US president Joe Biden has retreated from key spending pledges—not least over combating climate change.
Biden claimed he would push through a pair of major bills that would see fundamental transformation in people’s lives.
The original claim was that this would see £4.4 trillion of spending. When it reached Congress, this had fallen to £2.56 trillion for social and environment action over ten years.
That’s now down to only half of that sum. It means the annual outlay is less than one-quarter of the military budget.
Biden will seek to pose as a global climate leader at Cop26. But he’s failing, as instead he is pushing market solutions to the climate crisis.
While ordinary people could be handed a small incentive to use greener energy in their homes, big businesses could be given massive handouts to be greener.
The bill concludes that it will “boost the competitiveness of existing industries, like steel, cement, and aluminium, through grants, loans, tax credits, and procurement.”
Biden’s bill never proposed the wide scale transformation of the US economy needed to cut emissions drastically.
But the mildness of the policies in the bill hasn’t stopped opposition from Republicans and Democrats alike.
In particular, those with vested interests in the fossil fuel industry.
Democrat senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin have been pushing hard to dial back on climate policies ahead of the vote.
Manchin and Sinema both opposed the “Build Back Better” bill’s Clean Electricity Performance Programme (Cepp).
The Cepp would give incentives to utility companies to reduce fossil fuel use and penalties for failing to do so.
The programme, dubbed the “centrepiece” of the bill’s climate policies, was stripped back and rewritten due to their opposition.
West Virginia senator Manchin is the founder of coal brokerage company Enersystems. Last year he made more than £350,000 from the company.
Manchin himself has said that he would be less resistant to Cepp if it included investment into technologies that reduce emissions from fossil fuels.
Biden announced that the bill would potentially be voted on this coming week.
For the bill to pass, every Democrat vote is needed, as no Republican will vote for it. This means Manchin and Sinema’s opposition will be deeply worrying for Biden.
Dissent from within Biden’ own party shows how hard it will be to pass policy in the US that cuts emissions.
This is especially when so many of those in power make millions from fossil fuels.
Yet it’s not just two rogue senators that are the problem.
This whole process has underlined how the Democrats are the second party of big business in the US.
Climate activists can have no faith that the Democrats will make the changes that are desperately needed to halt climate change.