Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A new report offers a window onto something on a lot of people's minds in the energy world: what kind of policies Democrats could try to move through the Senate with 51 votes.

Driving the news: The groups Evergreen Action and Data for Progress yesterday released a proposal for ways to move a "clean energy standard" through the Senate using the budget reconciliation process.

That's the procedural tool that enables some types of spending- and revenue-related policies to move on special legislation that's immune from filibusters, but it's a tricky thing.

Why it matters: President Biden, during his campaign, set a target of reaching 100% carbon-free U.S. electricity by 2035.

Electricity is the second-largest source of U.S. carbon emissions after transportation, but the policy and legislative pathways to meet that ambitious goal are a little foggy.

How it works: The new analysis says there are lots of options to spur power sector transformation that are consistent with reconciliation. Here are a few...

  • A new federal system of "zero-emissions electricity credits."
  • "Utilities would earn ZECs by continuously increasing the amount of carbon-free electricity they deliver to customers, or else purchase the credits from the federal program," the authors note in a Vox summary.
  • A twist on the idea would "involve the federal government regularly buying a quantity of ZECs from power companies, through auctions," they note.
  • Another could be "conditional block grants based on their utilities’ commitments to meet certain clean electricity criteria," the report notes.
  • Yet another would be a federal "carbon intensity standard" that gives power producers incentives to "remain below a declining emissions-intensity threshold, by charging them an increasing penalty for failing to do so."

Reality check: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has signaled that he's interested in moving some climate-related provisions through reconciliation.

  • But even then, the political pathway and appetite for aggressive power-sector policies are really unclear right now.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin, the chairman of the Senate's energy committee, has expressed deep reservations about moving things with a bare majority (zoom to the 26-minute mark of his interview yesterday with the Bipartisan Policy Center to get that flavor).
  • And this Washington Examiner piece explores his skepticism about zero-carbon power mandates.

The big picture: An RBC Capital Markets report yesterday lays out some broad areas that could be ripe for reconciliation.

  • The report notes overall there would be a "strong hand in determining the mandatory spending allocations that can fit with clean energy advancement and climate change mitigation."
  • One avenue is a "clean energy financing mechanism or 'bank' to consistently fund clean technologies or infrastructure."
  • "Extended or improved tax rebates for renewable energy, battery storage, carbon capture technologies, etc. are also on the table."

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Feb 4, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Biden's Commerce pick keeps cards close on potential carbon tariffs

Photo: Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Biden administration's nominee to run the Commerce Department isn't ruling out the use of existing powers to impose climate-related trade restrictions.

Driving the news: GOP Sen. Ted Cruz asked Gina Raimondo about imposing "carbon tariffs" under existing law.

Updated Feb 2, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on corporate America's climate impact

On Tuesday, February 2, Axios' Mike Allen, Ben Geman, and Aja Whitaker-Moore hosted a conversation on corporate America’s climate impact following the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda, featuring Microsoft's Chief Environmental Officer Lucas Joppa and The Rockefeller Foundation President Rajiv Shah.

Rajiv Shah discussed increasing global inequities as a result of the pandemic, and how these economic divides can be crossed with respect to energy and climate change policies.

  • On the growing gap between the world's wealthy and poor: "COVID-19 is an accelerant of that [economic] divergence. We're now living through the greatest divergence we've seen since World War II and the living standards of people and inequality and inequity as a result of that."
  • On how corporate America has stepped up their commitment to climate change initiatives: "It is going to take much more than a series of corporate commitments to get to net neutrality by 2050. And in fact, I'm optimistic because I've seen companies since [the beginning of 2020] do more."

Lucas Joppa unpacked climate change commitments within the private sector, and how companies have the potential to collectively create change.

  • On the progress Microsoft has made around reducing carbon emissions: "A year ago we committed that by 2030, we'd reduce our emissions by half or more and remove the rest. Over the past calendar year...if we keep on track, we'll see us meeting or achieving our commitments."
  • On setting an example as a large company and modeling scalable solutions: "It's incumbent upon [Microsoft] to do more, but it's also incumbent that we do more in a way that makes it easier for everybody to follow. We know with carbon reduction and carbon removal there's a lot of market maturation and a lot of other societal scale changes that need to happen [around it]."

Thank you Bank of America for sponsoring this event.

Feb 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Chuck Schumer's hell

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Chuck Schumer is fast rediscovering the joys of running a 50-50 Senate: stubborn centrists, irritated base, uncooperative opposition — and virtually no margin for error.

Why it matters: This will be his reality for two years unless he blows up the filibuster. Truth is, managing a divided government is a drag unless you dispense with rules and traditions.