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Biden revises climate policies and faces a balancing act in appealing to both youth and moderate voters.
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Biden revises climate policies and faces a balancing act in appealing to both youth and moderate voters.

Joe Biden, touted as the US’s first climate president, is presiding over the quiet weakening of his two most significant plans to slash planet-heating emissions, suggesting that tackling the climate crisis will take a back seat in a febrile election year.

Biden emphasized in his state of the union address that his administration is addressing the climate crisis head on, rather than denying its existence. He then proceeded to list out various policies and achievements that support this cause. The US president stated that he is taking momentous steps towards tackling climate change, surpassing any previous efforts in history.

Unfortunately, the EPA announced last week that it will postpone implementing a regulation to lower emissions from current gas-powered plants, potentially until after the upcoming presidential election. This decision is made amidst weaker standards for reducing pollution from vehicles, which is hindering the nation’s transition to electric cars.

Rewording: The use of backtracking may put at risk Biden’s objective of reducing US emissions by fifty percent within this decade. This is seen as crucial in preventing catastrophic consequences from the Earth’s rising temperatures. It highlights the conflicting demands faced by the president, who must balance the interests of climate activists, labor unions, and moderate swing state voters in order to maintain a fragile coalition. This is especially important before the anticipated clash with former President Donald Trump later this year.

Biden is confronting a group of younger, progressive voters who have criticized him for the continued approval of oil and gas drilling on public lands. Additionally, a significant portion of the population is not familiar with Biden’s significant climate legislation and are more concerned about economic issues such as inflation and the expenses associated with transitioning to a more environmentally friendly society. The EPA must still finalize several regulations related to climate change in order to prevent them from being easily overturned by a hostile Congress or supreme court, intensifying the urgency of the situation.

According to Paul Bledsoe, a former climate adviser to Bill Clinton’s administration and current environmental policy expert at American University, Biden is facing a challenging situation. He needs to maintain the strong support of younger voters while also appealing to moderate voters in key states who are primarily concerned with consumer issues. Finding this balance will be crucial for his success.

“The political strategy behind this mathematical calculation suggests that the United States has slowed down its efforts on addressing climate change, even as the world experiences record high temperatures that will soon surpass internationally agreed-upon limits. This is also happening during an upcoming election with President Trump, who has pledged to undo all of President Biden’s climate policies.”

According to a recent analysis by Carbon Brief, if Trump is re-elected, the US could see a rise of 4 billion tonnes of emissions by 2030 compared to the levels during Biden’s presidency. This is equivalent to the yearly emissions of the European Union and Japan combined.

According to Bledsoe, the upcoming election presents a significant opportunity for change. Biden may choose to adjust vehicle emission regulations in order to gain an advantage. This election offers the most decisive decision on addressing climate change so far.

The climate strategies of Biden are conflicting with the election in four primary topics.

The regulations for gas plants have been postponed.

There has been a delay in implementing the guidelines for gas plants.

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it is making progress towards finalizing regulations that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from both current coal and new gas power plants by April. However, implementing similar regulations for existing gas plants will require more time and is not expected to be completed until after the upcoming election.

Michael Regan, the administrator of the EPA, stated that this plan will provide a more robust and long-lasting strategy for reducing emissions. The administration is aiming for a longer timeframe in order to create regulations that can withstand the expected legal opposition from states controlled by Republicans who heavily rely on fossil fuels.

Electricity-generating facilities account for approximately 25% of the United States’ overall emission of carbon dioxide. An effort made by former president Barack Obama’s administration to reduce their contribution to the warming of the planet was thwarted by the supreme court.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must now navigate through this complicated past in order to create a new rule that will not only withstand legal challenges, but also potential changes from Congress and a potential second term for President Trump. This delay is causing distress for many, particularly due to the urgency of the climate crisis and the upcoming election.

“It is inexplicable that EPA, knowing of these emissions, did not focus this rule-making on existing gas-fired plants from its inception,” said Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic US senator, who added that “time is not on our side, and the agency’s generally lethargic rule-making pace does not leave one optimistic”.

Slowing down the acceleration of electric cars

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In the US, electric cars accounted for approximately 10% of car sales last year, making progress towards the Biden administration’s objective of changing the types of vehicles Americans drive. This effort aims to reduce carbon emissions from transportation, which is currently the biggest contributor to carbon pollution in the country.

However, this transition is not without its challenges. Electric vehicle prices continue to be more expensive than traditional gasoline or diesel cars, the availability of recharging stations is inconsistent, and certain drivers have faced difficulties in finding eligible EV models that qualify for the significant tax rebates provided by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Additionally, electric vehicles (EVs) have been pulled into a controversial political battle, with former President Trump condemning their usage as “madness” and expressing a desire for EV supporters to suffer in the afterlife. He has also made false statements suggesting that President Biden intends to outlaw traditional gasoline cars in favor of EVs that are not functional in low temperatures.

Amidst these developments, the administration seems likely to weaken strict emissions regulations for vehicles after receiving pressure from major car manufacturers and labor unions. This could potentially slow down the adoption of electric vehicles.

While carmakers will still have to meet new fuel-efficiency rules that make EVs overwhelmingly more economical to produce, the timeframe for doing so will be pushed back. There will be an emissions cost to this, even as Biden hopes it will negate a political headache.

According to Bledsoe, electric vehicles (EVs) have become a major topic in the ongoing culture war and have taken on significant importance in politics. The president must now prioritize ensuring that consumers are not negatively impacted by the transition to EVs. This political motivation is behind the proposed revision.

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A temporary halt in the export of liquefied natural gas.

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As climate actions are being reduced, there has been a positive development for environmentalists with the Biden administration’s decision to temporarily halt the export of liquified natural gas (LNG).

The temporary halt in January of new LNG export licenses is not expected to severely curtail the booming growth of gas infrastructure along the Gulf of Mexico coast, which will double gas exports from the US, already the world’s largest gas exporter, by 2027.

It was a significant accomplishment for those advocating for Biden to take stronger action in curbing the excessive oil and gas operations that jeopardize our climate targets. The temporary halt to reassess the environmental effects of exports is considered a major achievement by Roishetta Ozane, a Louisiana activist, as the state has seen significant growth in LNG projects.

Biden gains political favor with younger voters who prioritize climate issues and have been angered by the substantial increase in oil and gas drilling during his term. These voters are crucial for Biden’s success against Trump in the upcoming election.

Bledsoe stated that it was shamelessly political to target that group of voters.

“The balance of environmental justice”

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The victory of Biden’s election included a commitment to prioritize environmental justice in all federal climate policies and funding. However, there is increasing dissatisfaction as the election draws near with the administration’s failure to fulfill their promises, despite some noteworthy achievements such as allocating funds for communities that have been historically neglected and looking into past injustices.

In Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, the 85-mile heavily polluted stretch between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, communities were “devastated” in January when the EPA dropped its civil rights probe into permitting practices, before backing down from environmental justice cases across the country.

The choice was made a few months following the abandonment of a federal investigation on the potential role of racism in the heightened cancer risk among those living in the area. However, the investigation did discover evidence of discriminatory practices.

Biden brought on board several influential leaders in environmental justice to serve on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC). However, their recommendations on important matters such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) have not been taken into consideration.

The governing body has managed to achieve the highest levels of fossil fuel production and approved plans for drilling and creating pipelines in areas such as Alaska, Appalachia, and the Gulf coast. This will not only worsen the negative impact on existing communities affected by environmental injustices, but also create new ones.

According to Eloise Reid, the manager of the Louisiana Against False Solutions Coalition, while the IRA has provided additional resources, the process for communities to access them is cumbersome and has not had a significant effect. Additionally, Reid noted that during a visit to Cancer Alley, Mike Regan promised to prioritize the well-being of local residents, but ultimately chose to let the state take precedence in regards to CCS investigations.

The actions have caused a negative reaction among the public. The government has not taken community feedback into consideration. Many promises have been broken.

Source: theguardian.com