Energy

Congress takes on permitting reform—a necessity for renewable rollout

But the bill is controversial because it would also boost fossil fuel infrastructure.
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· less than 3 min read

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You’d be forgiven for thinking that, after the passage of the CHIPS Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, we here at Emerging Tech Brew had decided to do what so many people understandably do: Tune out Washington, DC politicking.

Alas…One more measure crucial to the fate of US climate-tech adoption was introduced last week, and Sen. Joe Manchin is again at center stage. On Wednesday, Manchin released the text of a bill that aims to expedite the permitting process for energy infrastructure across the board.

The permitting process is a key barrier in the development of any large-scale piece of energy infrastructure, clean or dirty. It can take more than a decade for a new mine to be permitted, and building new electricity transmission lines, which carry electricity from generation sites to where it’s needed, isn’t a much quicker process.

The latter point is a big problem for climate tech:

  • The US needs to more than double the pace of transmission expansion in order to meet the “full emissions-reduction potential” of the IRA, per Repeat analysis.
  • If transmission isn’t expanded fast enough, growing demand from EVs and other electric-powered tech could wind up causing an increase in coal consumption.

Looking ahead…As is almost always the case, the bill will have to navigate a political minefield.

While some climate advocates argue that permitting reform is crucial to meeting clean energy goals, some progressives are opposed to this specific bill on environmental justice grounds, as it could make it easier to build more fossil fuel infrastructure and also erode the ability of communities to push back on potentially harmful energy projects.

Also, Republicans are reportedly considering blocking it as revenge for the Inflation Reduction Act’s passage.

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