A Biden Presidency
The fossil fuel industry is bracing for a Joe Biden presidency. The former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential nominee announced the details of his two trillion dollar climate action plan on Tuesday July 14th. This announcement follows up previous comments that Biden made earlier in the year when he declared that he would “end fossil fuels.” In his first term as president, Biden proclaimed that he would spend two trillion dollars to combat climate change through investments in renewable energy and carbon-slashing programs. Moreover, his plan outlines a goal of ending all greenhouse gas emissions from American power plants by 2035, which is among the most ambitious climate change plans ever proposed in the United States. Biden’s plan seems to follow the principles of the Green New Deal, which was outlined in 2019 by Democratic policy makers within the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Given the implications that Biden’s plan would have for the fossil fuel industry, it comes as no surprise that conservatives and fossil fuel industry executives have been pushing back on his proposal.
A Shift in Rhetoric
Joe Biden’s plan to tackle climate change marks a significant shift in his overall rhetoric to address greenhouse gas emission and the fossil fuel industry. During his race to become the Democratic presidential nominee, Biden outlined a plan to spend $1.7 trillion over 20 years to work towards mitigating the impacts of climate change. However, his new plan increases his anticipated climate-related spending, while dramatically reducing the proposed timeline to make these investments in renewable energy and programs to reduce emissions from the fossil fuel industry. Biden’s revised plan now aligns with the principles outlined by some of the most progressive members of the Democratic party.
Biden’s climate plan has been modeled after a plan that was initially developed by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, with support from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Biden’s plan also includes recommendations made by a climate change task force that was formed by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As a result of Biden’s efforts to incorporate ideas developed by progressive members of the Democratic party, he has received an abundant amount of support from environmentalists and climate change advocacy groups such as the Sunrise Movement.
Support from Progressives
In a recent press conference following the announcement Joe Biden’s revised climate plan, the co-founder of the Sunrise Movement offered renewed support for Biden’s president campaign. Varshini Prakash said, “It’s no secret that we’ve been critical of Vice President Biden’s plans and commitments in the past. Today, he’s responded to many of those criticisms: dramatically increasing the scale and urgency of investments, filling in details on how he’d achieve environmental justice and create good union jobs, and promising immediate action – on day one, in his first 100 days, in his first term, in the next decade – not just some far-off goals” (Bradner and Mucha, 2020). Biden’s revised plan seems to effectively address some of the initial criticism that he received for not aligning his climate agenda with the rest of the progressive members of the Democratic party.
While Biden’s original climate change plan revealed a commitment to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, his updated plan moves this goal up to 2035. Moreover, forty percent of the two trillion dollar spending plan will be allocated for disadvantaged communities (Calma, 2020). Other plan details include a call to develop a Civilian Climate Corps made up of Americans committed to working on a number of environmental restoration projects. Furthermore, Biden is planning to reveal a program to install 500,000 electric vehicle charging ports, as well as a program to revive the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), which was more commonly known as the cash-for-clunkers program. The cash-for-clunkers program was originally developed by the Obama administration to replace gas-guzzling vehicles with more fuel-efficient cars. Biden’s version of cash-for-clunkers would model the original program, but would substitute fuel-efficient vehicles with electric vehicles and battery-electric hybrids.
Even though Biden has significantly overhauled his climate agenda, it still falls short of other plans that were previously revealed by Democratic presidential candidates. For example, when Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was still in the running for the Democratic presidential nominee, he boasted a plan that included a $16 trillion initiative to shift entirely over to renewable energy by 2030, while also banning hydraulic fracking. However, Biden’s new plan now also calls from the development of an Advanced Research Projects Agency to evaluate opportunities to deploy carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies, which is an innovative series of technologies that have been advocated for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. While research and technology related to the development of CDR programs is still in its infancy, Biden hopes to spend $400 billion on CDR technologies and clean-energy research over the next decade (Temple, 2020).
Paying for the Plan
How is Joe Biden planning to pay for his $2 trillion climate action plan? Republicans have been quick to criticize Biden’s plans by highlighting the enormous price tag. When asked by reporters how he was going to pay for such a large spending plan, Biden responded by saying that he would revert President Trump’s tax cuts by raising taxes on the rich. Moreover, Biden said that he would increase the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, which would represent an increase of seven percent over the Trump administration’s 21 percent corporate tax rate. While many conservatives that are critical of higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations have blasted Biden’s plans to raise taxes, it’s important to note that Biden’s corporate tax rate would still be well below the 35 percent rate that was active prior to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Criticism from Conservative
In addition to receiving criticism from Republicans about the impact of Biden’s plans on taxes, conservatives have also attacked his plan for supporting the progressive agenda. Steve Guest, the Republican National Committee spokesman, responded to Biden’s new climate plan by saying, “Joe Biden’s economic and climate agenda shows that he is beholden to left-wing ideologues and not to the American people who face the prospect of eliminated jobs and higher taxes under his plan” (Bradner and Mucha, 2020). Moreover, other conservatives had labeled Biden’s climate plan as impractical and confusing. Daniel Turner, who is executive director of a national nonprofit organization that advocates for jobs in the American energy industry, says that Biden’s plan would damage the economy, destroy high-paying jobs, and offer very little environmental benefits.
Republicans are banding together in an effort to show their disapproval of the Biden climate plan. Many Republicans and calling it a watered-down version of Green New Deal. Others have said that Biden’s climate plan is the nail in the coffin for his presidential campaign. In the 2016 presidential race, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton made a similar campaign promise to bolster the green energy industry. As part of her comments, she vowed to “put a lot of coal miners out of business.” Both Republicans and Democrats criticized Clinton’s rhetoric surrounding this statement. Rather than creating excitement about a transitioning energy industry, Clinton’s statement was viewed as a job-destroying comment and was even used in attack ads against her campaign.
As Republicans have been labeling Biden’s climate plan as a radical and job-destroying initiative, Biden hasn’t adopted all of the recommendations that were formed by the Democratic National Committee’s Environment and Climate Crisis Council. This group was pressing Biden to reveal a plan that announced a proposed ban on hydraulic fracking to extract natural gas. However, Biden’s plan does not call for a ban on fracking. Instead, it calls for a ban on oil and gas extraction on all federal lands, which has been a chief aspect of President Trump’s fossil fuel agenda. As part of Trump’s plan to revive the American fossil fuel industry, he opened up federal lands for oil and gas exploration. As a result of this move, the U.S. has been able to pump out more oil than any other country during the Trump administration’s tenure in the White House.
While the vast majority of Republicans have criticized Joe Biden’s climate plan, Biden’s campaign team has been working diligently to make sure that sweeping climate polices are not perceived as too progressive or conversely, too weak. In an attempt to appeal to both swing-state voters and progressives, the Biden team has tried to stress that his plan will create a net benefit for the American economy that would be felt by both sides of the political spectrum. In an appeal to working-class voters and moderate Republicans, Biden claims that his climate and energy plans will establish high-paying union jobs that will enhance the American economy. Even though the overall goals and the spending plan have been unveiled by Biden, specific details related to more challenging aspects of the American economy have not been addressed. For example, Biden has not discussed how his plan would impact aviation, agriculture, or the industrial and energy-intensive process needed to create cement and steel.
As Biden continues to try to win over support from former supporters of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, he seems to be losing some ground in terms of winning over the support of moderate Republicans. In fact, Republicans in Congress say that his efforts to gain votes from progressive Democrats may further divide the country with regards to political polarization, where both Democrats and Republicans seem to be further distancing themselves apart on the overall political spectrum. While an all-of-the-above energy strategy that embraces both fossil fuels and renewable sources of energy may achieve support from moderate Republicans, Biden seems to be trying to completely distance himself from the fossil fuel industry.
Other criticism of Biden’s climate plan is related to its relationship with China. Even though Biden doesn’t specifically reference China in his plan, Republicans have been quick to point out that much of the manufacturing and materials needed for the development of solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and other green technology is currently produced in China. Therefore, Republicans say that if Biden’s climate plan is adopted, the U.S. may end up relying on China to fuel growth in the American energy industry. In response to these claims, the Biden campaign says that the two trillion dollar plan will be invested within the United States to create the jobs and manufacturing sectors needed to develop the green technology.
Support from the United Nations
According to scientists from the United Nations, a failure to reach net-zero carbon emissions would result in environmental destruction, dangerous heat waves, and rising oceans. While Biden expressed a significant amount of skepticism about the Green New Deal during the race for the Democratic nomination, he has now embraced the idea of net-zero carbon emissions to tackle the issue of climate change. In his initial announcement that revealed his updated climate plan, Biden said that when we thinks about climate change, he now thinks about jobs. Biden says that investments in a clean economy are “The most critical investments we can make for the long-term health and vitality of both the American economy and the physical health and safety of the American people” (Glueck and Friedman, 2020).
Bradner, E., and Mucha, S. (2020). “Biden proposes $2 trillion for clean energy projects, calls for end to power plant emissions by 2035.” CNN.
Calma, J. (2020). “New Joe Biden plan sees millions of jobs in aggressive climate action.” The Verge.
Glueck, K., and Friedman, L. (2020). (2020). “Biden Announces $2 Trillion Climate Plan.” The New York Times.
Temple, J. (2020). “Biden steps up his clean-energy plan, in a nod to climate activists.” MIT Technology Review.
Turner, D. (2020). “Daniel Turner: Biden’s harmful radical energy plan panders to AOC and other far-left extremists for votes.” Fox News.