ARVADA, Colo. — President Biden warned on Tuesday that the United States had only a decade left to confront a global climate crisis, using his second day touring a wildfire-ravaged West to try to rally the public, and congressional Democrats, to support measures that his administration hopes will reduce the burning of fossil fuels.
Mr. Biden’s stops this week in Colorado; Boise, Idaho; and Long Beach and the Sacramento area in California amounted to more than an opportunity to call attention to the severe destruction of wildfires and other natural disasters that have been exacerbated by climate change. The visits were a last-ditch opportunity to sell the importance of measures aimed at mitigating climate change, some of which appear increasingly at risk in his spending packages.
“A drought or a fire doesn’t see a property line,” Mr. Biden said during remarks at a federal renewable energy laboratory. “It doesn’t give a damn for which party you belong to. Disasters aren’t going to stop. That’s the nature of the climate threat. But we know what we have to do. We just need to summon the courage and the creativity to do it.”
Underscoring the urgency, Mr. Biden added: “We don’t have much more than 10 years.”
Democratic leaders drafting a $3.5 trillion spending bill are struggling to match the urgency of Mr. Biden’s pleas with pushback from energy lobbyists and some key Democrats, who want a far less expansive effort than what Mr. Biden has in mind.
On Monday, during a visit to California’s Office of Emergency Services in the Sacramento area, Mr. Biden appeared to recognize that. Before he received a briefing on the wildfire damage, he reminded dozens of emergency workers in the conference room that he was not able to include all of his proposed investments to combat climate change in a bipartisan agreement that he reached this summer on infrastructure. He said he was focused on including them in the more sweeping $3.5 trillion package but acknowledged that it could fall short of his ambitions.
Understand the Infrastructure Bill
- One trillion dollar package passed. The Senate passed a sweeping bipartisan infrastructure package on Aug. 10, capping weeks of intense negotiations and debate over the largest federal investment in the nation’s aging public works system in more than a decade.
- The final vote. The final tally in the Senate was 69 in favor to 30 against. The legislation, which still must pass the House, would touch nearly every facet of the American economy and fortify the nation’s response to the warming of the planet.
- Main areas of spending. Overall, the bipartisan plan focuses spending on transportation, utilities and pollution cleanup.
- Transportation. About $110 billion would go to roads, bridges and other transportation projects; $25 billion for airports; and $66 billion for railways, giving Amtrak the most funding it has received since it was founded in 1971.
- Utilities. Senators have also included $65 billion meant to connect hard-to-reach rural communities to high-speed internet and help sign up low-income city dwellers who cannot afford it, and $8 billion for Western water infrastructure.
- Pollution cleanup: Roughly $21 billion would go to cleaning up abandoned wells and mines, and Superfund sites.
“Whether that passes or not, exactly how much, I don’t know. But we’re going to get it passed,” Mr. Biden said.
Tax writers in the House have already made a concession of sorts on climate. A bill released earlier this week omits any tax on carbon emissions, even though such revenue could help pay for the giant package, which Democrats plan to pass along party lines and without Republican support. Many Senate Democrats have pushed to include either a direct tax on emissions or an indirect one, like a tariff on goods imported from high-emission countries such as China. But the party is not aligned, and given the slim majorities in the House and Senate, such a plan would probably have trouble gaining the 50 votes needed in the Senate.
Centrist concerns over the size and scope of some proposed tax increases could force party leaders to pare back incentives for low-carbon energy deployment in the plan. So could influential Democrats who have resisted the party’s previous climate legislation, like Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.
A coal-state moderate, Mr. Manchin is the committee chairman charged with drafting the Senate version of the single largest effort to reduce emissions in the bill: a carrot-and-stick approach to push electric utilities to draw more power from low-carbon sources over the coming decade.
“The transition is happening,” Mr. Manchin said, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “Now they’re wanting to pay companies to do what they’re already doing. Makes no sense to me at all for us to take billions of dollars and pay utilities for what they’re going to do as the market transitions.”
He declined to comment further on…