With the Biden Administration, Hope Returns

by Rona Fried

In its final days, the Trump Administration crammed to complete its anti-environmental wish list: lock in oil drilling at Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and logging at Tongass National Forest; lift penalties for killing migrating birds; lock-in sub-par air and water pollution limits; weak energy efficiency standards; and even create rules that block new environmental safeguards. 

After four years of living through this destruction of everything I care about, hope returns with the Biden Administration. His “Build Back Better” plan for climate is impressive and very thorough, clearly written by people who understand the crisis and what to do about it.

On Day 1, Biden began reversing the damage through executive orders that finally Kill the Keystone Pipeline, protect ANWR, and first steps toward restoring fuel economy standards and capturing methane. His administration will nullify some 175 anti-environment actions, from permanently blocking permits for Alaska’s Pebble Mine to restoring hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands.

Another major effort will be cleansing the federal government of unqualified anti-environment Trump cronies and install experts that rely on science and integrity. No longer will a climate-denier be in charge of the U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program! No longer will the phrase “climate change” be struck from all reports. At the EPA, over 700 scientists resigned under Trump, and thousands more in other agencies. “The amount of rebuilding that will need to be done is unprecedented,” Aaron Weiss of the Center for Western Priorities told E&E News.

For the first time, Biden is embedding climate experts into every government agency.  

Blueprint to Tackle the Climate Crisis

Biden says about his 10-year, $1.7 trillion climate plan: “At this moment of profound crisis (referring to Covid 19), we have the opportunity to build a more resilient, sustainable economy — one that will put the United States on an irreversible path to achieve net-zero emissions.”

The Green New Deal is a crucial framework, he says, because “we urgently need to embrace greater ambition on an epic scale to meet the scope of this challenge and show that our environment and economy are completely and totally connected.”

“If we can harness all our energy and talents, and unmatchable American innovation, we can turn this threat into an opportunity to revitalize the U.S. energy sector and boost growth economy-wide. We can create new industries that reinvigorate our manufacturing and create high-quality, middle-class jobs in cities and towns across the United States. We can lead America to become the world’s clean energy superpower. We can export our clean energy technology across the globe and create high-quality, middle-class jobs here at home.  Getting to a 100% clean energy economy is not only an obligation, it’s an opportunity,” Biden says.

The overarching goal is to achieve a 100% clean energy economy with net-zero emissions no later than 2050.  In Year 1, he will push for legislation that establishes milestones and enforcement mechanisms to get there. The plan covers the entire economy from renewable energy to energy efficient buildings, from transportation to agriculture. Here are some highlights:

  • 100% clean electricity by 2035.

  • $400 billion over 10 years to create industries of the future, and bring costs down dramatically for battery storage, next-generation building materials and other crucial technologies like carbon absorption.  A new ARPA-C (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Climate) will lead cross-agency research on climate.  “After World War II, public investment in research and collaboration between universities and the private sector spurred American innovation, led to rapid economic and job growth, and helped build a strong middle class.”

  • Every infrastructure investment must address climate, and no federal permit will be allowed without considering the impact on climate change. Investments must make us more resilient and protect us from climate impacts.
  • Reduce the carbon footprint of buildings 50% by 2035 through deep retrofits, on-site clean power generation, and accelerated efficiency standards. Upgrade 4 million buildings and weatherize 2 million homes over 4 years, creating at least 1 million jobs, plus many more by building the supply chain in the U.S. Spur construction of 1.5 million sustainably-built homes and housing units.
  • Accelerate electric vehicle deployment by restoring the full tax credit for buying EVs (especially those built in the US) and adding over 500,000 new public charging stations by the end of 2030. Create 1 million jobs by setting up the supply chain in the U.S. Every city with at least 100,000 residents will have high-quality, zero-emissions public transportation.

  • Enacting a national strategy to develop low-carbon manufacturing in every state.

  • Protect biodiversity: protect 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030. Permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other crucial natural areas, establish reforestation programs, and ban new permits for fossil drilling on public lands and waters.

  • Partner with farmers and ranchers on climate-appropriate agricultural practices and deploy methane digesters that generate new sources of revenue. Another 250,000 jobs closing abandoned fossil wells and restoring abandoned mines.

  • No communities or workers left behind; focused on union jobs and working directly with communities.

  • Bring the world together once again to address climate change

Much of the money to implement this plan will come from reversing excessive corporate tax cuts, reducing incentives for tax evasion, tax havens and outsourcing. Other tax loopholes that reward wealth rather than work will also be closed, and the government will no longer subsidize fossil fuels.

I heave a HUGE SIGH of RELIEF. May the life force be with Biden to get all this done!!


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