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US makes ‘no apologies’ for prioritising American jobs, Biden clean energy tsar tells EU

The US will make “no apologies” for prioritising American jobs in its bid to lead the global clean energy contest, the White House official responsible for the $369bn green funding drive has said.

In an interview with the Financial Times, John Podesta, Joe Biden’s senior clean energy adviser, pushed back at criticism that the US Inflation Reduction Act would divert investment and undermine the EU economy. He argued that allies who have hit out at the IRA should “welcome US leadership”.

“We make no apologies for the fact that American taxpayer dollars ought to go to American investments and American jobs,” Podesta said, calling on Europe to take responsibility for developing its own clean energy sector.

“We hope that the European industrial base will succeed, but it’s up to Europe to do some of the work,” he added. “We’re not going to do that all for them.”

More than $90bn in green investment has poured into the US since last year’s passage of the IRA, which includes $369bn worth of tax credits, grants and loans to boost renewable energy and slash emissions.

But EU politicians fear that the subsidies’ scale could undermine the bloc’s own efforts to secure green investment, with French president Emmanuel Macron warning that the IRA could “fragment the west”.

The IRA, which seeks to reduce emissions to half their 2005 levels by 2030, provides tax credits for groups that source parts and materials from countries with which the US has a free trade agreement. That excludes the EU and Japan, which lack such deals with the US.

Dismissing claims of rivalry with Europe as “hollow” because of Biden’s efforts to rebuild alliances and support Ukraine, Podesta argued more clean energy innovation and investment in the US would drive down costs and open up opportunities elsewhere.

The climate policy veteran, who was appointed by Biden in September, cited a Credit Suisse forecast that as much as $1.7tn in investment over the next 10 years could reduce the price of clean energy by some 25 per cent.

“The challenge of dealing with the climate crisis requires . . . a transformation of the global economy on a size and scale that’s never occurred in human history so there’s plenty of room for everybody to participate in that,” he said.

“If there’s a race here, it’s a race to deal with the climate crisis . . . I think [Europeans] welcome US leadership in that race.”

He said: “It’s audacious to think about a 30-year transition to a net zero global economy . . . This bill gives us the tools to begin that journey,” but added: “American jobs for American workers is front of mind.”

The IRA’s tax credits are partly designed to encourage a revival of domestic supply chains and manufacturing — an effort to reindustrialise the country’s battered rustbelt and regain jobs that had been lost to Asia.

“The United States clearly went too far in not paying enough attention to its industrial base,” said Podesta, a senior member of both the Clinton and Obama administrations during an era of globalisation.

He added that reliance on Chinese clean technology had created “a vulnerability” for the US and its allies the Biden administration was now trying to fix.

“We’ve seen in the war in Ukraine, with Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels from Russia, what can happen if a country decides to use its power over the market as a weapon,” Podesta said, “and we’re trying to change that dynamic.”

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