Biden’s full-court press for green energy


MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday, the 30th of March, 2021.

You’re listening to The World and Everything in It and we’re so glad to have you along today.  Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

First up today: renewable energy.

The executive branch of the federal government holds broad regulatory power over environmental and energy policy. The Trump administration used that power to remove more than 70 climate regulations. It argued that deregulation would lead to greater innovation, cheaper energy, and more jobs.

REICHARD: President Biden is taking a very different approach. He wants to implement policies to push the United States to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, and do so by the year 2050. WORLD’s Sarah Schweinsberg reports on what exactly that agenda entails.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: On the presidential debate stage in September, two views of how to care for the environment collided.

BIDEN/TRUMP: [Arguing back and forth.]

Philip Rossetti is an environmental policy analyst at R-Street. He says former President Trump and President Biden exemplify two very different positions on climate care.

ROSSETTI: You either have the approach where you want to force a transition. You force renewable adoption by subsidies or mandates. And then the alternative approach is really about the virtue of the free market as the best tool for bringing this sort of transition. And that’s fundamentally at odds with the regulatory approach, with the subsidy approach.

President Biden has two major goals: achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and get the United States to use 100 percent emissions-free electricity by 2035.

Last year, America got just 20 percent of its power from renewable energy sources like windmills and solar panels. Another 20 percent came from nuclear energy.

To replace the other 60 percent, Biden wants to spend $2 trillion dollars over the next four years. That money will subsidize what he calls modern, sustainable infrastructure.

Nick Loris is an environmental policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. He says that would mean spending $1.37 billion dollars a day in subsidies.

LORIS: It looks like a huge chunk of that money would go to utilities and renewable energy companies. And then another big chunk of the money would go to the electrification of the transportation sector. The Biden administration has also proposed to help subsidize the production of those vehicles, and the charging infrastructure with half a million new charging stations. 

The president also plans to enforce regulations on fossil fuels.

First, he ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to review fuel efficiency and emissions regulations for airplanes, cars, and appliances.

He wants to return to Obama-era fuel economy standards. That would mean automakers need to manufacture vehicles that get 54.5 miles per gallon within the next four years. Former President Trump’s plan called for 40 miles per gallon within the next five years.

The president is also targeting the supply of fossil fuels.

In his first weeks in office, he cancelled construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a pipeline that would have pumped oil from Alberta, Canada, all the way to Nebraska.

He also signed an executive order halting any new oil and gas leases on federal land and waters. Federal lands account for 10 percent of U.S. oil production every year. It’s unclear how long that moratorium will last.

Nick Loris says oil and gas companies anticipated the change and stocked up on drilling permits in the final days of the Trump administration. So extraction will mostly continue uninterrupted for the next four years.

LORIS: The shale resources that we have in a lot of respects are on private and state owned lands in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, and North Dakota. And so a lot of that will continue on.

Many of the president’s goals and policies echo the Green New Deal, the 2019 climate proposal laid out by progressive Congressional Democrats.

That has environmental groups energized. The Green New Deal Network is a coalition of climate organizations lobbying for ambitious environmental policies.

Kaniela Ing is the climate justice director with People’s Action, a member of the network. He says at first, People’s Action wasn’t all that excited about President Biden.

ING: It didn’t look like during the primary election that President Biden’s plan was, frankly, at the scale we need. 

Now, Ing says Biden’s climate proposals have scaled up.

ING: Biden’s coming out right off the bat talking about 100 percent clean energy standard by 2035. That was aggressive. Just a few years ago, talking about $1 trillion in green investment was considered like a far left, very bold policy. Right off the bat, he’s talking about a $2 trillion green infrastructure package. And that’s completely right. 

But other environmental policy analysts say President Biden’s policies will hurt innovation that leads to cleaner and more efficient energy uses. While at the same time cutting jobs and upping energy prices for consumers.

Philip Rossetti at R Street supports a combination of government regulations and free-market tools. He says President Biden is leaning too heavily on government intervention. When the government forces companies to focus on certain technologies, they stop trying to find undiscovered innovations.

ROSSETTI: When you subsidize technology, you are reducing the incentives for competition. So you’re reducing ways for these technologies to become lower cost and increase their adoption. And you’re reducing the opportunities for competition, for new technologies that we might not even be aware of right now, that could make a huge impact globally. 

Heritage’s Nick Loris says the free market is already cutting waste and emissions on it’s own because that’s what consumers want and it’s just smart economics.

LORIS: We’re seeing more consumers and more businesses interested in going green. And when the market has the opportunity to meet that demand, it does so very well. Just natural innovations to meet consumer demand. When the market is allowed to operate, it can add up to big savings in terms of monetary savings, as well as emissions reductions. 

But so far, the Biden administration isn’t waiting on the free market. It announced plans for another $3 trillion dollar spending package last week. A third of that would go to infrastructure and clean energy.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.


(Photo/istock)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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