Democrat Joe Biden has officially won the November U.S. presidential election, which marks a significant shift in the current landscape of U.S. energy policy.
This new administration presents many potential changes. For example, under Biden’s administration, federal policies to fight climate change will move to the front and center. Biden ran with an aggressive energy policy strategy, proposing more than $2 trillion in clean energy, infrastructure, and community development investments.
However, this ambitious strategy will most likely be limited by the hands of the U.S. Senate, which the Republicans appear to have retained control. Regardless, as both previous leaders have demonstrated, there are many executive measures President-elect Biden can take once he gets into office, regardless of the congressional divide.
Here are five things that we can expect from the Biden administration on energy policy:
- Biden will issue executive orders to dismantle or reverse regulatory changes made by the Trump administration.
Throughout his campaign, Biden frequently spoke about plans to issue executive orders, many of which intend to block orders issued by the Trump administration and reinstate the Obama administration’s policies.
According to Biden’s website, those proposed executive order will include actions regarding emissions and drilling limitations, “9 key elements of Joe Biden’s Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution”, which include:
- Requiring aggressive methane pollution limits for new and existing oil and gas operations
- Developing rigorous zero-emissions fuel economy standards for new vehicle sales and implementing annual improvements for heavy-duty vehicles
- Safeguarding America’s national treasures by permanently protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other areas impacted by President Trump’s approach to federal lands and waters
- Banning new oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters
Although the Biden administration can execute executive orders without express approval from Congress, these orders do present an amount of risk.
For instance, The U.S. Supreme Court can challenge these orders and has the power to block an executive order before it is put into effect. Given that a third of the Supreme Court’s justices were appointed by President Trump, experts have debated many varying opinions on what the conservative makeup of the Supreme Court might mean for climate change cases in the future.
- Limiting carbon emissions will be at the center of Biden’s clean energy plan, no matter which party controls the Senate
If the right has control of the U.S. Senate, the Clean Air Act (CAA) will make reducing greenhouse gas emissions one of the most attainable goals in Biden’s energy policy agenda.
The CAA is a federal law that regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. Among other things, this law authorizes the EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and public welfare and regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been designated as the regulating authority within the executive branch.
Biden may have to exercise his jurisdiction under CAA, given that he has advocated in favor of cutting all carbon emissions from the power sector by 2035. Many experts assume he might employ an updated or edited version of the Clean Power Plan put forth by the Obama administration. This plan aimed to reduce 32% of emissions in the electric power sector by the year 2030.
Although there may be restrictions to Biden’s abilities under CAA, as it has previously been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in a 5-4 ruling before it was executed.
- We will not only rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, but the U.S. will also be the world leader in a global climate summit and focus on expanding our efforts.
Biden has already promised to rejoin the Paris Agreement on the day he begins his presidency.
The Paris Agreement was a landmark treaty signed by almost 200 different countries. Its central aim is to increase global response efforts to the threat of climate change. The goal is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to make the necessary effort to restrict the increase in temperature even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Even though President Trump signed the agreement in December 2015, the United States did not officially leave until November 4, 2020, despite the extensive media coverage on the topic. To formally rejoin the Paris Agreement, the United Nations will only require an official letter stating our intentions, and it will take effect within thirty days.
Therefore, the U.S. will only have been out of the Agreement for three months if Biden rejoins as expected on Inauguration Day. The U.S. has, however, fallen behind on its commitment to the agreement and is currently only on track for a 17% reduction by 2025, even though we committed to a 25% reduction.
Biden will likely reaffirm the nation’s commitment by convening a global climate summit with the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions in the first 100 days of his presidency. According to his campaign website, he aims to “persuade them to join the United States in making more ambitious national pledges, above and beyond the commitments they have already made.”
- There will be new restrictions on oil and gas production, but they may not be as consequential as his opponents have suggested.
Biden made an impactful statement in one of the presidential debates to “transition away from the oil industry.”
While the comment received a lot of publicity, many industry experts have since downplayed the comments. One reason is the repeated reassurances by Biden and Harris that they would not pursue a ban on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which has driven down the price of natural gas in the past decade. Furthermore, based on past production data, some real questions surrounding the degree and speed by which the president can impact oil and gas markets.
Despite the amount of attention it has received, many energy industry professionals have reduced the significance of the comment because of the consistent reassurances that Biden and Harris made, which stated that they would not pursue a fracking ban. In the past decades, hydraulic fracturing bans have driven down the price of natural gas. Past production data has also shown that there are questions regarding the degree and speed by which a president can impact energy markets. Therefore, Biden will likely enact policies past oil and gas limits and focus on restricting the production of natural gas production.
More accordingly, he has proposed banning all offshore drilling in federal waters, which currently makes up about 16% of total U.S. production.
He has also agreed to repeal President Trump’s executive that opened portions of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Bears Ears National Monument, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.
- Bipartisan energy legislation is a possibility
Past administrations have shown us that a significant portion of Biden’s agenda will be difficult to accomplish if Republicans control the U.S. Senate; however, there is still the potential for bipartisanship and compromise. After all, President-elect Biden believes himself as a moderate and served thirty-six years as a Delaware Senator.
Future pandemic relief and recovery negotiations may offer a potential pathway for energy legislation. There are also some early indicators that bipartisan support may be possible for funding advanced clean energy technologies, such as technologies for grid modernization, carbon capture, and extensions for the solar and wind tax credits.
Much of Biden’s two trillion-dollar proposal may not be possible if Republicans control the U.S. Senate, beyond those few legislative provisions and executive orders.
To stay ahead of the upcoming changes and to help lower your overall energy cost, we recommend you speak with an energy professional. Patriot Energy will analyze your consumption profile, and financial goals, and perform a utility bill audit to best advise you on the many options that are available.
Furthermore, if you have any questions about Biden’s energy policy and how it will affect your business directly, please do not hesitate to Patriot Energy if you have any additional questions.