Panorama – Biden is coming to heal Trump’s wounds, can he?

On the same day that he assumed the highest office of his country, Joe Biden – as he is usually mentioned – signed the so-called Executive Order on the protection of public health and the environment and the restoration of science to address the climate crisis. Among the measures contained in said Order are those to reverse the setbacks to greenhouse gas emissions standards, enforce a temporary moratorium on oil and natural gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the accounting for the benefits of reducing climate pollution.

That same day he signed a statement entitled Acceptance on behalf of the United States of America, which reads: “I, Joseph R. Biden Jr., President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the Paris Agreement, made in Paris on December 12, 2015, I hereby accept said Agreement and each article and clause thereof on behalf of the United States of America. “

In other words, it reversed a measure to the contrary taken by Trump in June 2017. Biden’s declaration was celebrated with a “warm welcome” by the UN Secretary General, António Guterres. This re-entry will be made official 30 days after signing those statement, on February 19, and adding symbolism is the fact that former Secretary of State John Kerry has been elected as presidential representative for climate change, a newly created position in the National Security Council (NSC, for its acronym It was precisely Kerry who signed the Paris Agreement in 2015 on behalf of his country.

However, it should be noted that the withdrawal of this agreement and the support of the previous administration for policies to benefit the growth of the fossil fuel industries have not prevented the United States from moving further away from coal and natural gas. The reason? Simple: the costs of wind and photovoltaic energy have not stopped falling during the last four years, which in all probability is related to the constant rate of closure of coal power plants.

To this, among other elements, it must be added that in the last four years, most of the main electricity companies in the country have committed to net zero carbon emissions targets, with most of them aiming for a maximum horizon in 2050.

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Zero carbon by 2050
It is in this context that the extreme of net zero carbon emission in 2050 (which means energy production with no participation at all from fossils), set by Biden in the campaign, seems to have the road asphalted, although much is known. must still walk.

To meet this goal, the new US president signed an extensive set of executive orders a week after taking office, in which, among other provisions, he orders federal agencies to purchase carbon-free energy and electric vehicles, stimulate the commercialization of technologies. energy management, accelerate clean energy generation and transmission projects and ensure that disadvantaged communities reap a fair share of the resulting economic and environmental benefits.

These orders provide some early indications of how Biden will seek to use the purchasing power of the federal government to bolster its promises to cut carbon emissions from the electricity sector to zero by 2035 and achieve the aforementioned carbon-free US economy by 2050.

“Federal agencies are directed to get carbon-free electricity and clean, zero-emission vehicles to create high-paying union jobs and stimulate clean energy industries,” one such order reads. This is a first step in aligning federal policy with the campaign’s commitment to reorient federal power purchases around clean energy resources and spend $ 400 billion on federal procurement of renewable energy, batteries, and electric vehicles. .

It is worth as data that gives framework, that, according to data from the General Services Administration, in 2019 the federal government spent around 4.4 billion dollars on its fleet of vehicles. It can be deduced from this that under the new targets, federal agencies would purchase US-made electric vehicles to replace the approximately 645,000 vehicles it now owns.

Resilience and the pipeline
Resilience is the ability to overcome critical moments and adapt after experiencing a traumatic situation. The aforementioned executive order also “instructs each federal agency to develop a plan to increase the resilience of its facilities and operations to the impacts of climate change.” This can be interpreted as an invitation to promote the development of microgrids and backup power systems, as well as the design and planning of new buildings, and to undertake modernizations to withstand the extreme weather caused by global warming.

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The proposed arc of action could be as broad as creating a market from, for example, efficient heat pumps and water heating to a vehement enforcement of energy-efficient building regulations.

It should also be noted that this and other future executive orders seek to reverse the oil and gas infrastructure projects that the Trump administration supported.

At this point, it is worth dwelling on an action that could be classified as “flagship”: the rescission of federal permits for the Keystone XL pipeline project. In fact, there is no shortage of those who regard the cancellation of these permits as a carefully calculated message for the oil industry.

In summary, this project would allow the transport of oil obtained from tar sands from the Canadian region of Alberta to the United States territory of Nebraska. It is an oil pipeline that runs a pipeline of more than 500 km from the north to the refineries located in the area of ​​the Gulf of Mexico, in the south. In its path, it would cross one of the largest aquifers in the world, the Ogalalla, which covers an area of ​​approximately 450,000 square km (just 50,000 less than that of Spain).

Possibly, this decision hinders relations between the United States and Canada, which were already affected enough since the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, had a terrible relationship with Trump. In fact, it is a project that has been at the center of a legal and political battle since it was presented more than a decade ago, during the presidency of George W. Bush.

If to this is added the decision to freeze oil and natural gas leases on public lands or marine waters, in addition to initiating a rigorous review of all existing practices in that regard on public lands, the message could not be clearer.

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Leaders Summit on Climate and Homeland Security
In what can be defined as a search to reoccupy spaces in the international concert that were abandoned by the previous administration, President Biden has given directives to organize a so-called Summit of Leaders on Climate on Earth Day, to be held on next April 22.

And not only that, within the set of orders there is one that involves the Director of National Intelligence to prepare a National Intelligence Estimate on the security implications of climate change.

And in what can be considered as one of the Gordian knots in the management bet of the next four years, the creation of jobs in construction, industry, engineering and skilled trades is also called for from ensure that every investment in federal infrastructure reduces climate pollution. It should be remembered, in this sense, that during the debate that confronted him with Donald Trump, Joe Biden defended that the set of measures in favor of the environment and against climate change “will not destroy jobs, but will create them.”

Ultimately, the first actions of the US president are aimed at wanting to embrace the economic and public health benefits that renewable energy can bring, an intention to modernize the electricity grid and increase energy storage, and the electrification of the transportation system.

The plan seems ambitious, but it would be to ignore what are the trends of the technologies on which it can be based on cataloging it as unreal.

Ultimately, the first actions of the US president are aimed at wanting to embrace the economic and public health benefits that renewable energy can bring, an intention to modernize the electricity grid and increase energy storage, and the electrification of the transportation system.

The plan seems ambitious, but it would be to ignore what are the trends of the technologies on which it can be based on cataloging it as unreal.

• This article has been published in the February issue of Renewable Energies on paper.

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