Biden vs. Trump: November 2020
Vice President Joe Biden is not climate change's best friend, but he's not its worst nemesis either
"It's almost like denying gravity now. ... The willing suspension of disbelief can only be sustained for so long."
–Joe Biden on climate denial, March 2015
President Donald Trump has spent the last four years in office as a supporter of fossil fuels and a climate denier.
"This is the start of a new era in American energy production and job creation. We will eliminate federal overreach, restore economic freedom and allow workers and companies to play on a level playing field for the first time in a long time, a long time. We're going to have clean coal, really clean coal."
–Donald Trump on opening fossil fuels, March 2017
Introduced the first climate bill in 1986: Thirty-six years ago, then-Senator Joe Biden introduced the Global Climate Protection Act, the first climate bill. The bill called for annual EPA reports and national policy on climate change. However, this plan is now viewed as meager and more like a "plan to make a plan," according to Professor Josh Howe.
Supported higher fuel efficiency standards in 2007: The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required a national fuel economy standard target of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, reducing oil consumption by 1.2 million barrels per day by 2020. The bill also established new energy efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings.
Did not play a significant role in the Paris Climate Accord: Perhaps the Obama Administration's biggest climate achievement was the Paris Climate Accord that collaborated internationally for climate action. While Biden has claimed that he played a pivotal role in the exchanges, he actually did not participate in most of the talks, and actually was on a pro-natural gas campaign. However, Biden has pledged that as president, he will rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and then hold a world summit for more ambitious plans.
Supports using natural gas as a transition fuel: Joe Biden's biggest climate failure is supporting natural gas as a transition fuel. However, scientists and even economists say that a transition fuel only delays the inevitable. Also, natural gas still releases 202 kg of CO2 per megawatt-hour and has added environmental implications. This is one of the main reasons that Joe Biden has yet to win over the support of climate activists.
Stymies climate science: For many high-level science positions, Trump handpicked officials that turn their noses at the evidence of climate change and have little scientific background. Meanwhile, actual scientists are sidelined under the Trump EPA, such as the Board of Scientific Counselors. Under his direction, the EPA has seen major rollbacks in displays of public data and climate reports. Meaning, climate data has been removed from public portals and the bulk of the EPA climate website has been taken down. In fact, the term "climate change" has been purged from governmental reports, including even a Defense Departement report. Finally, the EPA is suppressing the types of evidence the agency can use to write regulations, including not allowing long-term well-established reports, a change that the fossil fuel industry has been after for years.
Left the Paris Climate Accord: Despite Biden's faults on the Paris Climate Accord, he was still a supporter of it, while Trump was outright against it. Trump managed to pull the United States out of the Accord, showing his staunch climate denialism and refusal to take action. This action has reverberating effects into not only the United States but other nations because they view the United States as world leaders and follow our example.
Promotes of unregulated fossil fuel development: Trump is significantly worse on fossil fuel standards than Biden. Trump is constantly pushing fossil fuel companies' agendas, revoking regulations, and granting subsidies and drilling land. When he took office, he quickly approved the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines – harmful projects blocked by Obama that would pave the way for gigatons more emissions – and then he sped the process up by eliminating state environmental reviews. Trump has slowly opened up Arctic land for drilling – including the Beaufort Sea, 1.6 million acres of the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and most of the Outer Continental Shely – releasing more greenhouse gas emissions and damaging the local environment. His most damaging executive order directed all departments to eliminate any restrictions on energy production, which includes emissions caps because they regulate how much a plant can produce.
Does not support "clean coal": "Clean coal" is one of the most heavily debated subjects among climate scientists. Clean coal just means that the emissions are offset by carbon capture and storage. However, it is dangerous because it promotes coal plants and keeps them open instead of switching to renewable and clean sources. However, he has sent mixed messages and appears to be in support of the technology in swing states. However, Biden still appears to recognize the importance of moving beyond coal and developing new types of energy.
Is willing to hold polluters accountable: An important part of Biden's climate agenda would hold polluters accountable for their climate damage. He asserts that he will ramp up federal legal action against polluters and protect low-income communities that are trapped by fossil fuel jobs. The Biden Campaign states that they will make polluters pay the entire cost of their carbon emissions via carbon/emissions taxes and similar programs.
Is trying to return coal to its former glory: Trump's regulations have mainly figured the falling coal industry, at the expense of other fuels. Robert Murray, (the founder of the dirty energy coal company Murray Energy), gave Trump a coal "wish list" at the beginning of his term that has acted as an outline for Trump's climate agenda. He lifted a ban on new coal licenses on federal land, which was designed by Obama to promote alternative forms of energy. He also revoked similar Obama legislation that protects streams from mountaintop coal drilling. Obama's legislation was designed to reduce the effect of mountain drilling on the local environment and climate change. Trump also allows coal plants to emit more greenhouse gas emissions by weakening New Source Review, which forces fossil fuel companies to improve pollution controls. He also allowed coal companies to keep unlined coal ash ponds open, making it cheaper and more damaging to produce coal. Trump also misuses the phrase "clean coal," believing that it is a different type of coal. "Clean coal" actually just refers to technologies that offset emissions from coal. Trump is just using "clean coal" as an excuse to promote is anti-science and pro-coal agendas.
A supporter of a clean future: His climate plan calls for 100% clean energy by the year 2050, including enforcement mechanisms, incentivization, and large investments. In fact, over the next 10 years, Biden anticipates federal government spending of $1.7 trillion on climate and $3.3 trillion by the smaller governments and the private sector. Biden is a supporter of electric vehicles, with a plan in place to install 500,000 new public charging outlets for electric cars. Even more on his electric campaign is a program that extends the Clean Air Act and develops new fuel economy standards that target all new light and medium vehicles being electric. On the energy efficiency front, Biden targets a 50% reduction in the carbon footprint of buildings by 2035 and plans to help homeowners and small businesses handle costs associated. Finally, Biden is a supporter of a Green New Deal, which would combine a clean energy transition with job creation and environmental justice. He called such deal "crucial framework."
Undermines clean energy and energy efficiency development: Trump has made it clear that he does not support the growing clean industry and has unrelentingly worked to hinder it. His administration has proposed multiple times to dramatically cut funding for the Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. This not only hinders the development of new and more efficient/cheaper technologies, but it also sends a message to the country that the renewable energy industry is not supported by the federal government. Similarly, he made several attempts to eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, a top research and development organization that produces cutting-edge technology. Trump also imposed tariffs in 2018 on the solar industry as part of his trade war with China. Although it did not significantly impact the industry, it is a clear example of Trump's anti-renewable agenda. In addition, he tried to eliminate tax credits for electric vehicles, he dramatically weakened decade-old lightbulb energy-efficiency standards and targets (which would have saved 1.5 trillion kilowatt-hours by 2030 and hundreds of millions tons of CO2). He also delayed standards that would substantially cut home and commercial energy consumption. He only relented after a federal judge ruled the hold illegal.