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Biden Announces $2 Trillion Climate Plan

Biden Announces $2 Trillion Climate Plan

Joe Biden’s plan connects tackling climate change with the economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis, while also addressing racism. The proposal drew praise from his onetime critics.

‘These Are the Most Critical Investments,’ Biden Says of Climate Plan

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. unveiled his $2 trillion climate plan for reducing fossil fuel use across the U.S. and creating jobs.

Today, I’m here in Wilmington to talk about a second plan: How we could create millions of high-paying union jobs by building a modern infrastructure and a clean energy future. 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. Here we are now with an economy in crisis. But with an incredible opportunity, not just to build back to where we were before, but better, stronger more resilient. 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” — good-paying union jobs.

0:56‘These Are the Most Critical Investments,’ Biden Says of Climate Plan
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Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. unveiled his $2 trillion climate plan for reducing fossil fuel use across the U.S. and creating jobs.CreditCredit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced on Tuesday a new plan to spend $2 trillion over four years to significantly escalate the use of clean energy in the transportation, electricity and building sectors, part of a suite of sweeping proposals designed to create economic opportunities and strengthen infrastructure while also tackling climate change.

In a speech in Wilmington, Del., Mr. Biden built on his plans, released last week, for reviving the economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, with a new focus on enhancing the nation’s infrastructure and emphasizing the importance of significantly cutting fossil fuel emissions. As he denounced President Trump’s stewardship of the virus and climate change, he drew criticism from Republicans — but he also faced a key test from progressives who have long been skeptical of the scope of his climate ambitions.

“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,” he 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.’”

The proposal is the second plank in Mr. Biden’s economic recovery plan. His team sees an opportunity to take direct aim at Mr. Trump, who has struggled to deliver on his pledges to pay for major improvements to American infrastructure.

“Seems like every few weeks when he needs a distraction from the latest charges of corruption in his staff, or the conviction of high-ranking members of administration and political apparatus, the White House announces, quote, ‘It’s Infrastructure Week,’” Mr. Biden said, referring to a long-running Washington joke. “He’s never delivered. Never really even tried. Well, I know how to get it done.”

Throughout his remarks, Mr. Biden sought to signal that he grasps the urgency of global climate challenges while also casting the issue as the next great test of American ingenuity.

“I know meeting the challenge would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to jolt new life into our economy, strengthen our global leadership, protect our planet for future generations,” Mr. Biden said. “If I have the honor of being elected president, we’re not just going to tinker around the edges. We’re going to make historic investments that will seize the opportunity, meet this moment in history.”

Even before Mr. Biden spoke, Mr. Trump’s allies painted the plan as a costly threat to jobs in the energy sector, and his campaign sought to link the proposal to the Green New Deal, the far-reaching climate plan.

Early Tuesday evening, in an appearance from the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Trump launched into a rambling attack on his opponent filled with falsehoods and baseless claims, while also seeking to paint Mr. Biden and his environmental plan as radical.

Mr. Biden’s “agenda is the most extreme platform of any major party nominee, by far, in American history,” Mr. Trump said. Referring to Mr. Biden’s primary opponent, the progressive Senator Bernie Sanders, he continued, “I think it’s worse than actually Bernie’s platform.”

In fact, many liberals have long been unenthusiastic at best about Mr. Biden, a former Delaware senator who staunchly opposes a range of progressives’ top priorities: He has said that he does not support “Medicare for all” or defunding the police, he has not fully endorsed the Green New Deal and has reservations about marijuana legalization. His record on issues like criminal justice has drawn fierce criticism from the left, and some in his party view his reverence for bipartisan deal-making as naïve.

Still, his climate plan does appear to have made some inroads with progressive Democrats.

“This is not a status quo plan,” said Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, a prominent environmentalist who ran a climate-focused campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and later endorsed Mr. Biden.

He added: “It is comprehensive. This is not some sort of, ‘Let me just throw a bone to those who care about climate change.’” Mr. Inslee called the proposal “visionary.”

Mr. Biden’s plan outlines specific and aggressive targets, including achieving an emissions-free power sector by 2035 and upgrading four million buildings over four years to meet the highest standards for energy efficiency.

Mr. Biden’s remarks sometimes assumed a populist bent, directly challenging Mr. Trump’s efforts to woo workers in the industrial Midwest with promises of “America First” job policies. As Mr. Biden discussed converting government vehicles into electric vehicles, he promised that “the U.S. auto industry and its deep bench of suppliers will step up, expanding capacity so that the United States, not China, leads the world in clean vehicle production.”

He also pressed the need to link environmental advocacy to racial justice, describing pollution and other toxic harms that disproportionately affect communities of color. His plan calls for establishing an office of environmental and climate justice at the Justice Department and developing a broad set of tools to address how “environmental policy decisions of the past have failed communities of color.”

Mr. Biden set a goal for disadvantaged communities to receive 40 percent of all clean energy and infrastructure benefits he was proposing. He also made explicit references to tribal communities and called for expanding broadband access to tribal lands.

Elizabeth Kronk Warner, the 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, said 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.”

In a call with reporters on Tuesday morning, senior Biden campaign officials said the proposal was the product of discussions with climate activists and experts; union officials and representatives from the private sector; and mayors and governors. Evergreen Action, an organization that advocates far-reaching climate goals and is led by a number of former Inslee staff members, also discussed ideas with Mr. Biden’s staff in recent months, the organization said.

Mr. Biden’s original plan called for spending $1.7 trillion over 10 years with a goal of achieving net-zero emissions before 2050. The new blueprint significantly increases the amount of money and accelerates the timetable.

To pay for it, campaign officials said, Mr. Biden proposes an increase in the corporate income tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, “asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share,” and using some still-undetermined amount of stimulus money.

Mr. Biden’s team said the proposal included a combination of executive actions and legislation. The legislation would require congressional cooperation. That is hardly a certainty in a partisan political environment, especially if Republicans maintain control of the Senate or retake the House of Representatives, even as polls show the G.O.P. facing major political headwinds.

Representative Steve Scalise, Republican of Louisiana and the House Republican whip, suggested the plan was a boondoggle.

“The only thing I can think of is that is Solyndra on steroids,” he said on a Trump campaign call, referring to the California solar company that went bankrupt and had received 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.”

Mr. Biden insisted that “these aren’t pie-in-the-sky dreams,” saying, “These are actionable policies.”

One major element of the announcement will include charting a path to zero carbon pollution from the U.S. electricity sector by 2035. According to the Energy Information Association, coal and natural gas still account for more than 60 percent of the sector.

Campaign officials said they expected to achieve the goal by encouraging the installation of “millions of new solar panels and tens of thousands of wind turbines,” but also keeping in place existing nuclear energy plants. The plan also will call for investing in carbon capture and storage technology for natural gas.

Under the plan, Mr. Biden also promises new research funding and tax incentives for carbon-capture technology.

Kathleen Sgamma, the president of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents oil and gas companies, said Mr. Biden’s goals were “unrealistic” and would hurt energy producers.

“We’ll focus on moderating these policies once Biden moves from appeasing the left during the campaign to potentially governing,” she said.

Reid J. Epstein and Michael D. Shear contributed reporting.

Source:  New York Times

By:  Katie Glueck and 



Ohio Valley Coal Groups React To Biden’s Clean Energy, Climate Plan

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s $2 trillion clean energy plan is drawing praise from organizations that work with coal communities on economic transition, but mixed reactions from union officials and industry groups.

The plan, released Tuesday, would boost investment in clean energy and rebuild infrastructure in order to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.The platform frames decarbonizing the economy as a jobs creator. Of note, the plan calls for a carbon-free power sector by 2035, upgrading 4 million buildings and weather proofing 2 million homes, and boosting investment in zero-emissions transportation.

It also includes environmental justice components and explicitly mentions a commitment to invest in coal country and workers who may be displaced by a shift away from fossil fuels.

“I’m setting a goal to make sure that these frontline and fence line communities, whether in rural places or center cities, receive 40 percent of the benefits from the investment we are making in housing, pollution reduction, and workforce development and transportation,” Biden said during his speech in Wilmington, Delaware, Tuesday.

The plan was met with praise by many of the environmental and community advocacy groups that work with coal communities across the Ohio Valley. Specifically, they lauded the Biden plan for seemingly borrowing from a recently-released policy agenda, the National Economic Transition Platform. It provides a list of suggestions to help coal communities make a transition to a clean energy economy, and was endorsed by more than 80 stakeholders from across the country’s coal-impacted regions.

A survey of some of the plan’s drafters found they were not explicitly consulted by the Biden campaign. But Peter Hille, president of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, or MACED, which for more than four decades has worked with communities in eastern Kentucky on economic transition, said many of the platform’s tenets were reflected in the Biden plan.

“I think it’s really important that they’re talking about the frontline and fence line communities and environmentally vulnerable communities because that’s where we’ve really seen the hurt from the transition away from the old economy,” he said. “So, it makes sense to build the new economy in those places.”

Heidi Binko, co-founder and executive director of the Just Transition Fund, praised the “intersectional” approach offered by Biden’s plan.

“It’s in there — from broadband, which is necessary to stimulate economic development, to the creation of good union jobs in the clean energy sector, all the way to investments that he called for in infrastructure like colleges, community colleges and hospitals,” she said. “And the other thing that we’re really excited about is just the recognition that the workers who really built the coal economy get the benefits they’ve earned.”

While wide in its breadth, the plan also drew criticism from some, including the United Mine Workers of America, for not including enough specifics. UMWA Communications Director Phil Smith said in an email that the union consulted with the former vice president’s campaign, but felt their contributions “did not find their way into the Biden plan.”

“We believe it lacks a specific plan to help already hard-hit coal communities deal with the energy transition, much less those that are going to be devastated if this plan comes to fruition,” Smith said.

Some of the UMWA’s policy suggestions include offering tax incentives to lure new manufacturing to coalfield communities and providing funding not just to retrain displaced coal miners, but incentives for opening new businesses.

Biden’s plan does outline some specific proposals such as creating jobs through reclaiming abandoned coal mines, investing in job training and apprenticeship programs, investing in carbon capture technologies and ensuring miners’ receive their pension and healthcare benefits.

The plan also calls for the creation of a Task Force on Coal and Power Plant Communities that would be similar to the initiative formed during the auto industry bankruptcies following the 2008 recession.

Binko, at the Just Transition Fund, said more details are always appreciated, and coal community leaders should be front and center in the development of policy proposals for economic development. However, she noted only one candidate is talking about how to help coal country in this ongoing transition.

“I think a lot of elements in the plan are doable,” she said, “But, we’ve only seen proposals to do this investment in coal communities from one candidate so far.”

During his first term in office, president Donald Trump has prioritized relaxing environmental regulations, including many rollbacks intended to help the coal industry. Competitively priced natural gas and renewable energy have continued to displace coal. Federal data show since 2009, mining employment and coal production have fallen by about 50 percent in the Ohio Valley. Lackluster energy demand driven by the coronavirus pandemic is further depressing the industry.

Chris Hamilton with the West Virginia Coal Association said Biden’s plan to shift the U.S. away from fossil fuels sets a pace that would devastate West Virginia’s coal industry.

“I think the coal industry and most progressive people embrace the fundamental change or the conversion that we see within reasonable limits,” he said. “This call for an outright, almost immediate conversion from fossil fuel production and reliance to renewables, it’s just not feasible.”

Hille with MACED disagrees. He characterized the concern over preserving coal mining jobs and creating a new economy as “not a zero sum game.”

“One doesn’t take away from the other,” he said. “We can respect the history of these places and the legacy of our coal mining communities while we’re also participating actively and benefiting from the new clean energy economy.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately quoted Heidi Binko as saying “arguable.” She said “are doable.”


Source: Resource



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