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Biden wants to reduce emissions. Success would mean a completely different America

Go to Washington to work, heat their homes, run their factories.

In several recent studies, researchers have found out what the future of America might be like if it were to achieve Biden’s new climate goal. Reduce global warming emissions by at least 50% from 2030 to 2030 from 2005 levels.

By the end of the decade, according to those studies, more than half of all new cars and SUVs sold in dealerships were to be powered by electricity, not gasoline. Almost all coal-fired power plants had to be shut down. Forests had to be expanded. The number of wind turbine panels that break the nation’s landscape can quadruple.

Theoretically it is possible, say the researchers, but it is a huge challenge. To get there, the Biden administration likely had to implement a series of new federal policies, many of which could face obstacles in Congress or in the courts. And policymakers need to be careful about developing measures that do not cause serious economic damage, such as widespread job losses or rising energy prices, that could strike back.

“It’s not an easy task,” said Nathan Haltman, director of the Center for Global Stability at the University of Maryland. “We will not be able to sit still and hope that only market forces will do their job.”

So far, the United States has begun its principle. According to the Rhodium Group, the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by about 21% since 2005. Much of that decline has been due to the fact that utilities have retired from their hundreds of dirty coal-fired power plants and switched to cheaper, cleaner natural gas and wind energy.

But so far, about a third of the cuts have been due to the coronavirus epidemic, as business has plummeted and Americans have driven fewer cars. This decline is likely to prove transient. “We expect emissions to resume this year when the economy recovers, so we are already experiencing a slight setback,” said Kate Larsen, Rhodium Group Director.

The difficult is still ahead. In the last two studies, Haltman: and his colleagues have modeled possible ways to reduce emissions by at least 50% by 2030. The changes will be far away.

– By 2030, half of the country’s electricity came from renewable sources, such as wind, solar or hydropower, compared to one-fifth today.

– New natural gas plants will mainly be built with technology that can capture carbon dioxide, rather than emit it into the atmosphere, a technology that is still new.

– In fact, the remaining 200 coal stations will be shut down if they also fail to capture their emissions and bury them underground.

– By 2030, two-thirds of new cars and SUVs sold were to be battery-powered, about 2% today.

– All new buildings will be heated with electricity rather than natural gas.

– The nation’s cement and steel’s chemical industry must adopt strictly new energy efficiency targets.

– Oil and gas producers will reduce methane emissions by 60%.

– The nation’s forests would be expanded, and agricultural practices would be revised so that they could emit 20% more carbon dioxide than they do today.

While this study provides only one example of how the United States can achieve its goal, it does show the scale of the transformation. “These are massive changes in electricity and transport, and even then we can not focus only on those areas,” said Haltman. “If we are lacking in any field, the problem becomes so difficult.”

It is still an open question whether the Biden administration can adopt a new policy that will actually achieve all these goals. The White House has yet to outline the exact steps the United States will take to meet its new climate target, even though it has offered some signals.

Biden, for example, has put forward the idea of ​​a clean electricity standard, which may require utilities to get all their electricity from low-carbon sources such as wind, solar, nuclear or even natural gas by 2035. But that policy is a battle in Congress.

And while the Biden administration is developing stricter fuel economy standards for light truck pollution, it has not proposed stricter targets for electric car sales, as states like California have urged.

Biden also avoided ideas such as the price of carbon, which would require polluters to pay for carbon dioxide emissions, prompting them to clean up. Europe և Canada has adopted such plans, և a recent study by the non-partisan research center Resources for the Future found that the United States could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 54% by 2030 if it introduced a carbon tax. which starts at $ 40 per tonne, growing by 5% each year.

But some analysts say the price of carbon would be too high for many lawmakers.

“There is an idea of ​​the inevitability of carbon pricing in Europe, that’s the way to go,” said Samantha Gross, director of the Brookings Institution’s Energy Security and Climate Initiative. “I see that point, I understand it, but that point, at least right now, is falling into the US political wall, which does not contribute to carbon pricing.”

Holtman said that even if the Biden administration fails to implement some of its more ambitious proposals, such as the Clean Electricity Standard, there may be other options.

His research shows that the United States can make significant progress toward its climate goal by significantly expanding federal tax credits on a range of clean energy technologies, including electric cars, gas stations, wind, and carbon capture. An idea that has historically found a more receptive audience in Congress.

The Environment Agency may also introduce new regulations on automakers, coal and gas plants, and oil fields to help fill the gap. While these rules will not require congressional approval, they may be overturned by a more conservative Supreme Court.

Even if many or even all of these policies are adopted, a bigger question remains. Biden’s term ends in 2024 Greenhouse gas emissions?

“That’s my concern,” Gross said. “Most importantly, I am concerned that the fear of such a reversal, and then the endless litigation that accompanies it, will disrupt the input signal that the regulation intended to send.”

Republicans have already sharply criticized Biden’s goal as harmful to the US economy. “Families working under the presidential scheme will pay higher energy bills,” said Sen. Baron Barrason, R-Wyo. “It will also hurt America’s international competitiveness.”

Biden sought to portray the transformation as a huge economic opportunity. “I see line workers laying thousands of kilometers of transmission lines for a clean, modern, resilient network,” he said Thursday. “I see engineers and builders building new carbon capture plants, green hydrogen, to forge pure steel and cement.”

Ultimately, for Biden to become his climate target, experts say he will have to substantially win that argument by showing that it is possible to quickly scale new clean energy industries that benefit Americans to create large new constituencies that make it politically difficult. are his policies? discharge

There is a precedent for that. During his two terms in office, Obama expanded tax incentives for wind energy, which helped both reduce technology costs and boost new large industries that now employ hundreds of thousands of people. In December, under the Trump administration, a bipartisan majority in Congress agreed to extend tax credits on technologies such as wind energy with relatively little extravagance.

And the federal government does not have to act alone. States like California and New York are pursuing their aggressive emission reduction targets separately. All cities in the country are adopting stricter codes and installing charging stations for electric cars. Big companies like General Motors or Google have made special promises to switch to cleaner energy for electric cars.

While many of those promises are still vague, not so prevalent in the more conservative Red States, experts say expanding this large-scale local business effort could help push the U.S. toward its goal if the federal government fails.

“If climate action becomes much more widespread at the state or city or business level, it is much more firmly anchored,” Haltman said. “Consequently, these climate goals are seen not only as a game of numbers, but as a transformation of society.”

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