The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that the Energy Department and other agencies would create incentives for companies to develop renewable power infrastructure in coal communities.
Investment and production tax credits established through the Inflation Reduction Act, and significant bonuses offered by the Treasury Department and the IRS, will encourage firms to locate new clean power initiatives in “energy communities, particularly coal communities.” Biden administration officials have frequently advocated for a transition away from fossil fuels but have claimed that their emphasis on clean energy will replace lost jobs in the sector.
“President Biden came to the White House to end years of big words but little action to help energy-producing parts of the country, who for decades saw jobs exported out and products imported in, all while other countries surpassed the United States in critical sectors like infrastructure, clean energy, and semiconductors,” the White House said in a fact sheet. “The actions announced today will drive new investments in energy communities to support their economic revitalization, strengthen American supply chains, and help ensure coal, oil, and gas workers benefit from the new clean energy economy.”
The Energy Department will allocate $450 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds to support “clean energy demonstration projects” on current and former mine land in coal communities. Another $16 million will finance research at the University of North Dakota and West Virginia University to create a refinery that could “extract and separate rare earth elements and other critical minerals from coal ash, acid mine drainage, and other mine waste.”
Developers in the United States have transitioned away from coal production: nearly one-quarter of the nation’s coal power capacity is slated to be retired by 2029, according to data from the Energy Information Administration, while companies have not reported any plans to construct new coal facilities as of September 2022. The decreased emphasis on coal production and broader move toward green energy comes even as nations such as China and India rapidly expand their reliance on fossil fuels and increase their emissions.
Critics say that actions from the White House to discourage fossil fuel production will reduce the supply of affordable energy and stifle the economy by destroying employment opportunities. President Joe Biden signed an executive order on the first day of his administration revoking a key permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline; Fox News reporter Peter Doocy subsequently questioned former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on where the thousands of dismissed employees from the project could find their new positions.
“President Biden has proposed a climate plan with transformative investments and infrastructure,” Psaki said at the time, “and laid out a plan that would not only create millions of good union jobs but also help tackle the climate crisis.”
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The White House has meanwhile established a “whole-of-government effort” to reduce carbon emissions and incentivize green energy production. Beyond the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, both of which earmarked substantial funds for climate initiatives, regulators have introduced new emissions rules for household appliances such as gas stoves and refrigerators. Federal officials also granted the state of California authority to phase out heavy duty trucks powered by gasoline over the next two decades in favor of electric vehicles.