On Joe Biden’s podcast, “Here’s the Deal,” he recently had a conversation with Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington state, to discuss climate change. Inslee, many may recall, was a single-issue candidate who ran for president in 2019, with the intention to raise the specter of climate change. We’ve covered Biden’s climate plan before (key conclusions from analyst Mike Barnard: mostly good, some mediocre, and some even pretty outdated).
They started the convo, like many these days, with an update on COVID-19. Inslee credited his state’s success in combating and flattening the COVID curve to having “embraced science.” Washington is a pretty high tech, advanced economy, so Inslee admitted this was an easier sell than it might have been otherwise, but said, “When you follow science, good things happen.”
“You could think of COVID-19 as a metaphor,” Inslee said. He suggested COVID was essentially “a fast acting climate change,” saying climate change would be much slower but equally fatal. He said that leading with science would be critical to address climate change, and suggested that science has been largely pushed to the side (in some of our opinions, good science has been pushed off the table entirely) with the current administration.
Biden asked him what we might learn from COVID to apply to climate change and about infrastructure changes we’d need after recovering from the economic challenges we’re confronting now. Biden’s style, a bit like that uncle many of us have who rambles a bit, but you know there’s something interesting coming, meandered from wind and solar to transmission capacity to EVs and charging networks, but remained focused on the human element. And here is where I think Biden is the right man for the job at hand, in this time and place. If it were me running, I’d be focused on the technology, the political barriers, the anti-cleantech propaganda that is so prevalent these days. Uncle Joe seemed to be talking to those middle Americans Hillary Clinton just couldn’t connect with, keeping his focus on putting people to work in these industries. “We’re talking not minimum wage jobs, we’re talking $40, $50 an hour, with benefits types of jobs,” he said.
Inslee said, “I can’t wait to have an optimist back in the White House,” someone who believes we can get out in front of these challenges to lead with technology and a can-do attitude. Inslee credited Biden with helping shepherd through some legislation in 2009 that created 3.3 million green jobs from the ARRA and helped America climb out of the recession of 2008. Inslee compared the situation to World War II times with Frankling Delano Roosevelt, saying that the mobilization that FDR created beat fascism, and got the American economy back on its feet. It was an eye-opening analogy to modern times.
Biden said that one of the key elements in ARRA was the streamlining and reducing the cost of wind and solar energy, which took the form of smoother permitting for clean energy projects that was a staple of the Obama/Biden administration, and suggested he would look for ways to continue to push these types of infrastructural changes that would facilitate our transition to a cleaner future.
Biden asked Inslee where he saw the biggest opportunity in the nexus of infrastucture, clean energy, and job creation. Inslee pointed to his own home state, to Moses Lake, where he cited the largest manufacturer of carbon fiber for EVs, to Bellingham, where the largest manufacturer of solar cells in America is, and to Linde, the state’s largest concentrated solar farm, as clear examples of great job creation with environmental benefits.
And, like Uncle Joe, he cited the human element (maybe the Dems have learned something since 2016…let’s hope). He said he was touring rural central Washington and meeting voters, and talked with a fellow with a shiny new pickup truck, whom he asked what climate change means to him. The guy with the pickup pointed…at his pickup, saying that he’d been the beneficiary of a good job (maintaining wind turbines) and a good economy in clean energy.
Biden gives me hope on two main levels here. The first is that he knows that climate change is a huge problem but that the solution needs to involve people who fear for their livelihood.
The second, though, is more subtle. Biden is downright deferential to Inslee in this podcast. He repeatedly says that he hopes he can lean on Inslee in the future as he crafts legislation around climate change solutions. For a country with a president who believes he and he alone has all the answers, this is going to represent a healthy change. Humility is probably one of Biden’s strengths, and I believe this is all I really want — a President who understands science and accepts climate change as a real threat, then will surround himself with those who can actually get the solutions right. Like Jay Inslee.
Imagine if Jay Inslee was the head of the EPA or the Department of the Interior, rather than fossil fuel industry lobbyists?