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Biden's Climate Plan

I'm finally sitting down and reading through Biden's climate plan, and it is really, really similar to Beto's. It was a smart move by Beto to get his climate plan out first, even though it wasn't really done, because it makes it look like everyone else is imitating him. (The exceptions to this are Jay Inslee, who imitates no one, and John Delaney, who's imitating Milton Friedman.)

Some highlights:

"Ensure the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050."

This is interesting, because it implies phasing out fossil fuels. Beto's plan calls for net-zero electricity, which leaves the door open to carbon capture. It could just be a coincidence that Biden talks about clean rather than net-zero energy, but the fact that he uses the term "net-zero" later in the same sentence suggests otherwise.

"he will demand that Congress enacts legislation in the first year of his presidency that: 1) establishes an enforcement mechanism that includes milestone targets no later than the end of his first term in 2025"

So he's using a mandate system, same as Beto (and practically everyone else).

"Rally the rest of the world to meet the threat of climate change."

Biden supports a Green Marshall Plan.

"Fulfill our obligation to workers and communities who powered our industrial revolution and subsequent decades of economic growth. This is support they’ve earned for fueling our country’s industrial revolution and decades of economic growth. We’re not going to leave any workers or communities behind."

I'm skeptical that he'll be able to do this while eliminating fossil fuel use. I wonder if this will alarm any of the unions.

"developing rigorous new fuel economy standards aimed at ensuring 100% of new sales for light- and medium-duty vehicles will be electrified and annual improvements for heavy duty vehicles."

So there's a mandate for electric vehicles, but no time frame? Weird. It sounds like he envisions heavy vehicles being powered by biofuels rather than electricity, which is probably smart, at least in the short term.

"Protecting biodiversity, slowing extinction rates and helping leverage natural climate solutions by conserving 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030."

He gets major points for mentioning land use and conservation, and even more points for holding it up as a co-equal goal rather than commodifying it as a source of carbon credits. Not all biomes sequester large amounts of carbon. Those low-carbon biomes also deserve to be preserved.

"Establish an enforcement mechanism [that] will be based on the principles that polluters must bear the full cost of the carbon pollution they are emitting and that our economy must achieve ambitious reductions in emissions economy-wide instead of having just a few sectors carry the burden of change. The enforcement mechanism will achieve clear, legally-binding emissions reductions with environmental integrity."

I suspect this will be a nationwide cap and trade program.

"Biden will establish ARPA-C, a new, cross-agency Advanced Research Projects Agency focused on climate."

Arpac is also the name of a major packaging equipment manufacturer. No matter how much this agency accomplishes, I will never be able to take it seriously.

"grid-scale storage at one-tenth the cost of lithium-ion batteries;"

Not sure what this is referring to, but it sounds pretty cool.

"small modular nuclear reactors at half the construction cost of today’s reactors;"

Mega bonus points for focusing on SMRs rather than "advanced reactors". NuScale's design is Gen II, but it's much better suited to our current and future needs than big clunky Gen IIIs like the AP1000. Biden's been talking to someone who knows how cost accounting works.

"refrigeration and air conditioning using refrigerants with no global warming potential;"

This is a reference to the Kigali Amendment, which bans HFCs. It's supported by the refrigerant industry, but Trump still refuses to sign it on the grounds that he enjoys being awful for no reason.

"using renewables to produce carbon-free hydrogen at the same cost as that from shale gas;"

This is called Power-2-Hydrogen, and also serves as a way of integrating renewables into the grid. It does have one major drawback, which is that hydrogen is extremely explosive. I'd rather spend ten hours in a containment pool for spent nuclear fuel rods than spend a tenth of a second in a cloud of exploding hydrogen gas.

"Accelerate the development and deployment of carbon capture sequestration technology. According to the Blue Green Alliance, “carbon capture, use, and storage (CCUS) is a rapidly growing technology that has the potential to create economic benefits for multiple industries while significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions.”"

Aha, so Biden is explicitly supporting CCUS as an olive branch to potentially hostile unions. That makes it kind of weird that he calls for clean energy rather than net-zero emissions energy, but whatever. Maybe it just did better in focus groups.

"Mitigating the climate impact of urban sprawl."

OMG. Joe Biden is a NUMTOT.

"Spark the second great railroad revolution."

NUMTOT Biden confirmed.

"Embrace the Kigali Amendment"

OK, wow, he actually refers to it by name.

Etc, etc, etc


OK, so that was a long read. This is an EXTREMELY impressive proposal. The only thing that's really missing from it is negative emissions, but it contains support for CCS, which is required for most negative emissions technologies and will help build the necessary sequestration infrastructure. The key thing for negative emissions isn't the exact year that they start, but rather how much can be sequestered per year. A small delay in researching DAC wouldn't necessarily be enough to kill the fight against climate change. And the rest of this proposal is so, so good.

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm actually kind of excited about Biden.

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