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What Biden’s Climate Plan Could Mean for American Jobs

Sustainability News
by Tim Wenger Jul 17, 2020

This is The Climate Win, the most positive sustainability news around the world every week.

Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden released a massively updated climate plan this week. The big headline points are impressive on their own because they break from the progressive trend to exclude some prominent private sector voices. For example, Biden’s plan calls for moving the United States energy grid to carbon-free production by 2035, without outright committing to banning fracking or fossil fuel use.

As renewable energy technology continues to develop and become more affordable for the middle class, fossil fuel use in the US is likely to decline based on economic factors, without the government having to initiate an outright ban and risk alienating companies and workers in the energy sector. In An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore goes into detail on this topic and outlines renewable energy use on a graph that is only now beginning to tick upward based on increased demand and better technology — which together drive prices down.

This information is relevant to everyone in the US, and here’s why. Those who work in oil and gas, and the companies that employ them, are often (and understandably) put off by outright calls for the end of fossil fuel use. For example, a common query by renewable energy advocates goes something like this: “Why don’t we just train oil workers to work in renewable energy?”

Even if this were to happen on a massive scale, it’s not something that will happen overnight. As the industry evolves toward cleaner energy in the coming decades, the job market may dictate on its own fewer oil and gas jobs and more clean energy jobs, but it can’t be achieved by mandate alone. How would you feel if someone wanted to outlaw your job and force you into something else?

Each of us has the right to work for a living and to provide for their family. Everyone in the US uses fossil fuels every day (are you wearing polyester or shoes with rubber soles?). Policy proposals and activist rhetoric that directly attack the livelihood of hard-working Americans can leave individual workers feeling personally attacked by progressive policies. When they come from people wearing said polyester or flying in planes, they can seem hypocritical, too. As this column noted last week, economic factors are incredibly important in getting the public and the private sector on board with radical change.

Biden’s climate plan grasps this. What’s more, it appears to be going over relatively well with working and middle-class Americans around the country. A survey from left-leaning think tank Data For Progress found that 62 percent, including more than one-third of Republicans surveyed in the pool of 1,500, have a “Positive” or “Very Positive” attitude about Biden’s climate plan. A full 62 percent of those surveyed feel positive about moving to 100 percent clean energy by 2035.

Also included is a major infrastructure upgrade. Biden wants to spend $2 billion in his first term on his climate agenda, including retrofitting four million commercial properties to be more energy-efficient. Two million homes would get the same treatment. This boils down to a very simple math equation: investment in infrastructure plus green retrofitting equals jobs.

Here is Biden’s plan in full, to learn more about what is being proposed. For more in-depth analysis and critiques, we encourage you to read a few expert takes from various media sources. Some recommended reads:

  • The US is headed for climate disaster — but Joe Biden’s green plan might just work — The Guardian
  • Joe Biden Cribbed Jay Inslee’s Climate Plan. Inslee Couldn’t Be Happier About That. — Intelligencer
  • What It Will Take for Biden to Keep His Climate Promise — Bloomberg
  • Biden’s Climate Plan Needs To Do Better On The Concepts Of ‘Just Transition’ And ‘Critical Minerals’ — Forbes

More climate wins

Burger King is adding lemongrass to the diet of some of its cows in an attempt to reduce their methane emissions. But will this actually make a difference? Either way, at least major fast-food chains are attempting to address the issue.

Zac Efron is tackling eco-travel in his new Netflix show, Down To Earth. Parts of the show may be corny, others may be awesome and educational — but the bottom line is that people are already talking about it from an eco-perspective. Cheers to you and your crew, Zac.

Researchers have determined that British Columbia’s wolf bounty program was ineffective in repopulating local caribou herds, and that the actual cause of their population decline is loss of habitat and the encroachment of humans. Not great news for the caribou just yet, but the wolves are sure to agree with the findings.

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