Dec 4, 2020 | Samantha Reifer

What We’re Looking Forward to from a Biden Presidency (Besides the Obvious)

The week of November 3rd felt like one of the longest weeks of my life, but at least one thing was clear by the weekend: overwhelmingly, people want climate and clean energy policy prioritized. 

According to the NBC exit poll of early and Election Day voters, two-thirds or voters said they believe that climate change is a serious problem, with every 7/10 of these voters voting for Joe Biden. The Biden administration has heard its voters loud and clear and has pledged unprecedented action, beginning on day one.

Lake Research Partners asked voters how strongly they agree or disagree with the following statement: We must move America away from its reliance on fossil fuels and toward more sustainable energy sources. The results are overwhelmingly in agreement. 

blog picture

So, the people have spoken, let’s get started.

With the uncertainty about what will happen in the Georgia runoff elections and irrespectively the close divide between both parties in the Senate no matter who wins. It is likely that we will predominantly see legislation that builds on existing programs over the next four years. One of the only new legislative initiatives that I can bet on is an infrastructure stimulus bill.

H.R. 2 aka "the Moving Forward Act" is a $1.5 trillion+ plan to rebuild American infrastructure. This includes everything from roads, bridges, and transit systems, to schools, housing, broadband access, and more. The idea is to support American manufacturing and create millions of jobs while putting our country on a path towards a zero carbon future.

The Moving Forward Act calls to specifically invest more than $70 billion in transforming our electric grid to:

- Support energy efficiency, weatherization, and Smart Communities infrastructure.

- Reinvigorate our commitment to renewable energy and combating the climate crisis by building on current successful tax incentives that promote the deployment of green energy technologies while providing new incentives for activities that reduce carbon pollution.

- Encourage “greening the fleet” by supporting widespread adoption of zero emission cars, vans, and buses through tax credits for purchasing vehicles, supporting zero-emission vehicle manufacturing, and deployment of publicly accessible electric vehicle charging infrastructure including underserved communities.

- Promote green energy and efficiency projects that adopt high-road labor practices.

This stimulus bill (that additionally focuses on environmental and social justice as not mentioned above) would be a welcome push for the industry that has faced significant job loss during COVID. Industry has been pushing for incentives and efficiency to speed up deployment and an infrastructure stimulus bill (heavily influenced by conversations with industry) is a jumping off point for the accelerated development required to combat climate change effectively. 

As aforementioned, with a split legislature, the Executive branch will have to optimize its own avenues to push its climate change agenda. My MVP picks are below.

 As written about by Justin Guay for GTM, the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 grants the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve, and the Securities and Exchange Commission the power to set financial strategy to limit systemic risk of financial instability. Of which, as Black Rock and others have identified, climate change is an ever increasing concern for businesses across the economy. Dodd-Frank gives regulators, who have traditionally been reluctant to set policy strategy, incredible power to limit investment in fossil fuels and creates the powerhouse opportunity for the executive branch to fight climate change irrespective of the legislature.

With the executive branch’s power of appointment, we will likely see a progressive and proactive regulatory approach. Just two weeks ago President Trump replaced FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee with James Danly, who has taken a more conservative approach to federal energy policy. However, President-elect Joe Biden can name any sitting FERC commissioner as chairman without senate approval once he takes office in January. Plus, FERC has the table set to take up awesome climate strategy topics such as FERC Order 2222, carbon pricing, and State’s rights to set ambitious renewable goals.

In addition to naming a new FERC chairman, President-elect Biden can realign and staff offices with clean energy experts and push aside climate change deniers. Biden has already appointed John Kerry for the newly created position ‘Presidential Envoy for Climate’ on the National Security Council (a position that does not need to be confirmed by the senate). A role where the former Secretary of State will be expected to handle the intricate international climate negotiations required to unify the planet in the fight against climate change.

While clean energy has grown without federal support over the last four years and we will likely have a limited legislative effort over the next four, the new executive branch is rejuvenated and refocused with outcomes I’m excited for. Keep an eye on these spaces over the first 100 days and let’s get to work.