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Energy policy implications under the Biden administration

Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 1:09 PM EST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - In a time of heightened political polarization, President-elect Joe Biden is moving forward on his ambitious plan to address climate change.

With slightly more than one week until Inauguration Day, President-elect Joe Biden is closing out his cabinet picks.

In recent days, Biden announced several more nominations including Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo as Commerce Secretary and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as Labor Secretary.

Biden touted both as future key players in a clean energy economy. If confirmed, Raimondo and Walsh will join Biden’s emerging energy team.

Biden has also tapped Rep. Dab Haaland (D-N.M) as Interior Department secretary, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm as Energy Secretary, former EPA chief Gina McCarthy as national climate coordinator, and North Carolina’s environment secretary Michael Regan as EPA administrator.

Last month, the president-elect laid out some of his goals in his quest to lower carbon emissions. Biden’s plan to achieve net-per emissions by 2050.

“They have set for themselves some very ambitious targets,” said Sarah Ladislaw, director of the Energy Security and Climate Change Program with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Biden’s chances of actualizing his plan slightly increased when Democrats won the Senate majority following the Georgia Senate runoff elections, however, according to Ladislaw, advancing his green energy agenda could still prove difficult.

“It would be a hard thing to achieve if the entire government agreed on the approach, but it doesn’t,” said Ladislaw.

Ladislaw says the Biden administration will likely work to incorporate his agenda into all aspects of the federal government. There is evidence of this is in his cabinet picks. For example, his choices for Transportation and Treasury Secretaries, Pete Buttigieg and Janet Yellen have both vowed publicly to fight climate change. Ladislaw says it’s also imperative that the administration work to find areas of bipartisan agreement.

“Even though we may not have agreement across our policymakers about how fast we should decarbonize the economy, we do have a level of agreement on trying to be competitive in the economy of the future,” said Ladislaw.

While there is truth to the fact that the oil and gas industries will feel pressure under Biden’s rule, Baker Institute fellow and former BP senior economist Mark Finley cautions that much of the discussion is still being driven by heated campaign rhetoric.

“President-elect Biden said in the debates that his aspiration was to phase out fossil fuels over time, but I think he’s been at pains to emphasize the overtime part of that, as a way to signal he doesn’t intend to massively disrupt the oil and gas business as soon as he comes into office,” said Finley.

Finley says Biden’s agenda is likely to add some costs, but it’s unlikely to become the industry game-changer. He warns of other economic variables, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and decreasing global demand.

“The bottom line is, ‘what’s the price?’,” he said. “Because the variations on the price of oil and natural gas have a far bigger impact than policy made in Washington D.C.”

There is concern some Senate confirmation hearings could be delayed following the Capitol riot last weekend the possibility of another impeachment trial.

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