A senior adviser to a White House environmental justice panel defends the group’s criticism of next-generation energy technologies, saying it will “last” in what could be a protracted struggle within the Biden administration.
Peggy Shepard, co-chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Board, spoke to E&E News on Friday about the council’s recommendation that 14 types of energy projects, including advanced core and carbon capture (CCS), be disqualified President Biden’s plan to channel 40% of clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities (Energywire, May 17). The recommendation of a report last month has received changes from innovation advocates who say it would downgrade Biden’s $ 2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, which calls for spending tens of billions of dollars on Biden projects. demonstration of CCS and hydrogen in areas in difficulty.
“We certainly want to support research and development. It’s necessary in certain areas,” said Shepard, who noted that he did not speak on behalf of the group. “But we do not want to support R & D [like carbon capture] which we already believe will not help our communities and that is very, very expensive. We will work to ensure that these projects do not occur in communities of color. “
Shepard cited uncertainties about technology waste streams, CO2 sequestration, and pollutant emissions from criteria that CCS systems cannot capture.
“Thinking about issues of waste, disposal and kidnapping, where does this happen? Who is affected?” she said.
Biden’s first full budget request, released Friday, includes investments in hydrogen and CCS that would increase the deficit by $ 1.5 billion by 2022 and investments in advanced nuclear purchases that would increase the deficit by an additional $ 100 million.
Shepard, who is also executive director of New York-based WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said the group’s report has not strained relations with the White House.
“I suspect that the administration will not accept all the recommendations of the [council]“He also expected us to be on the lookout for what happens in environmental justice communities,” he said.
‘Frontier’ of energy justice
The group’s report has shed light on a growing schism between Biden’s commitment to instilling energy policies with principles of environmental justice and his promise to rapidly increase new clean energy technologies.
The administration is trying to pool these two climate commitments. But there are few models of how to do it.
“I like the idea that the Biden administration is working on, trying to figure out who will reap the benefits” of the new types of clean energy, said David Hart, a senior member of the Information Technology Foundation’s think tank. Innovation. “But figuring out how it’s done, I think it’s frontier.”
The environmental justice council, made up of more than two dozen activists from across the country, begins work this month on a scorecard that will be used to assess the implementation of the 40% investment pledge. Biden administration for disadvantaged areas, according to Shepard.
Biden issued an executive order in January to create the advisory board, marking one of the movement’s deepest forays into the environmental justice movement into major U.S. politics.
But by busting certain energy innovations, the group could test its weight limits. Most Democrats in Congress are unlikely to choose fights over carbon capture or other early-stage, low-CO2 technologies that receive Republican support, said Hart, who has co-authored documents urging the government to take carried out a clean energy technology style deployment.
“There is a pretty strong bipartisan consensus on continuing to invest in innovation around a broad front. There will be conflicts over specific areas. It is clear that nuclear and carbon capture will not be something that 100% of the Democratic Party will support. “. He said. “But I guess people won’t be willing to draw a line and say, ‘I’ll vote against everything if you put carbon in it.’ That would be a disastrous result.”
One of the technologies not mentioned in the advisory board report was hydrogen. Almost all of this fuel is now produced with natural gas, and federal officials have promoted the idea of making it “clean” by deploying carbon capture at production sites.
On Friday, for example, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm visited a Texas-owned hydrogen production plant owned by Air Liquide, based in France, where she described the fuel as “a very exciting example of how the clean energy takes all forms in the future “.
This type of hydrogen would not be considered beneficial to disadvantaged communities as defined by the White House panel, due to its dependence on carbon capture. The group’s report, however, left some doubts about how its members view “green” hydrogen made from wind and solar electricity.
Shepard said he had not delved deeply into the issue, but noted differing views among environmentalists and justice advocates. “I think it ‘s too early to say whether it would be beneficial [disadvantaged communities]. “
The group had taken just two weeks to prepare the report, he added, noting that many of the advisers had been making the same policy recommendations for decades.
“We knew the kind of activities and projects that were needed in our communities,” Shepard said. “We’ve never had such a good opportunity like this to highlight them.”