Biden’s Clean Energy Plan Will Fix Everything and Nothing
The year 2020 has been one of upheaval and change, but the American love for the outdoors has remained constant. Unsurprisingly, climate change and protecting the environment are two key issues in this year’s election cycle. To pitch his vision for the future, former vice president Joe Biden has unveiled his revamped plan “to build a modern, sustainable infrastructure and an equitable clean energy future.” However, for a plan that takes aim at greenhouse emissions, the manifesto is filled with an excessive amount of hot air. Flashy spending targets and en vogue nomenclature are an unsustainable alternative to detailed policy.
The 7,000-word plan draws from the Democratic nominee’s initial climate plan, albeit renovated in light of the Coronavirus pandemicand the suggestions of Bernie Sanders and John Kerry. At the cost of $2 trillion, this new and improved version roams from rebuilding infrastructure to restoring wetlands, while constructing 1.5 million energy efficient homes and public housing units en route. It also sets the target of creating millions upon millions of jobs in industries as diverse as auto manufacturing and “climate-smart agriculture.”
The problem with these lofty ambitions is that they are often vague, and sometimes outright misleading. For example, the plan calls for the creation of an ”Environmental and Climate Justice Division” within the Department of Justice (DOJ). The plan doesn’t, however, detail why the lawyers and regulators in the DOJ, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Energy are so beyond reform that taxpayers need to hire more bureaucrats. Rather than marshalling a platoon of Erin Brockoviches, this eco-vanity department with no clear rationale risks emulating the seriousness and legal rigor of Greta Thunberg.
Even the clearest promises are short on details. Take the aim to convert “all 500,000 school buses in our country — including diesel — to zero emissions.” In principle, clean school transportation from door to desk is an easy sell for most Americans, but who is going to convert the buses and how much of the $2 trillion budget will be eaten up by it? Detailing the practical implementation of these ambitions would take them from fantasy to fact.
In its most egregious moments, Biden’s Clean Energy plan plays dirty with reality. One of the plan’s ambitious objectives is to make the American power sector “carbon pollution-free” by 2035. To achieve this, the plan carves out a role for greater nuclear power, offering reliable, emissions-free energy for consumers.
But the plan conveniently omits how a Biden administration would manage the nuclear waste created in the process. The former vice president has been a long-time critic of the perpetually beleaguered Yucca Mountain nuclear repository, and some have credited him with axing the project during the Obama administration. So where will the waste be stored? Which community gets to host America’s inaugural “carbon pollution-free” nuclear dumping ground?
The glibness of the Biden blueprint lies in sharp contrast to the now-shuttered campaign of Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose policy prescriptions offered the profound detail and depth one would expect from a Harvard professor. Putting aside the merits and limitations of those detailed policies, at least consumers and taxpayers knew how the Massachusetts senator would spend their public money.
In the 2020 election cycle, the clean energy hawks have come home to roost. For decades, environmentalists have labored to draw the American public’s attention to green issues. Now that consumers and taxpayers are demonstrably interested, environmental sweet nothings simply don’t cut it. With months to go until the election, the former vice president should cap and trade the hot air for detailed policy proposals.
Oliver McPherson-Smith writes for the American Consumer Institute, a nonprofit educational and research organization. For more information about the Institute, visit www.TheAmericanConsumer.Org.