Joe Biden, the current front runner in polls for the US democrat presidential candidate to face off against Donald Trump in the next US election, has finally come out with a climate plan, which looks fine if you are in renewables.
The most fine thing about it is that it is fairly well thought out and would stimulate the renewables economy, and does not take a segment of the voting audience, like those in fossil fuel jobs, and tell them loud and clear “not” to vote for Biden. He has maybe learned that trick from watching Hilary Clinton fail to get elected, pushing crucial coal voters to Trump, as she declared that a lot of fossil fuel businesses will be closing down, during her campaign, without pushing the idea of replacement jobs for the workforce.
Under his plan Biden doesn’t seem to be spending too much, he is clear that his sympathy is with the workers that will be displaced by renewables, and that he has his eye on retraining these into renewable jobs.
From the rest of the world’s point of view, Biden is the first candidate to understand how much clout a “clean and green” US can have on rival countries. It can hold China to account over emissions, it can stay in the Paris agreement, it can bully Asian countries like Indonesia, India and Malaysia, and even Australia, using trade as a bludgeon to ensure they shift their stance on fossil fuels at least away from coal, and preferably in the direction of wind and solar, rather than to gas.
He says the US government will spend $1.7 trillion, in a plan that will amount to a $5 trillion spend over a decade, once you include corporate expenditure, and this would lead to zero emissions by 2050, he claims.
We previously covered the other front runner Bernie Sanders climate plans which are perhaps a little more extreme than Biden’s. In fact the best thing about the Biden plan is that it is not so extreme as to make him unelectable if he ends up going one to one with Trump, although most observers still believe that Trump will get a second term anyway. The fact that Biden is being criticized by democrats for this plan not being bold enough, is perhaps good news, in terms of his electability.
Biden’s money will be spent on over 10 years, taking the budget sting out of it, and it will be covered by reversing the tax cuts that President Trump signed in 2017, which was really a cash windfall for corporations and investors, not working individuals. He also plans to eliminate existing subsidies to fossil fuel companies. Now this is a dangerous move, and he must take care here. If fossil fuel companies can simply re-charge costs directly through to their customers, this will mean electricity price rises for Americans, and he has to ensure it is the fossil fuel industry margins which are affected, not the average man in the street. But if he manages policy well here, this will almost fund the entire $1.7 trillion on its own.
The Australian elections are a crucial guideline here – candidates need to ring true with voters, have the personality to engage, and a set of common beliefs and values with the majority of voters, as well as a set of “believable” aims, which will not bankrupt the country on climate change. Labor failed to get in, in Australia, because of the perception that it would all cost too much.
The truth is that Trump’s pro-coal agenda is unachievable, but because it doesn’t have to cost anything, people are perfectly willing to “give it a go” while keeping their jobs. Will Trump voters see though the fact that the longer his pro-fossil fuel agenda is rolled out, the worse American’s role of global leadership suffers? It’s hard to say, but second terms are almost automatic in the US where the voters practice “better the devil you know” cynicism.
But Trump is a wildcard and could always pull off a coup, such as getting China to agree to a more aggressive line on energy than Paris Accord, in return for settling the US-China trade war. You never know, the man is perfectly capable of producing a rabbit out of the hat in the run-up to the election.
Biden can always claim a epiphany on climate change later once he is in power and what he has said so far has not made him unelectable, while clearly showing he is aware of the climate agenda.
He says the Green New Deal pushed earlier by Democrats is “a crucial outline” so he claims to be on board here. His only wide difference is in the nuclear industry where he feels there is still some upside. That’s fine as a policy, since no nuclear power plants will get funded without a change in their underlying economics since Green power is far cheaper, and quicker to install. New nuclear designs are likely to come too late for the next two elections.
“I will lead America and the world, not only to confront the crisis in front us but to seize the opportunity it presents,” Biden says in a campaign video posted online. This speaks more to US voters who love a new business to get into a lead on, and if only past US leaders had seen this, they would have had stronger appeal. Can you imagine if Trump had come in with a “renewables only” plan, and he had kicked that industry into life as part of his “make America great again” plan. There would be US export opportunities everywhere – but he has instead had the opposite effect – companies investing in renewables despite the beliefs of the President, and new backers for green energy emerging simply because the scorn he has shown to global warming, has made more people actually think about the issue and see how wrong the President is.
Biden promised not to accept campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry along with many other democrats, which means that all of that industry’s money and its potential for confusing the voting public, or stimulating climate change denial, will be behind the Republican party.
Biden’s plan is similar to the plan espoused by rival candidate Beto O’Rourke and critics pointed out that he copied some of the ideas chapter and verse from other rivals, without giving credit. We’re fairly sure that voters can forgive on something so trivial.
Climate change has the potential to be a President-maker, but just as easily can be swept out of the public consciousness by any other kind of crisis, such as the one that Trump has initiated in the trade war on China, and there is a genuine concern of whether this issue will still be front of mind a year from now when the voting begins. Other things on Biden’s agenda includes safe drinking water for minority communities and a moratorium on oil exploration in the arctic.