YES: U.S. should lead on climate, clean energy; this is not a partisan issue
By Steve Melink
Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election is seen as a positive development by those who favor renewable forms of energy over fossil fuels.
The Trump administration moved to reverse more than 100 climate and environmental rules, considering them burdensome to the fossil fuel industry. Biden, soon after taking the oath of office, took numerous actions to unravel Trump's environmental policies, starting with executive orders to block the Keystone XL pipeline and to return the United States to the Paris climate accord.
Biden has made combating climate change a national priority — and more and more people agree it should be. He plans to clamp down on industry polluters to reduce carbon emissions and to invest in renewable energy to deal with climate change and to help revitalize the economy. His strategy makes sense both environmentally and economically. Here are some key reasons we should start moving away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy:
* Fossil fuels' visible effects on climate change. Climate change and its many manifestations, such as wildfires, droughts, storms and hurricanes, increasingly represent a clear and present danger, which our government leaders can no longer dismiss. Considering all of the environmental disasters we are seeing and fossil fuels' culpability in them, renewable energy sources are the best answer.
* Economic growth. Renewables are also a potentially resounding answer as we look to bring an ailing economy back to full strength. Coal jobs are disappearing, but as renewable energy is ramped up, there will be many more jobs available in the solar and wind power industries. As a transition takes place, communities and utilities can start training workers in renewable energy fields.
Biden is focused on creating the clean energy economy of the future with millions of solar and wind power jobs that are safer, healthier and pay very competitively. He recognizes the coal industry had an important role to play in the 20th century, but he knows his job is not to prop up old and dying industries of the past. Instead, we need to invest in new technologies that make our environment cleaner and our economy stronger.
* National security. Because of our insatiable demand for oil in the world marketplace, the United States is unwittingly propping up the price and helping dictators and terrorists finance their wars and destruction. Just because the United States has become largely energy independent over the last decade does not mean we are immune to the global ramifications of our vast consumption.
Then we have to counter this effect by sending our military to unstable regions of the world to try to maintain peace for critical commerce. In essence, we are paying for our oil twice — once at the pump and again with our tax dollars.
* Human health. The costs and risks to our health are real. The burning of fossil fuels and emission of pollutants in the air that we all breathe causes chronic respiratory diseases like asthma in children and COPD in the elderly. This causes a drag on our education system and our economy because hundreds of thousands of children are often missing school and their parents are missing work to take them to see doctors and other health care specialists. This is not to mention the dangers and risks to their health and esteem and confidence as desired productive members of society.
There is no doubt that those countries that address these problems and turn them into opportunities will be the ones that thrive for decades to come. So the United States shouldn't just be taking part in the growing clean energy revolution; we should be leading it, as the Biden administration is poised to do. This is not a partisan issue.
Steve Melink is the author of "Fusion Capitalism: A Clean Energy Vision for Conservatives" and founder/CEO of Melink Corp., a pioneer in renewable energy solutions for the commercial building industry. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
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NO: We need 'all-of-the-above' strategy to protect U.S. interests
By Craig Stevens
Despite campaign promises to invest in our nation's infrastructure, create good-paying union jobs and "build our economy back better," President Joe Biden's track record so far in office is coming up short.
On Day One, Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline. Then he signed an executive order halting oil and gas leasing on public lands. Now, "Keep it in the Ground" activists are calling on him to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has been safely operating for more than three-and-a-half years — delivering up to 570,000 barrels of North Dakota crude oil per day to U.S. markets.
Unfortunately, it seems the president is paying homage to the vocal far left rather than the millions of blue-collar union workers and working class families who put him in the White House.
Many Americans agree that climate change should be among the top priorities for the Biden administration. According to an October 2020 Pew Research Center survey, 44% of voters ranked climate change as a "very" important issue. While this percentage has grown in recent decades, it still lags significantly behind the leading issue: the economy, which 79% of voters recognized as "very" important in the 2020 election. This was followed by health care (68%) and the coronavirus outbreak (62%).
Biden's decision to block the $9 billion Keystone XL pipeline — which was estimated to support 11,000 American jobs in 2021, generate $1.6 billion in gross wages, serve as a lifeline to labor unions in the wake of the pandemic and ultimately usher in $140 million in annual property tax revenues for state and local governments — certainly does not seem to align with his promises of creating jobs and investing in infrastructure.
Or consider the president's decision to ban oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters.
Reports from the American Petroleum Institute forecast detrimental effects on the economy, with potential losses of nearly 1 million jobs by 2022, more than $9 billion in government revenue at risk and U.S. households spending a cumulative $19 billion more on energy by 2030.
High energy-producing states with large areas of federal land, such as New Mexico and Wyoming, stand to lose not only thousands of industry jobs and access to affordable energy, but also billions in state revenue that could hurt public services, schools, infrastructure and health care. In Wyoming, where more than half of the state's oil and more than 90% of its natural gas is retrieved from federal land, the oil and gas industry paid $1.67 billion to state and local governments. In New Mexico, that number is even larger, with the industry contributing $3.1 billion, about 40% of the state's revenue of which $1.4 billion is earmarked for education funding.
Nationally, more than 12% of U.S. natural gas production and nearly a quarter of U.S. oil production is sourced from public lands and waters, and without it, our nation will need additional foreign oil and gas. And since the president said no to Keystone XL, it won't be coming from Canada. In fact, it will strain the global market, raising costs on consumers and adding to the coffers of petro-authoritarian nations that would seek to do democracy harm.
Preventing the construction of Keystone XL or banning drilling on public lands won't reduce the importance of fossil fuels in the American economy. Beyond the economic ramifications, these misguided, anti-energy policies revive American dependence on foreign energy, and cut off access to reliable, affordable, American-produced energy to our allies and trade partners around the globe — jeopardizing our strategic advantage as a global hegemon and instead allowing foreign states to grow their influence.
Good environmental policy and policies that promote American economic growth are not mutually exclusive. For example, TC Energy, Keystone XL's developer, committed to use only renewable energy to operate the pipeline system, and eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions from operations by 2030. This is a positive example of addressing environmental concerns while recognizing the still-critical role of crude oil and ensuring reliable access to the United States.
More broadly, an "all of the above" strategy that welcomes investment in renewable energy sources but recognizes the importance of the cornerstones of American energy — oil and natural gas — is key to fueling the our nation's economy, bolstering our energy security and national security, and achieving our shared future economic and environmental goals.
As the United States continues its COVID-19 recovery, it is more important now than ever to set aside politics and come together to focus on sound policies that put our nation on the path to success.
Craig Stevens, a former senior adviser in the Energy Department in the George W. Bush administration, is the spokesman for Grow America's Infrastructure Now. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
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