Biden signs orders aimed at eliminating nation’s reliance on fossil fuels

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In the most ambitious U.S. effort to stave off the worst of climate change, President Joe Biden signed executive orders Wednesday to transform the nation’s heavily fossil-fuel-powered economy into a clean-burning one, pausing oil and gas leasing on federal land and targeting subsidies for those industries.

The directives aim to conserve 30 percent of the country’s lands and waters in the next 10 years, double the nation’s offshore wind energy, and move to an all-electric federal vehicle fleet, among other changes. Biden’s sweeping plan is aimed at staving off the worst of global warming caused by burning fossil fuels.

But his effort it also carries political risk for the president and Democrats as oil- and coal-producing states face job losses from moves to sharply increase U.S. reliance on clean energy such as wind and solar power.

“We can’t wait any longer” to address the climate crisis, Biden said at the White House. ”We see with our own eyes. We know it in our bones. It is time to act.”

He said his orders will “supercharge our administration’s ambitious plan to confront the existential threat of climate change.”

Biden has set a goal of eliminating pollution from fossil fuel in the power sector by 2035 and from the U.S. economy overall by 2050, speeding what is already a market-driven growth of solar and wind energy and lessening the country’s dependence on oil and gas. The aggressive plan is aimed at slowing human-caused global warming.

Biden acknowledged the political risk, repeatedly stating his approach would create jobs in the renewable energy and automotive sectors to offset any losses in oil, coal or natural gas.

“When I think of climate change and the answers to it, I think of jobs,” Biden said. “These aren’t pie-in-the-sky dreams. These are concrete actionable solutions. And we know how to do this.”

In a change from previous administrations of both parties, Biden also is directing agencies to focus help and investment on the low-income and minority communities that live closest to polluting refineries and other hazards, and the oil- and coal-patch towns that face job losses as the U.S. moves to sharply increase its reliance on wind, solar and other other energy sources that do not emit climate-warming greenhouse gases.

Biden pledged to create “millions of good-paying, union jobs” building electric cars, installing solar panels and wind turbines, and performing specialized work to cap abandoned walls, restore mine-scarred land and turn old industrial sites “into the new hubs of economic growth.”

Even so, Republicans immediately criticized the plan as a job killer.

“Pie-in-the-sky government mandates and directives that restrict our mining, oil, and gas industries adversely impact our energy security and independence,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Biden also is elevating the warming climate to a national security priority, directing intelligence agencies, the military and others to do more to prepare for the heightened risks. The conservation plan would set aside millions of acres for recreation, wildlife and climate efforts by 2030 as part of Biden’s campaign pledge for a $2 trillion program to slow global warming.

President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris global climate accord, opened more public lands to coal, gas and oil production and weakened regulation on fossil fuel emissions. Many experts say these emissions are heating the Earth’s climate dangerously and worsening floods, droughts and other natural disasters.

Currently, 61% of the nation’s electric power comes from natural gas and coal, 20% from nuclear and 17% from wind, solar and other renewable energy, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says.

Georgia Tech University climate scientist Kim Cobb said that “if this Day 7 momentum is representative of this administration’s 4-year term, there is every reason to believe that we might achieve carbon neutrality sooner than 2050,” even as key roadblocks lie ahead.

Biden’s actions came as his nominee for energy secretary, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, faced deep skepticism from Republicans as she tried to pitch the president’s vision for a green economy.

“The last Democratic administration went on a regulatory rampage to slow or stop energy production,” said Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, a leading Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “I’m not going to sit idly by … if the Biden administration enforces policies that threaten Wyoming’s economy.”

Granholm, whose state was devastated by the 2008 recession, promoted emerging clean energy technologies, such as battery manufacturing, as an answer for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from fossil fuels.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry, now Biden’s climate envoy, said oil, gas and coal workers “have been fed a false narrative” that ”somehow, dealing with climate is coming at their expense. No, it’s not. What’s happening to them is happening because of other market forces already taking place.”

Instead of possible black lung disease, a miner would have a brighter future as a solar power technician, Kerry said. “The same people can do those jobs, but the choice of doing the solar power one now is a better choice.”

The oil industry said curtailing domestic production will lead to an increase in imported oil.

“I don’t think any American wants to go back to the days of being held hostage to foreign entities that don’t have America’s best interest at heart as we lose American energy leadership,” said Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute.

Sommers and other industry leaders warned that states could lose hundreds of thousands of jobs and critical funding. Nearly one-third of New Mexico’s state budget comes from oil and gas, said Ryan Flynn, president of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association.

Biden’s directive to double energy production from offshore wind comes after the Trump administration slowed permit review of some giant offshore wind turbine projects. Significantly, he is directing agencies to eliminate spending that acts as subsidies for fossil fuel industries.

The pause in onshore leasing is limited to federal lands and does not affect drilling on private lands, which is largely regulated by states. It also will not affect existing leases and could be further blunted by companies that stockpiled enough drilling permits in Trump’s final months to allow them to keep pumping oil and gas for years.

The order exempts tribal lands, mainly in the West, that are used for energy production.

Biden also directed U.S. agencies to use science and evidence-based decision-making in federal rules and announced a U.S.-hosted climate leaders summit on Earth Day, April 22.

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6 thoughts on “Biden signs orders aimed at eliminating nation’s reliance on fossil fuels

    1. Right, James…as is Iran, Saudi Arabia, et al…but look at all the jobs Biden and the America-hating leftist cabal will create for music composers, writing additional versus for Kum-Bah-Yah.

  1. What if I don’t want a union job, but do want a good paying job? More pandering to special interest “voting blocks”. And why do articles like this confuse readers with biased statistics such as combining natural gas and coal fired electric production into a single statistic of 61%? Tell me the percentage for natural gas and the percentage for coal so I can better understand how electricity is currently produced. Even more valuable to the debate, forget the percentages of how power is produced, and provide the annual carbon emissions from coal produced electricity, natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar, etc., separately, along with the costs to produce electricity with each technology, so we can better understand the cost-benefit metrics. The point is carbon emissions. Provide that information directly. And don’t even pretend that any of these bureaucrats are concerned that issues like this could cost them politically. The jobs in the fossil fuel energy sector have little influence on elections. Urban America elects our leadership. Coal currently accounts for 11% of energy produced in the U.S. China produced more than five times the amount of coal produced energy than the U.S. as recently as 2018. (81 quadrillion BTU’s in China vs. 15 in the U.S.) The Biden administration and the Paris climate followers need to focus on negotiating a reduction of coal energy consumption in China before they worry about the 11% in the U.S. China is the low-hanging fruit. We’ll see what Biden’s foreign policy can accomplish. Under Trump, for the first time since the 1973 oil crisis, the U.S. became energy independent, just as he promised. Hands down the greatest single advantage for U.S. foreign policy in recent history. With a couple of strokes of the pen (banning the XL Pipeline and prohibiting oil & gas leases on public lands), Biden has set in motion a reversal of U.S. energy independence. This is a major win for two of the top fossil fuel producers in the world, Russia and China. This hurts a long-time, loyal ally of the U.S., Canada. This is a major blow to the U.S. How about we take the federal government out of the energy/power manipulation game? No subsidies for anyone. No regulations. Let free-market capitalism pick the winners and losers, not Washington political elites.

  2. Well said Mark. The whole green deal idea is a farce to begin with. There will always be climate changing on our planet. To think that mankind can alter it is ridiculous and unsubstantiated. Meanwhile, the propagandists from Gore down to AOC preach to the masses to shame them for consumption, while they jet-set around the world and live the high life created on the backs of workers who produce coal, oil, and natural gas to fuel their whims. Our energy independence is paramount for both the economy and our security.

  3. Love the fossil fuel folks here who are wedded to old technologies that choke our air with deadly pollutants. I suppose they thought that Tesla would never amount to anything either. Or that we could never have landed someone on the moon and returned them safely to earth. And they probably experience a rise in blood pressure every time they see a solar panel or a windmill. Oh well, there are some of us who do want cleaner air, sustainable sources of power, and developing new industries that can replace the ones that are no longer viable (for whatever reason). It is not only about climate change (and yes, a lot of that is natural but not all of it). It is about going forward to see what is possible and then to make it happen. It’s something innovators have been doing ever since the American Revolution. Why stop now?

    1. Quote: I suppose they thought that Tesla would never amount to anything either. Or that we could never have landed someone on the moon and returned them safely to earth.

      Those two couldn’t be less related, Brent.

      Without the tax credits offered to wealthy people who bought Teslas, promiscuously adding to the national debt because, you know, that money has to come from somewhere (or maybe you don’t know that and think it grows on trees), Elan Musk’s Tesla enterprise would have struggled to get off the ground, if it ever did.

      Regardless of your or my position on global warming (or anything else, for that matter,) the stark reality that there is no such thing as a free lunch will remain a bedrock truth.