/The Energy 202: Biden says he’s open to ‘expanding’ his climate plan to win over young voters

The Energy 202: Biden says he’s open to ‘expanding’ his climate plan to win over young voters

with Paulina Firozi

Joe Biden, who picked up an endorsement from a big-spending green group this morning, says he will expand his climate plan as part of an effort win over young voters who see rising global temperatures as a generational crisis. 

That’s one way the presumptive Democratic nominee is trying to woo environmentalists who backed his 2020 rivals in the primary. 

In accepting the endorsement of the campaign arm of the League of Conservation Voters on Monday, Biden said he wants to adopt ideas from climate activists and set other “new, concrete goals” for combating climate change before the end of the decade. 

“In the months ahead, expanding this plan will be one of my key objectives,” Biden said. “I know this is an issue that resonates with many, including young people and those who have seen floods, fires, and drought destroy lives and livelihoods.”

Biden may have a tough time winning over some environmental activists

Even after the endorsement from the major Washington-based green group, Biden faces the challenge of convincing the left flank of his party to support him. Some groups on the left say his plan for tackling climate change falls short of what is needed to forestall a devastating rise in temperatures this century.

Biden’s original $1.7 trillion climate plan, released last June, calls for the United States to achieve net-zero emissions by at least 2050, all while creating 10 million well-paying jobs and helping fossil-fuel workers transition to a clean-energy economy.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who dropped out of the race this month, had said he wanted to spend $16.3 trillion to hit a tighter deadline of having the power and transportation sectors running completely on renewable energy by at least 2030.

Stef Feldman, Biden’s policy director, said the campaign “always had an expectation that we will continue to build upon that policy.” 

In addition to new end-of-decade goals, Biden suggested in his statement he may include proposals to invest in clean-energy infrastructure and to blunt the disproportionate impact environmental degradation has on poor and minority communities. 

In an effort to bridge the gap between the Democratic party’s ideological halves, Biden and Sanders held a joint livestream last week to discuss issues on which they have common ground. During the video event, Sanders said staffers from both campaigns would create task forces to address climate change and five other issues. Sanders acknowledged that while he disagrees with Biden on some fronts, Biden has his full support in the general election.

“We need you in the White House,” Sanders told Biden. “I will do all that I can to see that that happens, Joe.”

LCV’s backing means new money and muscle for Biden.

The endorsement could encourage other green groups who supported Biden’s rivals in a crowded primary to fall in line. The group hopes to prevent Trump, who has repeatedly denied the scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet, from winning a second term.

Drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions is “is going to take leadership,” said Carol Browner, the chair of LCV’s board of directors, who ran the Environmental Protection Agency for eight years under former President Bill Clinton. “And I have every confidence that the vice president will provide that.”

But most green groups who backed a candidate endorsed either Sanders or fellow liberal stalwart Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). A handful of local chapters of the Sunrise Movement, which endorsed Sanders, went so far as to insist it would never back Biden even if he won the nomination.

LCV put more than $80 million into the 2018 election to help Democrats win back control of the House. “That was a record,” Browner said, “and we believe we can set another record this time.”

More recently, LCV has also poured $14 million into an online advertising and direct-mail campaign attacking Trump’s environmental record in six swing states — Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

But it remains to be seen whether global warming will still be a front-burner issue.

After years of being an afterthought at the polls, climate change emerged as a top issue in the Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada primaries, ranking second in importance after health care in exit polling.

But the world is now gripped by another crisis, coronavirus pandemic, which is raising widespread public health concerns and shuttering the economy.

Even though Trump’s bully pulpit is now arguably bigger than ever, LCV leaders predict Trump’s handling of the latest crisis will prove unpopular with those who already oppose his moves to dismantle environmental regulations for the last three years.

Tiernan Sittenfeld, LCV’s senior vice president of government affairs, says the two issues are tied together since both have to do with heeding the advice of scientists.

“[Trump] ignores experts. He insists that he knows better,” Sittenfeld said. “He clearly is a danger to the health and safety of all people in this country.”

10 years since the Deepwater Horizon spill

Today marks one decade since an explosion in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers and started the largest oil spill in U.S. history. 

A decade later, attention is now on the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken safety measures meant to prevent another spill, Steven Mufson writes in his retrospective on the spill. The Obama administration in 2016 imposed the Well Control Rule to impose backup mechanisms on blowout preventers, regulator safety equipment assessments and independent inspectors. 

Debra Phillips, senior policy adviser at the American Petroleum Institute, told The Post that the Trump administration’s moves “have been mischaracterized as rollbacks.” She said they were “modernization of regulations.” 

But Michael Bromwich, who ran the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement under President Barack Obama, said the steps were unjustified, as the agency had “balanced the concerns of industry against the need to enhance safety and environmental protection.”

The United States still relies on deepwater oil.

“For all the advances in shale oil technology, the United States and other countries remain heavily dependent on deepwater drilling, a daunting engineering challenge in seas so deep that even military submarines cannot venture there,” Mufson adds. “U.S. oil production in the Gulf of Mexico is greater than ever before, just under 2 million barrels a day in January, up a third over the 1.5 million barrels a day in the month the Deepwater Horizon caught fire.”

BP is a changed company after the spill.

The oil giant “says it has taken a variety of steps to prevent the spill from reoccurring,” Mufson writes. “All drilling teams in the Gulf of Mexico train on interactive simulators replicating nearly every critical job on an offshore drilling rig, BP says. Once on the job, the drilling teams are monitored by BP’s Houston operating center. A fleet of drones and underwater robotic crawlers inspect its offshore facilities.

And more recently, BP’s new CEO, Bernard Looney, has “promised to make the company net zero for carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.”

Coronavirus fallout

U.S. oil and gas rigs see a steep decline.

The number of oil and gas rigs operating in the United States dropped by 73 last week, the Houston Chronicle reports, citing oil service giant Baker Hughes. Most of the losses came from Texas, where 40 rigs were shuttered. 

“The number of operating rigs in the U.S. is now 529, a level not seen since the last energy downturn in 2016,” per the report. “The losses reflect an oil bust that began in January, as the coronavirus and a price war sent crude prices falling from about $60 a barrel to $20 per barrel. A year ago, there were more than 1,000 operating oil and gas rigs in the U.S.” 

Covid-19 is reshaping the electric rhythms of cities. 

Electricity demand in New York City is 8 percent lower between 7 and 8 a.m. during weekdays, according to the New York Independent System Operator. 

And it’s easy to understand why: Offices are closed, and not turning lights on. Schools are closed, too. And those commuters — without schools and offices to head to — aren’t stopping at restaurants for breakfast. The day at home may be getting to a slower start. “As the sun rises in the sky, usage picks up, but it’s a slower, flatter curve,” The Post’s Will Englund reports.

This is most severe in New York, but the rhythm is changing nationwide.

“Daytime electricity demand is falling, even accounting for the mild spring weather, and early-morning spikes are deflating,” Englund writes. “The wholesale price of electricity is falling, too, driven by both reduced demand and the historically low cost of natural gas.” 

Beers and other beverages may lose fizz during pandemic-fueled CO2 shortage. 

The plummeting natural gas demand has meant a production drop of ethanol, which is blended into the nation’s fuel supply. And ethanol producers provide much of the carbon dioxide to the food industry — CO2 that’s used for beer, sodas and seltzer water, Reuter reports.

“The lack of ethanol output is disrupting this highly specialized corner of the food industry, as 34 of the 45 U.S. ethanol plants that sell CO2 have idled or cut production, said Renewable Fuels Association Chief Executive Geoff Cooper,” per the report. “CO2 suppliers to beer brewers have increased prices by about 25% due to reduced supply, said Bob Pease, chief executive officer of the Brewers Association. The trade group represents small and independent U.S. craft brewers, who get about 45% of their CO2 from ethanol producers.” 

Global warming watch

The southwestern United States is in the middle of a climate change-fueled megadrought. 

The region from California, Arizona and New Mexico north to Oregon and Idaho is in the middle of the first-ever human-caused megadrought, according to research published in the journal Science. It’s the first such megadrought — a severe drought across a broad duration for a long time — in the past 1,200 years. 

“Unlike historical megadroughts triggered by natural climate cycles, emissions of heat-trapping gases from human activities have contributed to the current one, the study finds,” The Post’s Andrew Freedman and Darryl Fears report. “Warming temperatures and increasing evaporation, along with earlier spring snowmelt, have pushed the Southwest into its second-worst drought in more than a millennium of observations.” 

Texas residents say Trump rollbacks are disproportionately harming communities of color. 

Residents in largely black and Latino communities in the Texas Gulf Coast say they’ve been hit hard by the Trump administration’s moves to ease decades of public health and environmental protections, the Associated Press reports.

Under the Trump administration, “federal regulatory changes are slashing requirements on industry to monitor, report and reduce toxic pollutants, heavy metals and climate-damaging fossil fuel emissions, and to work transparently with communities to prevent plant disasters — such as the half-dozen major chemical fires and explosions that have killed workers and disrupted life along the Texas Gulf Coast over the past year alone,” per the report.

There were concerns even before Trump’s federal regulatory changes. 

“Even before the Trump administration began the rollbacks, Houston’s urban freeways and industries were pumping enough poisonous refinery chemicals, heavy metals, and diesel and car exhaust to ‘almost certainly’ be to blame for some respiratory problems and early deaths, as well as an ‘unacceptable increased risk’ for cancers and chronic disease, concluded a landmark city task force, started in 2005 to study the health impacts,” per the report.