USA turn from fossil fuel ‘more direct, more fierce and quicker’ than expected

Since his inauguration, the new American President, Joe Biden, has wasted no time in initiating the shift away from coal, oil and natural gas – once the bedrock of US prosperity.

John Kerry, previously Barack Obama’s secretary of state and key architect of the Paris climate change summit in 2015, has been tasked with drawing up the new President’s climate plans. He commented:
“It is one of his top priorities, without any questions whatsoever. He’ll make more progress on the issue than any previous President.”

Whilst many of Biden’s actions were expected, the speed of implementation was not, and the world watched as the US changed its stance on fossil fuels almost overnight.

In his first few days of Presidency, Biden stopped the giant Keystone XL oil pipeline dead in its track by pulling the permit, re-joined the Paris climate accord and ordered the Pentagon to make climate change an issue of national security.

Whole government approach

Kerry explained:
“He is mobilising every department, every agency of the United States government to focus on climate and he is determined to try and restore America’s credibility and reputation.”

The intense ‘whole government’ approach to the issue of climate change, with drastic actions and commitments already in play, raises the possibility of returning to the notion ‘where America leads, the rest of the world will follow’ in an arena where, until now, the US has been left far behind.

Veteran environmental campaigner Bill McKibben comments that the President wants to send ‘a decisive signal about the end of one epoch and the beginning of another’ – a signal aimed at investors: “Fossil fuel, Biden is making clear, is not a safe bet, or even a good bet, for making real money.”

An economic stimulus

With share prices plummeting and Goldman Sachs warning of a drop in US crude supplies, one oil services company CEO told Bloomberg: “The industry is aghast at these changes. They are more direct, more fierce and quicker than what folks expected.”

Biden has been careful in casting the agenda as an exercise in job creations and economic stimulus in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. Kerry comments: “If we’re going to invest new money, let’s invest it in clean energy, invest it in clean jobs, invest it in those technologies and other things that will build the future, rather than simply being the prisoners of the past.”

Biden has reiterated his desire to end all fossil fuel subsidies, ordered a ban on new oil and gas leases on federal land and said a third of all federal land must be reserved for conservation.

Displaced workers put to use

The President plans to reinstate and strengthen Obama-era regulations on the three largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions: vehicles, power plants and methane leaks from oil and gas wells.

Many displaced fossil-fuel workers will be put to work sealing off the estimated one million leaking oil and gas wells whilst millions of ‘prevailing wage’ jobs will be created in line with the plan is to build 1.5 million energy-efficient homes and install half a million EV charging stations.

Not without opposition

Although some big oil companies have acknowledged some of the curbs on emissions lifted by President Trump need to be reinstated, backlash is expected from others in the fossil fuel industry.

The democratic senator for West Virginia, Joe Manchin, is likely to be one such voice. Elected as a defender of his states coal industry, Machin famously campaigned with a TV ad that featured him using a hunting rifle to shoot a copy of one of Obama’s climate change bills.

Working with the UK

Kerry and the rest of the administration is also set to work hard with the UK government to ensure that the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), which is scheduled to take place in November 2021 in Glasgow, is a success.

 

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