Is Joe Biden’s Climate Plan Comprehensive Enough to Save the Economy and the Environment?
Updated: Oct 25, 2020
By Seamus Bozeman
Here is Joe Biden's Climate plan
The Democratic nominee Joe Biden has made his proposal to have the U.S. play a part in saving the Climate from total catastrophe, rebuilding the economy following the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and creating a better future for everyone. Each section of this article will take an in-depth look at policy, plans, effectiveness, and whether it should be changed or improved. While Joe Biden has said he will commit two trillion dollars over four years to this plan, the cost will most likely be significantly over that in the long term, as these costs are most likely rough estimates.
The infrastructure of the United States is in dire need of repair, evidenced by the lack of funding or development in a way that is environmentally friendly, sustainable for job creation, or long term job stability. The national infrastructure - which includes the facilitation of economic systems, heightens the standards of living, roads, bridges, water, sanitation and telecommunications - is threatened by climate change. By creating a more resilient infrastructure, Biden plans to give all citizens access to clean air, water and universal broadband connections to allow for more to work from home. In addition, he plans to electrify the national rail and freight system to reduce diesel fuel pollution while also creating greener modes of public transportation for those who live in rural America. He will also place harsher restrictions on fuel use and advocate for more environmentally friendly regulations on aviation and ships. Biden hopes to address the substantial impact of these industries on climate change, and set tougher regulatory standards for fuel efficiency. Without a functioning infrastructure, many cities could disappear due to rising sea levels and increasingly more powerful natural disasters.
The auto industry has, for a long time, been pushing against rigid environmental laws, furthering unsustainable practices, and making electric cars too costly for many Americans to afford. The industry contributes to over one-third of carbon and hydrogen emissions which could be drastically cut by setting standards for maximum car emissions and cutting the distance the car travels before entering the hands of the consumer. Buying and manufacturing cars in the U.S. could add one million jobs as well as cut the cost of electric cars—which are almost always made somewhere other than the U.S. with the exception of Tesla. While Joe Biden’s plan doesn’t fully commit to creating an all electric car industry, he wants to make charging stations a lot more accessible to rural America, making long-distance trips more cost-effective and less polluted. With the commitment to electric car investments, he does note there will be significant funding for natural gas and biofuels despite their contribution to climate change because they are seen as a “better option”. The transition to biofuels and natural gas is just giving corporations a plethora of loopholes to bypass any strict regulations. In order to make sure cars and trucks are free of pollution, there will have to be an increased gas tax, carbon tax, and subsidies on these vehicles so that consumers in the U.S. will be more motivated to purchase from Tesla and other fully electric car manufacturers. The auto industry is the most important for drastic change, as over 83% of U.S. adults drive multiple times a week according to a poll in 2018, and if it can be green, our pollution will decrease substantially.
The transit system in U.S. cities has slowly developed, but not to the degree where it could reduce the use of gas-guzzling cars and make an impact to affect reducing pollution. Biden has said that by 2035, in cities with over 100,000 residents, all bus systems in the U.S. will be using all-electric technologies. He is also making room for investments to improve and expand on metro rail systems that already operate in most major metropolises in the U.S. To make a significant impact on reducing the usage of cars, the local railway systems need to expand their capacity to suit the needs of higher ridership numbers. In addition, plans for making more bike lanes in neighborhoods that rely on public transport should be expanded, while also building safer bike lane infrastructure in major cities. Mass transit is improving, but for it to be fully sustainable, our power sources need to be greener.
Since the Industrial Revolution, power companies have been continually unsustainable, dirty, and powered by money in the oil and gas industry. Joe Biden has said that he will make a carbon power free power sector by 2035, while creating tax incentives for using innovative green technologies, investing in new battery storage tech, and setting environmental standards for states and cities. There will be the reintegration and upgrades of old infrastructure to limit the need for the construction of new power stations and power lines. However if new wires or other equipment are needed, Biden has said that he will cut red taping to speed up permitting which might undermine climate impact studies that are required prior to construction.
Also, there will be investments in cheap options for carbon-capturing and storing technologies for existing power plants, and oil refineries. But, studies show that we shouldn’t rely on carbon capture and storing, and most of the funding should go to renewable energy sources. Along with the fact that these technologies are only slightly reducing carbon output, there is also the threat of leakage, and localized rapid ecosystem deterioration from proposed ground storage. This is just another way for corporations to bypass the strict regulations they should face for their continued climate abuses. Joe Biden's commitment to fully erasing carbon emissions from the power sector by 2040 is too late. In order to make a large reduction in the USA's contribution to pollution, and have a chance to reduce or reverse the devastating effects of the climate catastrophe, these measures will have to be in place sooner.
The buildings of America are outdated and contribute to overusing power sources which lack green infrastructure. There seems to be less concern for innovation in buildings that are equipped with greener power sources. Nevertheless, there is a need to address the emissions that older buildings are giving off. Biden’s plan includes retrofitting buildings of roughly four million commercial structures, all early education centers and schools, along with two million residential dwellings over the next four years—also making environmentally friendly building materials, innovative technologies, and mandates for all new structures built following 2030. While this is a start, a lot more structures need to meet the new environmental standard to make an impact that is noteworthy. Furthermore, if energy creation becomes cleaner and cheaper there will be a knock-on effect, erasing the need for extensive changes to current commercial buildings or personal dwellings. This is a good start for building sustainability in structures, but again if the use of dirty power options continues, many more millions of buildings would need to be retrofitted.
The housing crisis in the US has pushed homes into forests causing major shrinkage of natural CO₂ consumers as well as a new threat to animal habitats. The increased risk of devastating wildfires is worsened by the warming climate and the housing that continues to creep into forests. While Joe Biden's housing plan does not directly relate to climate, he does mention the need for it to be done sustainably. However, there is no mention of the protection of forested areas, and there should be some consideration when looking to keep these housing developments sustainable.
The US has fallen behind the rest of the world in new innovations to fight climate change properly, which was exacerbated by the non-existent efforts of the Trump administration. The innovation that Biden has said he will commit to ranges from new battery storage tech, negative emissions technologies, new building materials, and nuclear power, none of which will come very soon. There are so many more concrete steps to combat climate change which will be considerably easier to do without much development of new tech. Nuclear power is not a safe option, even on Joe Biden’s proposed small scale, and with safety protections. These reactors will likely be in communities who are low income which currently have gas and oil fields. This will be repeating the opposite of creating safe areas for all, but especially low-income folks. To effectively combat climate change, steering away from any pollutants is the key to making the environment cleaner and also improving our health.
Agriculture and Conservation
The agricultural industry in the U.S. is plagued by GMOs, poor farming techniques, overusing water, and many other unethical processes which have further exacerbated the climate catastrophe. Biden’s plan would put protections in place to preserve habitats, from the coasts to forests and grasslands. There was also mention of cleaning up past sites of natural resource extraction. There was little on the prevention of new oil and gas fields as well as the dismantling of current extraction points, which should be a number one priority for preserving the environment, along with keeping coasts, and other habitats in pristine condition. By keeping these areas healthy, we will have created a natural way to slow the damage of climate change. Agricultural practices need to change, and relying on smaller farms who will use green growing practices can decrease farm emissions, unlike the farming of corporations who are unsustainable and threaten the water supply with the chemicals that are used. Biden’s plan does little to prevent large scale logging which further slows down the rate of the earth’s carbon cycle.
Environmental justice in the U.S. has been suppressed by the Trump Administration’s unjust rollbacks of countless environmentally friendly measures and strong ties to the oil and gas industry. The inequities of climate change can be seen among low income communities of color and among Native American reservations who are often subject to poorer living conditions at the hands of fossil fuel companies.. Everything from oil, fracking and gas wells, to the destruction of the land in mines are things that plague these already struggling communities while politicians turn a blind eye. Biden has proposed to change that, and focus some funding to underserved communities to end their hurtful relationship with these big corporations. Biden’s plan has potential to be the most effective if he would commit to completely ending oil fracking and gas production especially in low income areas. While this is an improvement from Trump’s lack of policies, more needs to be done to completely end all of the inequalities that climate change brings with it.
Is it enough?
Joe Biden’s plan is considerably less ambitious than the Green New Deal which has widespread plans to ban the use of fossil fuels by the year 2035 and make many unsustainable industries disappear, like gas-guzzling cars, by the same year. The time to go full-electric with new technologies is here, and it is time to stop letting the corporate giants take control of all innovation. Also, corporations should not be allowed to cut corners, when it comes to unstudied things like unproven carbon capture technologies and monetary influence to sway climate policies.
Written by writer Seamus Bozeman