Renewable Roundup: Joe Biden has a plan for climate change and clean energy

  • Published on May 29th, 2020


I saw Chris Hayes and Matt Yglesias Wednesday on All In talking about how Progressive Biden’s platform is. Biden is a renowned Centrist, but not by standing still. He seeks out the center of Democratic opinion and replants himself wherever it shifts to. Remember how he came out in favor of Marriage Equality before Obama did, but after the shift in public opinion to support gays and lesbians getting married became evident?

By Mokurai

Now, we can discuss, somewhere other than this Diary, Joe’s bogus opposition to Medicare for All, which of course the US can afford. (Clue: It saves beaucoup dinero, and also lots of lives.) But we will put his feeble Public Option aside for now, and talk about some of the issues where he has come around, and is now taking the lead.

Joe Biden has a plan for that

Biden is a mainstream Democrat, and as the Democratic Party has grown broadly more progressive in recent years, he is now running on arguably the most progressive policy platform of any Democratic nominee in history.

It’s a detailed and aggressive agenda that includes doubling the minimum wage and tripling funding for schools with low-income students. He is proposing the most sweeping overhaul of immigration policy in a generation, the biggest pro-union push in three generations, and the most ambitious environmental agenda of all time.

And that’s where we come in in this Diary series.

No, Yglesias, you moron! We don’t want to “overthrow” the rich. Communists are irrelevant now, except as lying Republican talking points. We Progressives, even we Democratic Socialists, want them to shoulder their responsibilities. That means accepting regulation of their businesses for the safety of the public and the economy, and actually paying taxes. And not being able to throw billions of dollars around in politics in order to get racists to give them billions of dollars in illegitimate government favors in order to Starve the Beast, that is, to defund all welfare programs.

We do, of course, want to claw back some of their recent ill-gotten gains that they are wasting on management bonuses and stock buybacks, rather than investing in any thing of actual use to anybody.

It has become the received wisdom that Biden is an unrelenting centrist who will stand in the way of all Progressive measures. Yglesias, not being that complete a moron, wants us to talk about evidence.

As a candidate in the 2020 primaries, his pitch was overwhelmingly about electability; his policy profile was defined primarily by the things he wouldn’t embrace. Left-wing journalists and activists criticized his opposition to sweeping proposals from Sen. Bernie Sanders like Medicare-for-all or the Green New Deal. Biden argued that the plans were implausible to make real and that he would take a more pragmatic approach — frustrating proponents of a “political revolution” or Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s “big structural change.”


as the Democratic Party has grown broadly more progressive in recent years, he is now running on arguably the most progressive policy platform of any Democratic nominee in history.

Biden has detailed, considered plans to put much of this agenda in place. But getting these plans done will be driven much more by the outcome of the congressional elections than his questioned ambition.

OK, that’s a given. We need 52 senators, so that we don’t have to come crawling to Blue Dogs Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema for permission to do anything worthwhile.

The Biden Plan

So now we come to it. Here is Yglesias’s take on the Biden environmental plan.

A labor-friendly climate agenda

Climate change is a huge, complicated issue, and Biden’s stated climate agenda, like proposals from other Democratic campaigns, has a lot of moving parts, covering everything from investments in advanced biofuels to clean drinking water to a proposed Securities and Exchange Commission regulatory change that would require companies with stock listed on the major markets to make public disclosures of their climate risk.

We need the Federal government to divest from fossil fuels completely, including Treasury, the Fed, pensions, and the Social Security Trust Fund.

The topline objective is to make the US economy carbon neutral by 2050, but a president whose term would span from 2021 to 2025 or 2029 can’t deliver on that commitment even with an infinitely cooperative Congress — which he also won’t have. Climate is one of the trickiest policy areas for Democrats because the gap between the goals climate scientists think are appropriate and the likely results of the legislative process is so large.

He can’t finish the job, but he can make it inevitable.

In any event, government action can be beneficial, but the markets have spoken. Fossil Foolishness is going down. Industry is having to invest in reducing carbon emissions from ammonia, cement, steel, and refrigerants, regardless of what the government says.

But this is an area where it’s probably not yet worth spending much time sweating the details of Biden’s existing plan. The Biden/Sanders climate working group on policy, led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former Secretary of State John Kerry and featuring the Obama administration’s former EPA director and the executive director of the Sunrise Movement, is an extremely high-powered crew. It’s widely believed in the climate policy community that there is going to be a substantial rewrite of Biden’s plan.

Now you’re talking. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

What’s probably more important about Biden’s climate plans is that he has angered environmental activists with his stances on three issues not directly related to the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions: Biden favors funding research into carbon capture and sequestration technologies, has a favorable view of nuclear power, and does not favor a short-term ban on fracking.

Some environmentalists oppose those stances, largely due to the non-carbon impacts, but, critically, Biden is on the right side of organized labor on all three topics. That emphasis on maintaining a version of a Green New Deal agenda that America’s unions can wholeheartedly back is a key priority of Biden’s and will shape his overall approach to climate policy.

Sorry, Matt, we criticize the carbon consequences of CCS and fracking strenuously.

But throwing a bit of money into waste, fraud, and abuse in these industries will be a small price to pay for reversing the overall Trump disaster and getting the US back on track on the main issues, like going off fossil fuels for power; electric vehicles; sustainable agriculture; getting rid of corn ethanol; and a many other policies.

Renewable Friday: The Trump Effect

For comparison, look at Gov. Newsom’s support for fracking and water diversions in California, even while supporting distributed solar and electric vehicles and such.

Electric Vehicle Tuesday: California Kicks Complaining Car Companies to Curb

Renewable Monday: 1M Solar Roofs in California

Renewable Tuesday: California is in Fact Not Perfect

Elected Officials to Ask Gov. Newsom to “Show Love for CA” and Phase Out Fossil Fuel Production

Another View

At last, a climate policy platform that can unite the left

The factions of the Democratic coalition have come into alignment on climate change.

After the ignominious failure of the Democratic climate change bill in President Barack Obama’s first term — the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill that narrowly passed the House but never came to a vote in the Senate — what little unity there was on climate change within the Democratic coalition fractured. Everyone went their own way, furious at everyone else.

But something different has been happening lately, as groups across the left come together to hash out their differences on climate policy. It turns out they agree on quite a bit. In fact, for the first time in memory, there’s a broad alignment forming around a climate policy platform that is both ambitious enough to address the problem and politically potent enough to unite all the left’s various interest groups.

After a decade of dissolution, work on climate policy development cranked back up in earnest around 2018. States where Democrats took control passed climate and clean energy bills. Every Democratic candidate for president produced ambitious climate plans. “All of those people who ran for president, who are currently sitting electeds, had a much more expanded vision on climate by the end of their campaigns than when they started,” said Maggie Thomas, who served as deputy climate director of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s campaign and then policy advisor to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign.

Democrats in both the House and Senate drafted climate bills (the CLEAN Future Act and the Clean Economy Act, respectively), and the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which has been holding hearings all year, is expected to release its recommendations this summer.

Perhaps most notably, behind the scenes, nonprofits on the left began a flurry of climate policy conclaves and discussions — often across factional lines, involving mainstream groups, left groups, environmental justice groups, and unions — to try to determine where there was consensus and where disagreements remained.


There should be a transcript of last night’s show up at All In with Chris Hayes Transcripts sometime in the next week.

(Crossposted with DailyKos.)

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