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President Biden makes a key climate nomination
Back-to-back good news on the climate front is good news indeed. I for one could get used to this unexpected but very welcome turn of events when it comes to government action on climate.
First was the incredible news of the Manchin-Schumer climate proposal (aka The Inflation Reduction Act), which included most (but not all) of the climate provisions in the ill-fated Build Back Better bill. Looks like we are actually going pass the largest ever legislative act in the United States to address climate. It advanced in the Senate yesterday and should make it out of the House next week. I trust all of you are doing everything you can to advocate for this bill.
Now this week comes news of Biden’s nomination of David Crane for Under Secretary of Infrastructure — a position created as part of a Department of Energy restructure to implement the 2020 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and its $62 billion in clean energy investment. It would be understandable if you missed it, as nominations are less attention-grabbing than major legislative initiatives, but I view the move as significant. Among the many responsibilities in this portfolio is oversight of the federal government’s sure-to-be enormous investments in key energy transition opportunities, such as green hydrogen and carbon capture and sequestration/storage.
I can't think of a better person for this role than David. Full disclosure: David is my friend. I first got to know him when he was CEO of NRG Energy, I was CEO of The Nature Conservancy, and we worked together on USCAP. I found him to be a smart, strategic, and committed colleague who helped advance our shared mission in realistic ways. And he certainly has the requisite experience — he’s spent the last few decades leading investments to take clean energy to scale.
I often hear business people — particularly Republicans — express concern that the Biden administration is not appointing enough business people to key jobs. I don't necessarily share that concern, but they have something to cheer about when it comes to this appointment.
Another thing I hear from business leaders is that they are eager to invest in the energy transition but they need capital and incentives from the government. Well, they can check that box now.
Note to CEOs, private equity firms, and all champions of green energy infrastructure – please go get this government-supplied capital to accelerate the energy transition we’ve all been seeking for so long. Not sure what to do? Please let me know – I'll help.
Academics like David Victor and Danny Cullenwald have argued that climate activists need to move on from the idea of putting a price on carbon. They proffer multiple arguments in support of this position but the primary one is that citizens won't tolerate the necessarily high price it would have due to our inaction thus far. Instead they embrace "industrial policy," i.e. the government accelerating climate progress in key sectors via incentives, mandates, and capital infusion for R&D and investment.
Guess what? If we get this bill passed and more people like David Crane into the administration, that's just what we have.
Not persuaded by my endorsement of the Inflation Reduction Act (aka "the Manchin-Schumer climate bill)? See what former Governor of California Jerry Brown has to say about it.
Not sure exactly who does what at DOE? Check out this handy guide prepared by my friends at the Climate Tech VC newsletter.