Could Biden Rebuild the Economy by Funding Green Energy?

Let’s suppose Americans choose Joe Biden to replace Donald Trump as president. (And also that the world doesn’t end sometime in the next month.) What might that mean for the fight against climate change? In August, Biden announced a $2 trillion, four-year climate plan designed to steer energy policy away from coddling Big Oil and toward bolstering green energy. He’s outlined several energy policies he’d pursue if elected, including reducing carbon emissions and creating 10 million jobs by building out a green energy infrastructure. The financing would come from a combination of corporate income taxes and government stimulus funds. "Joe is about saying, we're going to invest that in renewable energy," said running mate Senator Kamala Harris during Wednesday night's vice presidential debate. "It's going to be about the creation of millions of jobs. We will achieve net zero emissions by 2050, carbon neutral by 2035. Joe has a plan."
Biden and Harris' plan is not the same as the New Green Deal, which floundered in the Senate in 2019 amid fierce Republican opposition. And it’s miles away from lining up a new round of pandemic stimulus funds, which Democrats and Republicans have been fighting over for the past few months. (Trump said on Tuesday that he was killing talks with Democrats on even just a regular old stimulus to keep the economy from further Covid-19 destruction, much less any kind of green stimulus. Then he apparently doubled back via late-night tweet, saying he would support some stand-alone items, like issuing $1,200 checks to Americans.) Biden’s climate plan, on the other hand, would tackle environmental problems with government funds.This wouldn’t be Biden’s first rodeo; as Barack Obama's vice president, he coordinated the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which poured $90 billion into green energy projects and R&D to juice the economy following the financial collapse of 2008. The ARRA straight up gave cash to the struggling wind and solar industries, which had hitherto been relying on tax credits. It worked so well that the Obama administration kept its promise of doubling renewable energy generation in its first term.
In the annus horribilis that is 2020, millions of Americans are again out of work. But the current economy is all the more dire than the 2008 crisis, because a pandemic continues to rage out of control in the US, dimming hopes of a quick recovery. Still, it makes sound economic sense to pour money into green energy projects, both in the near term for creating jobs and the long term for preparing the country for a post-oil future. So what might an infusion of funds into green energy look like this time around? Biden’s plans, spelled out online, are written in broad strokes. But WIRED asked energy and environmental experts what they’d want to see in a green stimulus package, and what they make of Biden’s ideas.One of the main things Biden has promised to upgrade is the nation’s infrastructure, which means roads, water pipelines, and broadband connections. It also means the power grid. And experts agree that’s important, because our existing energy system is woefully unprepared for the transition to a green grid. We actually have three separate regional electrical grids in the US that don’t share power super well. “It turns out, that's really important for creating a grid with a lot of renewable energy, because there's all that difference in climate across the entire United States,” says Louisiana State University environmental scientist Brian Snyder. “If it's a sunny day in California and you can produce a lot of solar, but it's not windy in the Midwest—well, right now that power can’t really move from one side of the country to the other.”
Image may contain: Universe, Space, Astronomy, Outer Space, Planet, Night, Outdoors, Moon, and Nature

The WIRED Guide to Climate Change

The world is getting warmer, the weather is getting worse. Here's everything you need to know about what humans can do to stop wrecking the planet.

What the country needs is new high-voltage lines to ferry energy between regions to fill gaps in generation, be it when clouds obscure the sun or when the winds die down. Biden’s plan calls for the “re-powering of lines that already exist with new technology.” That’s a bit vague; Snyder isn’t quite sure how to read it. “That could include upgrading the interconnections between the three grids, which is particularly important,” he says. “It could also mean that he wants to improve long-distance transmission by moving to HVDC [high-voltage direct current], which would also be important. Or it could just be smart-grid-type improvements. If it includes HVDC and interconnecting the three grids, then I would say it looks very promising."