Biden: 'Can't Wait' to Address Climate 01/28 06:34
WASHINGTON (AP) -- In the most ambitious U.S. effort to stave off the worst
of climate change, President Joe Biden signed executive orders to transform the
nation's heavily fossil-fuel powered economy into a clean-burning one, pausing
oil and gas leasing on federal land and targeting subsidies for those
The directives aim to conserve 30 percent of the country's lands and waters
in the next 10 years, double the nation's offshore wind energy, and move to an
all-electric federal vehicle fleet, among other changes. Biden's sweeping plan
is aimed at staving off the worst of global warming caused by burning fossil
But his effort it also carries political risk for the president and
Democrats as oil- and coal-producing states face job losses from moves to
sharply increase U.S. reliance on clean energy such as wind and solar power.
"We can't wait any longer'' to address the climate crisis, Biden said
Wednesday at the White House. "We see with our own eyes. We know it in our
bones. It is time to act.''
He said his orders will "supercharge our administration's ambitious plan to
confront the existential threat of climate change."
Biden has set a goal of eliminating pollution from fossil fuel in the power
sector by 2035 and from the U.S. economy overall by 2050, speeding what is
already a market-driven growth of solar and wind energy and lessening the
country's dependence on oil and gas. The aggressive plan is aimed at slowing
human-caused global warming that is magnifying extreme weather events such as
deadly wildfires in the West and drenching rains and hurricanes in the East.
Biden acknowledged the political risk, repeatedly stating his approach would
create jobs in the renewable energy and automotive sectors to offset any losses
in oil, coal or natural gas.
"When I think of climate change and the answers to it, I think of jobs,''
Biden said. "These aren't pie-in-the-sky dreams. These are concrete actionable
solutions. And we know how to do this.''
In a change from previous administrations of both parties, Biden also is
directing agencies to focus help and investment on the low-income and minority
communities that live closest to polluting refineries and other hazards, and
the oil- and coal-patch towns that face job losses as the U.S. moves to sharply
increase its reliance on wind, solar and other other energy sources that do not
emit climate-warming greenhouse gases.
Biden pledged to create "millions of good-paying, union jobs" building
electric cars, installing solar panels and wind turbines, and performing
specialized work to cap abandoned wells, restore mine-scarred land and turn old
industrial sites "into the new hubs of economic growth.''
Even so, Republicans immediately criticized the plan as a job killer.
"Pie-in-the-sky government mandates and directives that restrict our mining,
oil, and gas industries adversely impact our energy security and
independence,'' said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, the top
Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Biden also is elevating the warming climate to a national security priority,
directing intelligence agencies, the military and others to do more to prepare
for the heightened risks. The conservation plan would set aside millions of
acres for recreation, wildlife and climate efforts by 2030 as part of Biden's
campaign pledge for a $2 trillion program to slow global warming.
President Donald Trump, who ridiculed the science of climate change,
withdrew the U.S. from the Paris global climate accord, opened more public
lands to coal, gas and oil production and weakened regulation on fossil fuel
emissions. Experts say these emissions are heating the Earth's climate
dangerously and worsening floods, droughts and other natural disasters.
Currently, 61% of the nation's electric power comes from natural gas and
coal, 20% from nuclear and 17% from wind, solar and other renewable energy, the
U.S. Energy Information Administration says.
Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb said that "if this Day 7 momentum is
representative of this administration's 4-year term, there is every reason to
believe that we might achieve carbon neutrality sooner than 2050," even as key
roadblocks lie ahead.
Biden's actions came as his nominee for energy secretary, former Michigan
Gov. Jennifer Granholm, faced deep skepticism from Republicans as she tried to
pitch the president's vision for a green economy.
"The last Democratic administration went on a regulatory rampage to slow or
stop energy production," said Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, a leading Republican
on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "I'm not going to sit
idly by ... if the Biden administration enforces policies that threaten
Granholm, whose state was devastated by the 2008 recession, promoted
emerging clean energy technologies, such as battery manufacturing, as an answer
for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from fossil fuels.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry, now Biden's climate envoy, said oil,
gas and coal workers "have been fed a false narrative'' that "somehow, dealing
with climate is coming at their expense. No, it's not. What's happening to them
is happening because of other market forces already taking place.''
Instead of possible black lung disease, a miner would have a brighter future
as a solar power technician, Kerry said. "The same people can do those jobs,
but the choice of doing the solar power one now is a better choice.''
The oil industry said curtailing domestic production will lead to an
increase in imported oil.
"I don't think any American wants to go back to the days of being held
hostage to foreign entities that don't have America's best interest at heart as
we lose American energy leadership," said Mike Sommers, president of the
American Petroleum Institute.
Sommers and other industry leaders warned that states could lose hundreds of
thousands of jobs and critical funding. Nearly one-third of New Mexico's state
budget comes from oil and gas, said Ryan Flynn, president of the New Mexico Oil
and Gas Association.
Biden's directive to double energy production from offshore wind comes after
the Trump administration slowed permit review of some giant offshore wind
turbine projects. Significantly, he is directing agencies to eliminate spending
that acts as subsidies for fossil fuel industries.
The pause in onshore leasing is limited to federal lands and does not affect
drilling on private lands, which is largely regulated by states. It also will
not affect existing leases and could be further blunted by companies that
stockpiled enough drilling permits in Trump's final months to allow them to
keep pumping oil and gas for years.
The order exempts tribal lands, mainly in the West, that are used for energy
Biden also directed U.S. agencies to use science and evidence-based
decision-making in federal rules and announced a U.S.-hosted climate leaders
summit on Earth Day, April 22.