January 22, 2021

Climate Executive Orders

“Construction on the long disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline halted Wednesday as incoming U.S. President Joe Biden revoked its permit on his first day in office.” AP News

“President Joe Biden on Wednesday [also] announced America’s return to the international Paris Agreement to fight climate change.” Reuters

See past issues

From the Left

The left applauds both decisions.

Dated But Relevant:The pipeline would cross 1,073 rivers, lakes and streams—from the Yellowstone River in Montana to the Platte River in Nebraska—along with tens of thousands of acres of wetlands, including those in the famed Prairie Pothole Region that makes up 10 percent of the waterfowl breeding habitat in the Continental United States. It would run within a mile of more than 3,000 wells that provide drinking and irrigation water in those states…

“Between 2006 and the middle of 2015, there were nearly 3,800 pipeline blowouts or other incidents serious enough to require reporting to the U.S. Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. And they spilled a cumulative 37.5 million gallons of oil and other hazardous liquids, 23 million gallons of which were never recovered.”
Anthony Swift, Natural Resources Defense Council

“[Many people] are used to thinking of the fossil-fuel industry as the main pressure group. But that industry is at its strongest during Republican Administrations. With Democrats in power, an equally important constituency is the building-trades unions of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., because they get the well-paid jobs involved in constructing these mega-projects; the unions were staunch proponents of Keystone XL from the start…

“What’s needed is a grand bargain, which replaces fossil-fuel-infrastructure jobs with jobs building solar panels, wind turbines, water pipes that don’t carry lead, and so on. These jobs need to be comparable in terms of pay; there has to be necessary retraining for workers; and someone has to figure out how to allocate this new work to existing unions, so that no one gets left out and that all kinds of Americans share in those jobs. It is, in other words, the messy work of a ‘just transition’ that, in this moment of economic and climatic peril, can’t be dodged any longer.”
Bill McKibben, New Yorker

“Spending hundreds of billions of dollars on clean energy in a COVID-19 stimulus plan may sound like an uphill battle given that many measures that respond directly to the pandemic have drawn opposition from conservative lawmakers. But, while skepticism from some on Capitol Hill is inevitable, many climate policy experts say the outlook for clean energy funding isn’t as bad as it may seem…

Support for clean energy in the U.S. is high across the partisan and geographical lines that often divide American politics. And a growing percentage of Americans — particularly young people of all political stripes — say they are concerned about climate change. That broad support has translated to bipartisan support for some recent clean energy spending measures already. In December, Congress approved some $35 billion in spending on clean energy measures as part of its $900 billion COVID-19 relief package with relatively little controversy or opposition.”
Justin Worland, Time

Regarding the Paris Agreement, “Human activities are estimated to have already caused about 1 degree Celsius of warming and are increasing at a rate of about 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade. The UN World Meteorological Organization has said that global temperatures are on track to rise 3 to 5 degrees by the end of this century, well beyond the targeted cap of 2 degrees. The years 2015 to 2019 were the warmest five years on record, and 2010 to 2019 was the warmest decade on record, according to the UN agency…

“Averting the worst effects of climate change will be an uphill battle even with the involvement of the U.S., the second-largest producer of carbon dioxide emissions, behind China. Global warming already is fueling wildfires, hurricanes and mass migrations.”
Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Bloomberg

From the Right

The right is critical of both decisions.

The right is critical of both decisions.

“The environmental case [against the pipeline] is unsound: Canada has ratified the Paris agreement and takes environmental issues relatively seriously. Innovation and technological improvements have substantially reduced the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with Canadian tar-sands productions — by 30 percent since the 1990s, as the Canadian government calculates. Of course, it matters relatively little whether a gallon of gasoline in the tank of a Cadillac Escalade in Houston is refined from Canadian tar-sands oil or from West Texas oil — the relevant emissions come overwhelmingly from the point of combustion

“There is a worrying Hayekian lesson in this, too: It is impossible for American businesses to make big, long-term investments in a political environment in which every project is up for renegotiation — or summary economic execution — every time the White House changes hands… in a continental nation as vast as ours, with an economy as complex as ours, it shouldn’t be possible for one man serving a short term in a temporary elected office to undo years of work and billions of dollars in investment.”
The Editors, National Review

“The Obama State Department found five separate times that the pipeline would have no material impact on greenhouse gas emissions since crude [oil] would still be extracted. Shipping bitumen by rail or tanker would result in 28% to 42% higher CO2 emissions and more leaks…

“Since 2000 the U.S. has led the world in energy-related emissions reductions as natural gas from shale hydraulic fracturing has replaced coal in power production. China’s Paris commitment doesn’t require it to cut emissions for another decade. Russia’s are set to rise for years… Killing Keystone won’t keep fossil fuels in the ground. It will merely strand billions of dollars in Canadian investment and kill thousands of U.S. jobs while enriching adversaries and alienating an ally… On day one Mr. Biden has already managed to kill high-paying, working-class jobs.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Dated But Relevant: Regarding the Paris Agreement, “only seven countries out of 185 are on track to keep their promises. The U.S. shouldn’t rejoin this failed deal, especially as China, the largest emitter globally, is promising to increase their carbon emissions to peak levels by 2030 before (unbelievably) decreasing to zero by 2060. India (7% of world emissions) and Russia (5%), the third and fourth-biggest carbon dioxide emitters, don’t have any reduction goals at all. So the Paris Agreement isn’t working, with or without America’s involvement…

“There are dozens of coal plants in the U.S. with decades of useful life left and billions in loans left to be paid off. These coal plants are being replaced with wind, solar and natural-gas plants long before they are obsolete, leaving consumers to foot the bill. Meanwhile, the Chinese are building at least another 180 coal plants, and India is constructing at least 60 more coal-powered plants. There are more than 360 coal plants under construction in the world right now. Worldwide, the output of carbon emissions has not peaked; it is still going up and will continue rising, regardless of what America does.”
Frank Lasee, Washington Examiner

The agreement “has no enforcement mechanisms to hold countries such as China accountable for their growing roles in climate change. As with so many international agreements, it is abstract, symbolic, and little more than an exercise in rhetorical diplomacy… If the U.S. is serious about acting as a global leader, we can only do so by pioneering solutions that will appeal to other countries as well, such as policies that accelerate and incentivize rapid innovation or leverage private sector buy-ins.”
Christopher Barnard, Washington Examiner

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