Would Congress Pushback on Biden's Environmental Efforts Hinder Alternative Energy Progress?
How Effective Would Biden’s Alternative Energy Legislation Be?
Article from | Shannon Flynn, ReHack
After a tight and lengthy race, Joe Biden has won the presidential election. Looking forward to 2021, one of the most significant questions surrounding the Biden presidency is its action towards alternative energy. During his campaign, Biden announced some notable climate goals, but some doubt his administration can achieve them.
When it comes to sustainable energy, the U.S.’s record is far from ideal. The country is the second-largest emitter of CO2, emitting roughly 5.41 billion metric tons of it in 2018 alone. The vast majority of energy consumption in the nation comes from fossil fuels, too. If the U.S. is to make a difference, it may need some considerable changes.
The country’s current state of energy use isn’t the only challenge the Biden administration faces. The president-elect will also have to persuade a divided Congress to enact his policies. Given these roadblocks, how effective would Biden’s alternative energy legislation be?
Biden’s Alternative Energy Plan
First, let’s take a look at what Biden’s energy plan entails. The president-elect plans to put the U.S. on a path to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, according to his transition website. That would represent a tremendous change for the nation, one that won’t be easy to manage.
Specifics in the path toward this goal include rejoining the Paris Agreement, building sustainable infrastructure and establishing zero-emissions public transportation. These last two are perhaps the most significant since energy and transportation are the largest greenhouse gas contributors in the U.S. If the administration can follow through with these steps, they’ll certainly make the country a greener place.
One of the more ambitious parts of Biden’s plan is to achieve a carbon-free power industry by 2035. Research suggests that a goal this lofty is feasible, or at least the country could come close. Scientifically, Biden’s plan could bring dramatic improvements to renewable energy, but there’s another issue at play.
Conflict in Congress
Perhaps the biggest obstacle in the way of alternative energy legislation is Congress. More specifically, sharp partisan divides may make it challenging to pass any extensive energy bills. While climate change has become a more important issue to people across the political spectrum, more conservative legislators may hesitate to pass something too radical.
Biden has emphasized that bipartisan unity is important to him, which could go one of two ways. On the one hand, he could compromise with his political opposition on other issues, persuading them to be more comfortable with sweeping energy changes. On the other, he could abandon the more progressive parts of his plan in the interest of unity.
Studies have shown that American opinions on climate change have reached an all-time high amid the COVID-19 pandemic. These shifting cultural values could reflect in Congress, leading politicians who have traditionally opposed environmental legislation to accept it. Like most predictions about how Congress will react, though, that’s little more than speculation at this point.
Possible Ways Forward
Biden will more than likely face a considerable challenge in getting Congress to pass his alternative energy laws. That doesn’t mean that cleaner energy under Biden is an impossible goal, though. Many factors and strategies could lead to positive change in energy one way or another.
Under Biden, an increase in False Claims Act actions is likely, helping clean up government programs. These claims, which have saved $400 million in one year in the past, help eliminate fraud. As the administration removes fraud from federal programs, the American people may trust them more, leading to higher support.
As president, Biden could also attach clean energy policies to COVID-19 relief bills. Data shows that clean energy drives job growth, which could be a useful persuasion tool. If the Biden administration presents energy changes as a means of combating the COVID recession, they may be more likely to pass.
Biden would also have the ability to enact change via executive order. While this may prove more effective than trying to pass a bill in Congress, it may also be unpopular. Pursuing this route could lead to future presidents reversing these actions.
The Future of Sustainability Is Uncertain But Promising
Pursuing green energy, especially to the extent outlined in Biden’s transition plan, won’t be easy. Still, depending on how the administration proceeds, it could certainly be possible. Nothing is certain, but 2021 could be the start of positive change in American energy.
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag
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