Biden’s new climate policy is long and difficult

If you want to compare the policy differences between Biden and Trump, then the climate issue must be considered one, and the position is still very high. The first wave of executive orders signed after entering the main White House included returning to the Paris Climate Agreement. Former Secretary of State John Kerry served as the President’s special envoy on climate issues. The candidate itself illustrates the importance of the position.

The Biden government’s emphasis on climate issues and its emphasis on new energy are two sides of the same. Among the executive orders he signed, there was a suspension of the “Keystone XL” project of the cross-border oil pipeline between the United States and Canada. 13 years ago, Obama said in his inauguration speech: “We will lead the transformation of sustainable energy. We cannot give up the technology and jobs of the new energy industry.” At that time, his vice president was exactly Biden.

Trump, who has been in power for four years, believes in climate conspiracy theories, while Biden, who has recently “enthroned”, regards the climate issue as an “existential threat.” Due to the economic pressure of the energy transition, partisan politics and public opinion pressure, Biden’s new climate policy has to deal with far more than climate.

Trump Endgame
During the 2016 election campaign, Trump stated that if he is elected, the new administration’s 100-day plan “is to abolish all Obama’s employment-destroying administrative orders, including his climate policy”. So in the past 4 years, has he done it?

According to statistics, Trump has revoked 112 laws and regulations related to environmental protection during his tenure. For example, he cancelled the methane emission standards used for oil and gas facilities during the Obama administration, revoked the administrative order to protect the ocean and the waters of the Great Lakes, and eliminated the federal government’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% within 10 years. Trump’s goal is mainly to stimulate energy production by “relaxing pollutant emission standards for the petroleum and fossil fuel industries” to achieve the effect of stimulating the economy.

In order to reduce direct investment in the environmental protection industry, Trump has appointed Scott Prutui and Andrew Wheeler as the director of the US Environmental Protection Agency. The former is a well-known climate change denialist. During his tenure, he received 12 direct accusations, including improper transactions with fossil fuel company lobbyists, and eventually took the blame and resigned. Giants in the coal gasification industry such as “Resources Corporation” have direct interests.

Under the successive leadership of these two environmental protection directors, several laboratories in the Environmental Protection Agency were actually emptied, and the number of staff was reduced to 1,236, the lowest number since 1988. Before leaving office, Trump did not forget to dig a hole for the next EPA—the 2021 budget was reduced by 2.4 billion U.S. dollars, which is nearly 1/3 less than last year, and this is directly linked to 50 environmental protection agencies. The going and staying of the project.

In terms of “abolishing” climate governance, Trump has indeed done it. But unfortunately, the “kerosene flourishing age” he had hoped to see did not go as he had hoped.

In 2020, under the impact of the epidemic, the demand for crude oil in the United States plummeted by nearly half, and oil prices fell to the bottom. According to Deloitte’s 2021 Oil and Gas Outlook Report, U.S. oil and gas companies laid off about 14% of their permanent employees, and it is estimated that 70% of the jobs lost during the epidemic will not be restored until the end of 2021.

Moreover, before the impact of the epidemic, the US oil and gas industry that the Trump administration paid attention to did not experience the blowout development he expected. On the contrary, a survey published by the U.S. Political News Network on October 27, 2020 showed that due to overproduction, companies did not perform well, and there were many examples of rig closures and layoffs.

A member of the Biden transition team told the Environmental and Energy News Network: “When evaluating the revocation of these (regulatory policies), we probably knew how arduous the tasks ahead would be, but now we find that the government needs to do more reconstruction work than The scope of what we have previously understood is much larger.”

Political constraints
Trump threw the hot potato to Biden. Biden’s important task is not only to “cure the United States”, but also “every second counts.”

As early as December of last year, Biden took the lead in publishing the list of climate governance groups and emphasized that “they will go all out from the first day in office, because we now have no time to be wasted.” He nominated former Environmental Protection Agency Director Gina McCarthy, who helped the Obama administration to close the “Keystone XL” oil pipeline project, as the national climate policy coordinator. And his nominated Minister of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Minister of Interior Deb Hyland, Jennifer Granholm of the Ministry of Energy, etc., each submitted an environmental resume, in order to hope that all departments can coordinate. , Go all out to control the climate.

In addition to the inherent “fossil fuel support” faction within the Republican Party, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia also publicly challenged Biden’s climate plan.
However, what the Biden administration has to solve is not only to overturn Trump’s policy and return the progress bar to the original point, but more importantly, how to press the fast-forward button of the energy transition to achieve the planned “decarbonization of the U.S. power industry by 2035. , To reach the ambitious goal of “net zero carbon emissions” by 2050.

At present, 38% of the electricity in the United States comes from nuclear power or renewable resources. If it is to be fully decarbonized in 15 years, at least a 4% increase is required each year. This number may seem small, but with the efforts of the past ten years, the United States has only reaped a 10% growth. Achieving net zero emissions is a more difficult project, because it requires the transformation of energy in all walks of life. From cars to houses, water and electricity, and all activities that generate carbon emissions, we need to find ways to maximize carbon emissions. Balance or clear it to zero.

In response, Jacqueline Ashmore, director of the Institute of Sustainable Energy at Boston University, told Nan Fengchuang: “It is indeed extremely difficult to achieve these goals, but it is also very important to set a goal and a time frame. We achieve these goals, Just because science tells us that this is something that must be done; even if it is achieved, it does not mean that the climate problem will be solved, but it will at least help us avoid the most serious climate impact.” She also said: “We already have enough The technology supports the energy transition. Although there are still some areas that need to be improved, I think the obstacles to the energy transition mainly come from politics and policy implementation.”

Biden’s presidential executive order is not a panacea. The number of seats in the Senate’s Democratic and Republican parties is a 50-to-50 tie. Only a winning vote from Vice President Harris ensures a weak advantage. To pass Congress for his climate action legislation and implement permanent governance, Biden needs to get at least 60 votes in the Senate.

“Congress seems to be the last bastion of climate denialism left by the United States.” Todd Stern, the chief US negotiator of the Paris Climate Agreement, said in an interview with the British “Guardian” on January 30. At present, in addition to the inherent “fossil fuel support” faction within the Republican Party, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has also publicly challenged Biden’s climate plan.

On January 15th, Manchin talked about Biden’s suspending the issuance of new oil and gas lease licenses for land and waters in the United States, saying: “This is not the American way or the American spirit.” While recognizing the energy transition. Manchin is also worried about the future of the coal market: “You don’t want people to think they are soldiers who have just returned from Vietnam.”

Faced with the unsatisfactory situation in the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Shu acquiesced that Biden should find another way, declaring the climate issue a national emergency, and giving the government more room for policy implementation. Schumer said on January 26: “Trump used this emergency to build a stupid wall. This is not an emergency. But if there is an emergency, the climate problem is one.”

Policy dilemma
The transition of energy, government policy support is one of them, and the cooperation of enterprises and market enthusiasm are also indispensable. It is worth noting that although Trump has no intention of developing new energy sources, this market has gradually grown under the water of enterprises.

A survey by Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows that global investment in renewable energy production capacity in 2019 increased by 2 billion from the previous year to 282.2 billion US dollars. Investment in the United States also hit a record high, rising 28% to 55.5 billion US dollars, second only to China . In recent years, countries have seen the increase in the penetration rate of clean energy such as electric vehicles, wind energy, and solar energy. Tesla, the leader in electric vehicles, will generate $31.5 billion in revenue in 2020, an increase of nearly 30% over 2019. In the context of the overall reduction in global electricity consumption during the epidemic, the power generation of traditional coal has dropped by 10%, while the power generation of renewable energy has increased by 3% due to lower costs.

The vigorous development of new energy is undoubtedly a good sign for the enterprises and workers in the industry, but the reality is that its arrival is also a “lay-off” order for the old fossil fuel industry. This is also one of the biggest doubts the opposition has raised against Biden’s plan.

As of December 2020, data from the U.S. Labor Office shows that there are more than 160,000 employees in the field of oil and gas extraction, which is still one of the pillars of the U.S. labor force. And just after the U.S.-Canada Keystone XL pipeline was suspended on the day of the appointment, its parent company TC Energy issued a statement stating that the move would cause more than 1,000 temporary workers to lose their jobs. In October last year, the company stated that it expects to employ more than 11,000 Americans by 2021, with a total salary of more than $1.6 billion.

“This contradiction has indeed existed for many years.” John Morton, senior director of energy and climate policy during the Obama era, said in an interview with the media on January 27. But he believes that the question now is not whether the energy transition will happen, but how fast is the transition? Who wins? Who loses?

“We all know that electric vehicles are the future of the automotive industry, and renewable energy is the future of energy. This is a fact. So the focus now is, how can we be more competitive in this market?” He revealed that the Biden administration has A special group is preparing to help people who have lost their livelihoods during the transition, and it will be made public soon.

So far, China is still the largest investor, producer, and consumer of renewable energy. Solar power generation accounts for 1/3 of the world’s total, and the battery output of electric vehicles is also ranked first in the world.
Professor Ashmore of Boston University noticed that the old and new industries also share technology in many fields. For example, people who work in oil drilling are also very suitable for offshore wind power because they know how to put equipment deep in the seabed. “Of course this does not apply to all types of work. We also need government intervention to provide them with opportunities to train in new technologies and so on.”

During the campaign, Biden mentioned more than once, “When I hear the words climate change, what I hear is “work”, and in his nearly $2 trillion governance plan, he expects to create More than 10 million new jobs, including 1 million new jobs in the auto industry.

“But the pace of change is still not fast enough, so we need the support of the federal government, we need them to invest in specific areas of development, support clean energy and help economic recovery.” Professor Ashmore said.

Sino-U.S. competition
Although Biden defined Sino-US relations as strategic competition during the campaign, he also emphasized the importance of cooperation between the two countries. Among them, the most critical area of ​​cooperation is climate issues.

On January 27, Secretary of State Blincoln said in a speech on the first day of his official tenure that Sino-US relations can be said to be the most important foreign relations of the United States. The relations between the two countries have both competing and cooperative aspects, and fighting the climate. Changes are in the interests of both countries.

Kerry, the special envoy for climate issues, also made a similar statement. He said that the United States alone will not be able to curb global warming. Although there are many differences between China and the United States, the climate issue is a very important issue that needs to be listed and resolved.

In the past few years, the United States has slightly neglected its governance, but China has not stopped its governance. So far, China is still the largest investor, producer, and consumer of renewable energy. Solar power generation accounts for 1/3 of the world’s total, and the battery output of electric vehicles is also ranked first in the world. Just last September, China also announced the goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2060.

“In the fields of climate and energy, China and the United States have the potential and opportunities for cooperation. The Biden administration also attaches great importance to climate governance. Moreover, it is impossible without international cooperation for this kind of problem.” “Professor Ma Jianying told Nan Fengchuang, “China holds high the banner of global governance and climate governance, recognizes the risks brought by the climate crisis, and is willing to actively participate in international cooperation.”

Yu Hongyuan, Director of the Institute of Comparative Politics and Public Policy of the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, believes: “Biden’s emphasis on the new energy industry will have two consequences. One is a healthy competitive relationship with China. The two sides advance together to promote global development. But it does not rule out that there will be zero-sum competition. Personally, I am more inclined to promote global technological development through technological and economic competition.”