Daily on Energy: Biden dances around Green New Deal

  • Oct 16, 2020
  • Washington Examiner

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DON’T SPEAK: It almost seems like Joe Biden just doesn't want to say the words “Green New Deal."

1. He doesn't want Republicans to slam him as supporting the Green New Deal and

2. He doesn't want to commit to doing everything the left wants him to.

“The difference between me and the new Green Deal: they say automatically by 2030, we’re going to be carbon-free. Not possible,” Biden said in last night’s town hall, reminding Josh of this classic Dr. Dre song.

Biden added, "The New Green Deal calls for elimination of all non-renewable energy by 2030. You can’t get there."

The official Green New Deal resolution doesn’t say that, as Josh noted last night, but Biden was likely referring to other iterations of the plan.

As smart tweeters noted, an infamous FAQ posted online by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ office called for a 10-year mobilization to “jumpstart the complete transition of our society away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.” A “Green New Deal”-style campaign plan by Biden’s rival, Bernie Sanders, called for 100% renewables by 2030.

Brett Hartl, chief political strategist of the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, who was critical of Biden’s plans in the past, said the Democratic nominee is walking the line appropriately.

“He’s trying to highlight his own plan, and create some distance between the more infeasible aspects of the Green New Deal,” Hartl said. “Either way, it’s night and day between him and Trump, whose climate plan is apparently to plant a trillion trees with no money.”

Welcome to Daily on Energy, written by Washington Examiner Energy and Environment Writers Josh Siegel (@SiegelScribe) and Abby Smith (@AbbySmithDC). Email [email protected] or [email protected] for tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email, and we’ll add you to our list.

WHAT THE ELECTION COULD MEAN FOR CLEAN ENERGY: No matter which party wins the White House and takes the Senate, the economics for clean energy won’t change, but policy differences between Biden and President Trump would determine the pace of cost declines and overall adoption of renewable energy, BloombergNEF says in new analysis.

If Biden wins the White House and Democrats take the Senate, it “could open the floodgates” for climate policy, especially as Biden aims to zero out emissions in the power sector by 2035, BNEF says. That policy would have to be driven through Congress. Extensions of wind and solar tax credits, likely under a blue wave, would also mean renewable energy costs would continue a “steady decline” through the rest of the decade, according to BNEF.

A Biden administration’s climate policy could be much more restrained if Democrats don’t take the Senate, however. BNEF expects, under that scenario, Biden would have to resort to executive action, and would largely pursue reversing and replacing Trump administration rollbacks of Obama-era climate policies.

If Trump wins and Republicans keep the Senate, prospects are dim for extending wind and solar tax credits. That would mean wind and solar energy costs would rise slightly as the tax credits phase out, BNEF says. In that scenario, BNEF also expects onshore wind projects to become more geographically diverse in the absence of the tax credits because developers would prioritize projects where they could “realize higher wholesale market prices.”

Who wins the White House could have significant implications for permitting fossil fuel infrastructure, though, BNEF says, especially given a Biden win could flip control of the FERC as soon as 2022. That would likely mean far fewer approvals for natural gas pipelines and LNG terminals, BNEF says.

THANKS, BUT NO THANKS: The American Council on Renewable Energy is “grateful” that FERC took “baby steps” yesterday on carbon pricing, with the commission declaring its willingness to review regional grid operator plans that include state programs charging polluters for emissions in their electricity markets.

But the renewable industry lobby is more upset that FERC “tripled down” on market rules that it said would enable out-of-money fossil fuels to compete with wind and solar.

In a separate action from the carbon pricing move, FERC accepted, in part, a compliance filing from power market operator PJM implementing the commission’s controversial order targeting state-issued clean energy subsidies, known as the Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR).

“Renewable energy investment decisions in the Mid-Atlantic region are already impacted by the MOPR, and preferential treatment for fossil fuel generators will only grow in subsequent auctions as costs for renewable power continue to decline,” said Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of ACORE, which is challenging the MOPR in court.

The American Wind Energy Association was more complimentary of FERC’s moves yesterday, choosing not to comment on the MOPR, and instead applauding the commission for “acknowledging that state carbon pricing produces economic and environmental benefits.”

BROUILLETTE’S SECURITY STAFF CONTRACTS CORONAVIRUS: Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette canceled a trip to Ohio today after two members of his security detail tested positive for the coronavirus.

Brouillette has tested negative for the virus and is not showing symptoms, DOE spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said last night. But out of “an abundance of caution,” Brouillette, who was in Pennsylvania yesterday, was traveling back to D.C. by vehicle.

TRUMP REJECTS CALIFORNIA REQUEST FOR WILDFIRE AID: The White House refused California’s request for disaster relief funds to address damage from six recent wildfires in the state, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Specifically, the Trump administration denied Gov. Gavin Newsom’s request from late last month that the White House issue a major disaster declaration, which would allow the federal government to take on some of the cost burden for cleaning up and rebuilding after the wildfires.

The White House did grant a previous request from Newsom in August for two wildfires caused by lightning strikes. But California, the wildfires, and the state’s ambitious climate policies have increasingly become political talking points for Trump.

Trump’s previous threats: During a rally in August, he threatened to withhold federal aid to California, criticizing the state’s officials for not listening to his suggestions to better manage the state’s forests to prevent wildfires. Scientists and other experts have said the intensity of the recent wildfires is due to both poor forest management and worsening climate change.

“I said, ‘You got to clean your floors. You got to clean your forests.’ They have many, many years of leaves and broken trees” that are “so flammable,” Trump said then.

“I’ve been telling them this now for three years, but they don’t want to listen,” he added. “Maybe we’re just going to have to make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us.”

A RECORD-SIZED WILDFIRE IN COLORADO: A Colorado fire that started in August has now broken the record for the largest fire in the state's history at more than 164,000 acres.

The fire is already 25,000 acres larger than the previous record-setting fire — the Pine Gulch fire, also from 2020, which burned more than 139,000 acres until it was contained in September.

Broken record: 2020 continues to be a record-breaking year for wildfires in the United States. Last week, California's August Complex Fire became the largest blaze in that state's history after surpassing a record-shattering 1 million acres — the third so-called gigafire in all of the U.S. In California, wildfires in 2020 have destroyed more acreage than all of the state's recorded wildfires between 1932 and 1999 combined. More than 4 million acres of land have been burned this year. Oregon has also seen more than 1 million acres burned this year.

GENERAL ELECTRIC TO GO CARBON NEUTRAL BY 2030: The company will achieve that target mostly through significant reductions in direct emissions from its operations and efficiency improvements, said Larry Culp, GE’s CEO, in a LinkedIn post Thursday.

The company’s new target follows another recent announcement that GE, one of the world’s largest makers of coal-fired power plants, plans to completely exit the coal business. Instead, GE will focus on clean energy technology innovations, including offshore wind, advanced nuclear, and hydrogen, Culp said.

GE’s target doesn’t include, however, its indirect (or scope 3) emissions, which include the emissions across its supply chain and from its customers. Culp said GE is in an “ongoing dialogue” with customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders about how to achieve those reductions, but didn’t offer details.

START SPREADING THE NEWS: New York’s Public Service Commission approved Thursday an ambitious new requirement for the state to reach 70% renewable electricity in the next decade, setting New York on a path to zero-carbon power by 2040.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the new mandate into law earlier this year, but the Public Service Commission’s actions codify the target and begin to implement it through an expanded clean energy standard. The New York utility regulators also approved an increase to the state’s offshore wind target to 9,000 megawatts by 2035. The PSC also established new incentives for renewable energy projects that deliver power to New York City.

In addition, the New York regulators adopted criteria to identify clean energy transmission projects that need to be fast-tracked to meet the state’s climate goals. The regulators also designated a transmission project in northern New York as the first project eligible for speedier development. That project will “unbottle at least 950 to 1500 MW of renewable energy sources,” said PSC Chair John Rhodes.

Wall Street Journal Firms like Dow bet billions on plastics. Now there’s a glut.

Politico Fannie, Freddie take a close look at mortgage risks as climate events multiply

Reuters US oil majors pitch more campaign cash to Democrats as frack battle looms

Bloomberg The IMF has a blueprint for helping the climate without hurting economic growth

Washington Post Africa’s largest dam powers dreams of prosperity in Ethiopia -- and fears of hunger in Egypt

2 p.m. The Global CCS Institute and U.S. Energy Association, with the support of the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy, will host two days of virtual panels exploring opportunities to deploy carbon capture projects in Texas. Register for Oct. 21 and Oct. 22.

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