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What does the US debt ceiling deal mean for clean energy? | Podcast

The Gang discuss the US debt ceiling deal, Canadian wildfires, new EPA regulations – and the inaugural Energy Gang Book Group

The north-eastern US has taken on a post-apocalyptic appearance recently, blanketed by smoke from wildfires in Canada. Host Ed Crooks and regular guest Melissa Lott, Director of Research at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, are both based in New York and saw first-hand the extent of the fires that have been burning in Quebec. In recent years we have seen huge fires up and down the west coast of North America, in Siberia, in central Greece, to name just a few regions that have been affected. The gang discuss the implications of the fires for human health, for the energy system, and for our understanding of climate change.

The big news from Washington has been that the US has averted a global financial crisis, thanks to Congress and President Joe Biden coming together to make a deal over the ceiling on the country’s national debt. The agreement suspends the debt ceiling to January 2025, meaning the US can avoid defaulting on its debts, at least for a while. The legislation also had some important implications for energy. The generous tax credits for low-carbon energy included in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act had been in danger, as Republicans in the House of Representatives moved to repeal them, but in the final deal they were saved.

One initiative with plenty of support from both Republicans and Democrats did make progress: the legislation included moves to streamline permitting for infrastructure projects, which could help clear a path for low-carbon energy investments. To make sense of it all the Energy Gang enlisted Robbie Orvis, Senior Director for Modelling and Analysis at the Washington-based think-tank Energy Innovation. Is the legislation that’s just been passed going to make a significant difference to the speed at which we can build put low-carbon infrastructure? Robbie’s initial reaction is that it’s a small step on the way, but it’s incremental.

Meanwhile, there is a raft of new regulations coming from the Environmental Protection Agency, intended to cut emissions from light and heavy road vehicles, and from power generation. Together the gang examine the proposed rules. What impact will they have? And are new regulations basically an irrelevance in industries that are changing dramatically anyway?

Plus: the inauguration of the first-ever Energy Gang Book Group. We are picking a book to read together, and the gang will discuss it at the end of the summer.

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