Analysis: How Biden's zero-carbon revolution would broaden the energy map
April 6, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.
Compression ratio: 22.4%. 3 min read.
Sheep graze near wind turbines at a wind farm near Highway 12 in Rio Vista, California, U.S., on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. President Biden's $2.25 trillion infrastructure and stimulus blueprint he is set to unveil today, meant to catalyze investments in a clean energy economy and encourage low-emission technology necessary to constrain global warming, would give a 10-year extension to tax credits that have been a boon to wind and other renewable energy projects. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
President Joe Biden's push for a green power revolution could expand the economic benefits of energy production to a significantly broader swath of communities across America -- if he can maneuver past the blockade of fossil-fuel-producing states that has prevented congressional action on climate change for years.
(CNN)President Joe Biden's push for a green power revolution could expand the economic benefits of energy production to a significantly broader swath of communities across America -- if he can maneuver past the blockade of fossil-fuel-producing states that has prevented congressional action on climate change for years.
Included in Biden's massive $2 trillion infrastructure package is a provision that would require every state to generate all of its electricity by 2035 from fuels that do not produce any of the carbon emissions linked to global climate change.
Such a transition would trigger a massive spending boom in wind and solar power -- at least doubling the pace of investment now underway -- and that could disperse opportunity for energy-related jobs across many more states than benefit today, energy experts say.
The reason: While relatively few states now dominate the production of the oil, coal and natural gas that currently provide most of the nation's power, far more states are positioned to generate significant amounts of solar, on- or off-shore wind and other sources of carbon-free power, according to a recent study by the Decarb America Research Initiative that modeled the nation's energy usage through 2050 under a plan like Biden's.
The spread of clean energy jobs to more states, in turn, would enhance the industry's political leverage to drive more policies through Congress in the years ahead to support the massive transition to a zero-carbon economy.
The catch is that to set this process in motion, Biden and his allies in the clean energy industries must first find a way past the resistance of legislators from the heavy fossil-fuel-producing states, almost all of them Republicans, who have shut down discussion of virtually any legislation that would diminish the nation's reliance on oil, coal and natural gas.
That points to the principal obstacle in Congress for the clean electricity standard, or any other measure that seeks to reduce carbon emissions and diminish the nation's reliance on the fossil fuels that generate them: what I've called the "brown blockade" of GOP legislators from the states most heavily invested in the existing fossil fuel economy.
By spreading the benefit of energy production across more states, a clean electricity standard would increase the clout of zero-carbon sources relative to fossil fuels in Congress.
Yet clean energy advocates still have a political opening -- particularly as the costs of climate change in extreme weather become more irrefutable -- because the opportunities associated with fossil fuel production are today concentrated in a surprisingly narrow band of states, according to federal data.
Surprisingly, though, the states that dominate fossil fuel production today remain among the nation's largest energy producers in a carbon-free future, the study found.
Already, both fossil-fuel-producing and Republican-leaning states are among the largest producers of carbon-free electricity.
That's because the package includes most of the other investments and tax incentives they say would be necessary to execute such a massive transformation of the nation's power sector, including spending to modernize the electric grid, research and development into new renewable power sources and energy storage, tax credits for the deployment of solar and wind facilities, and transition help for communities that would be hurt by diminished production of fossil fuels.
Given the GOP opposition, even if the clean electricity standard did qualify for reconciliation, it could pass only if every Senate Democrat voted for it -- including the relatively small number of them from states that produce substantial amounts of fossil fuels.
Manchin, as is often the case, has sent mixed signals about his posture toward a zero-carbon future, and advocates are wooing him with arguments about West Virginia's potential to become a major producer of wind energy; the possibility of investments to sustain some coal usage through technology capturing its carbon emissions; and the potential to locate manufacturing facilities for new renewable energy sources in communities losing fossil fuel jobs.