Joe Biden's Climate Plan Looks Bold, But Is Skepticism Justified?

Joe Biden released his Climate Plan (“Joe’s Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice”) this week, to mixed reviews. At what point will he advocate stripping fossil fuel industry of all tax advantages and start asking the average person to pay the true cost of their carbon emissions? That means pain for all of us, and the last thing politicians want, is to promise you pain! The vague promises of “making the polluters pay” ignores that our entire economy is still predicated on the promise of cheap and abundant fossil energy and unlimited carbon emissions. Do we just accept that “truth is the first casualty of war and politics,” or do we hold candidates’ feet to the fire while we still have their attention?

We should stop talking “climate change” and begin to realize that this is a full-blown “climate emergency.” Credit: Shutterstock.com.

We should stop talking “climate change” and begin to realize that this is a full-blown “climate emergency.” Credit: Shutterstock.com.

Biden’s Plan starts out like this:

I. ENSURE THE U.S. ACHIEVES A 100% CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY AND NET-ZERO EMISSIONS NO LATER THAN 2050

The United States must have a bold plan to achieve a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050 here at home. On day one, Biden will sign a series of executive orders that put us on this track. And, he will demand that Congress enacts legislation in the first year of his presidency that 1) establishes an enforcement mechanism to achieve the 2050 goal, including a target no later than the end of his first term in 2025 to ensure we get to the finish line, 2) makes a historic investment in energy and climate research and innovation, 3) incentivizes the rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the economy. Failure is not an option. If Congress falls short of its duty to act, Biden will hold them accountable.

“He will demand that Congress enacts legislation…” is an empty promise, especially if Republicans continue to hold the Senate, which seems likely. The phrase, “If Congress falls short…Biden will hold them accountable” is also empty rhetoric.

Credit: Shutterstock.com

Credit: Shutterstock.com

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, tax incentives for fossil fuel production are relatively small, about $5 to $10 billion per year, so eliminating them won’t pay for much of anything. The carbon tax, currently predicated on returning the tax to consumers, would have to be used 100% to pay for all incentives in Biden’s plan or any other candidate’s plan.

There’s no easy fix. We are talking about transforming the largest and most productive economy on earth (and the highest per capita generation of carbon emissions of any country by far) within a generation. No one has a plan for that. If it’s a genuine emergency, as many believe, then that’s what the President’s emergency powers are for. Declare it and get on with implementing a “clean energy revolution.”

Irish rally in 2019 for a climate emergency declaration. Credit: Shutterstock.com

Irish rally in 2019 for a climate emergency declaration. Credit: Shutterstock.com

“Making the carbon polluters pay” is empty rhetoric unless we honestly acknowledge that ALL of us (not just a few rogue corporations as some would have you believe) contribute carbon emissions to the atmosphere through our vehicles, our demand for electricity in buildings and homes, our food and fiber production, use of products from industry (whether made in Mexico or China, makes no difference), flying here and there for vacations, etc.

The best short-term measures would have to mobilize and concentrate resources to completely replace current coal-fired power generation with renewables by 2030 and massively subsidize EVs (electric vehicles) to make them a solid majority of all new vehicles sold within 10 years.

If we’re going to set a goal of zero net carbon emissions thirty years from now, we need a clear “glide path”, year by year, to achieve that result. There are plenty of plans out there that show us how to do that - why don’t candidates adopt them and show us exactly how much difference they’ll make within 5, 10, 15, etc., years?

This is the only time they’re listening to you, so now is the time to speak up! Do you agree?