Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent to state utility commissioners earlier this week blaming renewable energy for the state’s recent grid troubles.

Abbott “continues to scapegoat renewables” for the blackouts the state experienced during an unprecedented cold snap in February and tight grid conditions last month “despite unequivocal evidence to the contrary,” said Gregory Wetstone, ACORE’s president and CEO, in a statement.

Abbott, in his letter, encourages utility regulators to penalize renewable energy, charging fees if those generators can’t provide power all the time. Wetstone said that directive “would unfairly impose significant new costs on renewable energy projects, and erode the state’s business appeal to investors who have spent tens of billions in recent years to develop Texas’ abundant renewable energy resources.”

Renewable energy projects “have proven less susceptible to the impacts of climate-induced weather extremes than fossil-fired or nuclear power plants,” Wetstone added.

NOTABLE ADDITIONS TO BIDEN’S CLIMATE STAFF: Kate Gordon, most recently a top climate adviser to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, has joined the Energy Department as a senior adviser to Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

Over in the White House, Gretchen Goldman, most recently research director for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy, joined the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as assistant director for environmental science, engineering, policy, and justice.

The Rundown

The Guardian The scientists hired by big oil who predicted the climate crisis long ago

Politico Biden’s new Cold War with China will result in climate collapse, progressives warn

Reuters U.S. SEC to consider new 'sustainable' fund criteria, data disclosure rules

Calendar

THURSDAY | JULY 8

12 p.m. CRES Forum will hold an online event titled, “How Conservatives are Planning to Tackle Climate Change.”

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Original Author: Josh Siegel, Abby Smith

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