Biden administration uses wartime authority to bolster energy efficient manufacturing

The Biden administration said Friday that it used wartime authority to bolster manufacturing of energy efficient heating and cooling technology.

It said it was utilizing the Defense Production Act to mobilize the production of heat pumps — technology used to heat or cool someone’s home that is more efficient than traditional heating and air conditioning systems.

The Defense Production Act gives the president the authority to mobilize a certain industry to advance national security, which the administration argues applies to producing more climate-friendly energy.

Giulia Siccardo, director of the Energy Department’s Office of manufacturing and energy supply chains, told The Hill in an interview that the $169 million in funding the department announced Friday would allow companies to construct factories to build heat pumps.

The funds come from the Inflation Reduction Act — the Democrats’ climate, tax and health care law.

“Most of the companies that we announced today, seven out of the nine, are actually not yet manufacturing heat pumps here in the U.S., or heat pump components, in the U.S.Amer at scale” Siccardo said.

She said that going through the Defense Production Act allows the administration “to quickly deploy funding to be able to add or convert manufacturing capacity.”

The department’s actions are expected to produce pumps “to meet the needs of over 300,000 homes,” she said.

Administration officials touted the action as good for both consumer electric bills and mitigating climate change.

“This acceleration of electric heat pump manufacturing also shows how President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is advancing American innovation, cutting energy bills for hardworking families, and tackling the climate crisis – a win, win for our economy, our workers, and our planet,”  National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi said in a written statement.

The announcement garnered pushback from the natural gas lobby, however, which said that the announcement “unfairly undermined” use of the fossil fuel.

“We are deeply disappointed to see the Defense Production Act, which is intended as a vital tool for advancing national security against serious outside threats, being used as an instrument to advance a policy agenda contradictory to our nation’s strong energy position,” said Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the American Gas Association, in a written statement.

In a press release, the Energy Department said that it expects to move “quickly” on another round of Defense Production Act investments in early 2024. It has already said that it plans to use the law to ramp up production of electric grid components, solar energy, insulation and hydrogen energy components.

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