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Schumer-Manchin reconciliation bill: Climate change provisions

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Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) exits the U.S. Capitol following a vote, on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 9, 2022.

Tom Brenner | Reuters

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., on Wednesday unveiled a long-anticipated reconciliation package that would invest hundreds of billions of dollars to combat climate change and advance clean energy programs.

The 725-page piece of legislation, called the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022,” provides $369 billion for climate and clean energy provisions, the most aggressive climate investment ever taken by Congress. The bill’s climate provisions (summarized here) would slash the country’s carbon emissions by roughly 40% by 2030, according to a summary of the deal.

The abrupt announcement of the deal came less than two weeks after Manchin, a key centrist who holds the swing vote in the 50-50 Senate, said he wouldn’t support any climate provisions until he had a better understanding of the inflation figures for July.

If passed and signed into law, the act would include funding for the following:

Manufacturing clean energy products, including a $10 billion investment tax credit to manufacturing facilities for things like electric vehicles, wind turbines, and solar panels, and $30 billion for additional production tax credits to accelerate domestic manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and critical minerals processing. It would also include up to $20 billion in loans to build new clean vehicle manufacturing facilities across the U.S., and $2 billion to revamp existing auto plants to make clean vehicles.

Cutting emissions, including $20 billion for the agriculture sector and $3 billion to reduce air pollution at ports. It also includes unspecified funding for a program to reduce methane emissions, which are often produced as a byproduct of oil and gas production, and are more than 80 times as potent as carbon dioxide in warming the atmosphere. In addition, the act allocates $9 billion for the federal government to buy American-made clean technologies, including $3 billion for the U.S. Postal Service to buy zero-emission vehicles.

Research and development, including a $27 billion clean energy technology accelerator to support deployment of technologies that curb emissions and $2 billion for breakthrough energy research in government labs.

Preserving and supporting natural resources, including $5 billion in grants to support healthy forests, forest conservation, and urban tree planting, and $2.6 billion in grants to conserve and restore coastal habitats.

Support for states, including about $30 billion in grant and loan programs for states and electric utilities to advance the clean energy transition.

Environmental justice initiatives, amounting to more than $60 billion to address the unequal effects of pollution on low-income communities and communities of color.

For individuals, a $7,500 tax credit to buy new electric vehicles and a $4,000 credit for buying a new one. Both credits would only be available to lower and middle income consumers.

“I support a plan that will advance a realistic energy and climate policy that lowers prices today and strategically invests in the long game,” Manchin said in a statement on Wednesday. “This legislation ensures that the market will take the lead, rather than aspirational political agendas or unrealistic goals, in the energy transition that has been ongoing in our country.”

The Senate is set to vote on the proposed legislation next week, after which it will go to the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday said the tax credits and investments for energy projects in the agreement would create thousands of new jobs and help lower energy costs, and urged the Senate to move on the legislation as soon as possible.

The president has vowed to curb U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 52% from 2005 levels by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by mid-century. With no reconciliation bill, the country is on track to miss that goal, according to a recent analysis by the independent research firm Rhodium Group.

“This is the action the American people have been waiting for,” the president said in a statement on Wednesday. “This addresses the problems of today – high health care costs and overall inflation – as well as investments in our energy security for the future.”  



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Ford CEO says 65% of U.S. dealers agree to sell EVs

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Ford F-150 Lightning trucks manufactured at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn Michigan.

Courtesy: Ford Motor Co.

DETROIT – About 65% of Ford Motor’s dealers have agreed to sell electric vehicles as the company invests billions to expand production and sales of the battery-powered cars and trucks, CEO Jim Farley said Monday.

About 1,920 of Ford’s nearly 3,000 dealers in the U.S. agreed to sell EVs, according to Farley. He said roughly 80% of those dealers opted for the higher level of investment for EVs.

Ford offered its dealers the option to become “EV-certified” under one of two programs — with expected investments of $500,000 or $1.2 million. Dealers in the higher tier, which carries upfront costs of $900,000, receive “elite” certification and be allocated more EVs.

Ford, unlike crosstown rival General Motors, is allowing dealers to opt out of selling EVs and continue to sell the company’s cars. GM has offered buyouts to Buick and Cadillac dealers that don’t want to invest to sell EVs.

Dealers who decided not to invest in EVs may do so when Ford reopens the certification process in 2027.

“We think that the EV adoption in the U.S. will take time, so we wanted to give dealers a chance to come back,” Farley said during an Automotive News conference.

Ford’s plans to sell EVs have been a point of contention since the company split off its all-electric vehicle business earlier this year into a separate division known as Model e. Farley said the automaker and its dealers needed to lower costs, increase profits and deliver better, more consistent customer sales experiences.

Farley on Monday also reiterated that a direct-sales model is estimated to be thousands of dollars cheaper for the automaker than the auto industry’s traditional franchised system.

Wall Street analysts have largely viewed direct-to-consumer sales as a benefit to optimize profit. However, there have been growing pains for Tesla, which uses the sales model, when it comes to servicing its vehicles.

Ford’s current lineup of all-electric vehicles includes the Ford F-150 Lightning pickup, Mustang Mach-E crossover and e-Transit van. The automaker is expected to release a litany of other EVs globally under a plan to invest tens of billion of dollars in the technologies by 2026.



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Tim Draper predicts bitcoin will reach $250,000 despite FTX collapse

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Tim Draper, founder of Draper Associates, onstage at the Web Summit 2022 tech conference.

Ben McShane | Sportsfile via Getty Images

Venture capitalist Tim Draper thinks bitcoin will hit $250,000 a coin by the middle of 2023, even after a bruising year for the cryptocurrency marked by industry failures and sinking prices.

Draper previously predicted that bitcoin would top $250,000 by the end of 2022, but in early November, at the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon, he said it would take until June 2023 for this to materialize.

He reaffirmed this position Saturday when asked how he felt about his price call following the collapse of FTX.

“I have extended my prediction by six months. $250k is still my number,” Draper told CNBC via email.

Bitcoin would need to rally nearly 1,400% from its current price of around $17,000 for Draper’s prediction to come true. The cryptocurrency has plunged over 60% since the start of the year.

Digital currencies are in the doldrums as tighter monetary policy from the Fed and a chain reaction of bankruptcies at major industry firms including Terra, Celsius and FTX have put intense pressure on prices.

FTX’s demise has also worsened an already severe liquidity crisis in the industry. Crypto exchange Gemini and lender Genesis are among the firms said to be impacted by the fallout from FTX’s insolvency.

Last week, veteran investor Mark Mobius told CNBC that bitcoin could crash to $10,000 next year, a more than 40% plunge from current prices. The co-founder of Mobius Capital Partners correctly called the drop to $20,000 this year.

Nevertheless, Draper is convinced that bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, is set to rise in the new year.

“I expect a flight to quality and decentralized crypto like bitcoin, and for some of the weaker coins to become relics,” he told CNBC.

What is DeFi, and could it upend finance as we know it?

Draper, the founder of Draper Associates, is one of Silicon Valley’s best-known investors. He made successful bets on tech companies including Tesla, Skype and Baidu.

In 2014, Draper purchased 29,656 bitcoins confiscated by U.S. Marshals from the Silk Road dark web marketplace for $18.7 million. That year, he predicted the price of bitcoin would go to $10,000 in three years. Bitcoin went on to climb close to $20,000 in 2017.

Some of Draper’s other bets have soured, however. He invested in Theranos, a health startup that falsely claimed it was able to detect diseases with a few drops of blood. Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos’ founder, has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for fraud.

‘The dam is about to break’

Draper’s rationale for bitcoin’s breakout next year is that there remains a massive untapped demographic for bitcoin: women.

“My assumption is that, since women control 80% of retail spending and only 1 in 7 bitcoin wallets are currently held by women, the dam is about to break,” Draper said.

Crypto has long had a gender disparity problem. According to a survey conducted for CNBC and Acorns by Momentive, twice as many men as women invest in digital assets (16% of men vs. 7% of women).

“Retailers will save roughly 2% on every purchase made in bitcoin vs dollars,” Draper added. “Once retailers realize that that 2% can double their profits, bitcoin will be ubiquitous.”

Payment middlemen such as Visa and Mastercard currently charge fees as high as 2% each time credit cardholders use their card to pay for something. Bitcoin offers a way for people to bypass the middlemen.

However, using the digital coin for everyday spending is tough, since its price is very volatile and the coin is not widely accepted as currency.

“When people can buy their food, clothing and shelter all in bitcoin, they will have no use for centralized banking fiat dollars,” Draper said.

“Management of fiat is centralized and erratic. When a politician decides to spend $10 trillion, your dollars become worth about 82 cents. Then the Fed needs to raise rates to make up for the spend, and those arbitrary centralized decisions create an inconsistent economy,” he added. Fiat currencies derive their worth from their issuing government, unlike cryptocurrencies.

Meanwhile, the next so-called bitcoin halving — which cuts the bitcoin rewards to bitcoin miners — in 2024 will also boost the cryptocurrency, according to Draper, as it chokes the supply over time. The total number of bitcoins that will ever be mined is capped at 21 million.



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Three pharmaceutical stocks were top performers last week

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