Joe Biden is doing something unheard of in Republican circles in the last 40 years — listening to actual voters. Instead of being a stooge for corporate interests, he has invited input from climate advocates, Indigenous people, labor unions, and other stakeholders to craft policies that actually address the specter of a dramatically warmer planet. And he has made job creation the centerpiece of his proposals, something that a country suffering from record unemployment desperately needs. This article will touch on the highlights of the plan Biden revealed on July 15, but if you have the time and the inclination you can listen to his entire presentation yourself.
The Biden Clean Energy Plan calls for investing $2 trillion over the next 4 years for infrastructure projects, including construction of electric vehicle charging stations, the weatherization of millions of buildings, updating electric grids, expanding broadband internet access, and more, according to CNN.
The Biden campaign tells the New York Times the plan will encouraging the installation of “millions of new solar panels and tens of thousands of wind turbines,” while keeping in place existing nuclear energy plants. The plan also will call for investing in carbon capture and storage technology for natural gas.
“These 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,” Biden said. “When Donald Trump thinks about climate change, the only word he can muster is ‘hoax.’ When I think about climate change, the word I think of is ‘jobs.’” His proposals are similar to those made by Stanford professor Mark Jacobson and the authors of the book Drawdown. Both claim shifting investment to clean energy programs will create many tens of millions of new employment opportunities throughout the world. A recent study in Australia suggests every dollar invested in clean energy will create three times as many jobs as a a dollar invested in fossil fuels.
Once In A Lifetime Opportunity
Biden called the threat posed by climate change a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to jolt new life into our economy. We’re not just going to tinker around the edges. We’re going to make historic investments that will seize this moment in history,” he said. It’s also a once in a lifetime opportunity to preserve the Earth as a planet that supports human life — along with the lives of several million other species. We all know what happened to the dinosaurs and think nothing like that could ever happen to us. But we are wrong — dead wrong, some might say.
Biden’s proposals are modeled on those presented by Washington Governor Jay Inslee and promoted by him during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. But Biden has also incorporated suggestions from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the sponsors of the Green New Deal, the Sunrise Movement, and Native American groups.
“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 1, in his first 100 days, in his first term, in the next decade — not just some far-off goals,” Varshini Prakash, the co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, told CNN.
Earth Justice = Social Justice = Racial Justice
A large component of the Biden plan is a focus on social and racial justice. In his latest remarks, Biden refers to pollution and other toxic harms that disproportionately affect communities of color and calls for establishing an office of environmental and climate justice at the Justice Department to address how “environmental policy decisions of the past have failed communities of color.”
Under his plan, disadvantaged communities would receive 40% of the clean energy and infrastructure benefits he is proposing. He also made explicit references to tribal communities and called for expanding broadband access to tribal lands, the New York Times reports.
Elizabeth Kronk Warner, dean of the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah and a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, tells The Times she was pleasantly surprised by Mr. Biden’s plan. “Usually environmental justice is an afterthought or it’s not clearly quantified,” she said. “As a citizen of a tribe, I very much appreciate that he explicitly references tribal communities.”
Republicans, who would prefer to continue to bludgeon communities of color in order to capture more “shareholder value” for wealthy investors, are aghast by the Biden plan. Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana and the House Republican whip, trotted out the old shibboleth conservatives love to refer to every single time the government proposes to spend a dime on anything that doesn’t benefit fossil fuel companies.
“The only thing I can think of is that is Solyndra on steroids,” he said on a Trump campaign call. Solyndra was a California solar company that went bankrupt in 2009 after receiving a $535 million loan guarantee from the Obama administration. “You would have higher energy costs and you would see who gets hit the hardest — it’s low-income families.”
The lie about renewables being more expensive than thermal generation is another canard that gets thrown around a lot. Scalise and his co-conspirators conveniently ignore the $3 billion in government funds doled out by the Trump maladministration in the past few months to oil and gas companies, many of whom are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy themselves. If people like Scalise got their way, the US government could save many billions of dollars a year by shutting down all its research laboratories and giving the money to Mr. Scalise’s clients……umm, campaign donors.
Kathleen Sgamma is the president of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents oil and gas companies. She called Biden’s goals “unrealistic” and said they would hurt energy producers. Then she expressed the very essence of politics. “We’ll focus on moderating these policies once Biden moves from appeasing the left during the campaign to potentially governing.”
The Political Process Is Messy
Biden sees this moment as similar to when he and Obama took over the reins of government faced with a massive economic crisis that resulted from feckless Republicans letting their buddies on Wall Street perpetrate the most massive financial fraud in history. It’s time for the Democratic team to ride to the rescue once again to clean up the mountains of manure left behind by yet another failed Republican administration. Unfortunately, just as 8-year-olds prefer babysitters who let them do anything they want, voters despise adults who attempt to impose order on chaos. Soon the adults are voted out of office and the cycle begins anew.
That would be okay if the fate of the world did not hang in the balance. To survive, we must stop burning fossil fuels. Period. Full stop. Maybe there’s a way Biden and his team can do that without inconveniencing the public, but it seems unlikely. And heaven help any politician who asks too much of the populace, especially if it includes many people who think wearing a face mask in public to keep us all from getting sick is a personal affront.
Creating jobs is all well and good but unless those jobs are in industries that shift the world away from destroying itself with fossil fuel pollution, what’s the point? We have about 5 years to get our house in order. The odds aren’t looking too good even with a Biden presidency and they are downright awful with a second helping of Trump madness. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves,” as Shakespeare cautioned us centuries ago. The Earth won’t disappear if we fail to clean up our act. It will endure for another billion years or so. But humanity will not. This is our now or never moment and the smart money is on never.