Biden’s Climate Task Force to Propose 100% Renewable Electricity by 2035

In May when former Vice President–and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee–Joe Biden announced his climate task force it was a means to unite the flanks of his party. According to an exclusive story from the New York Times yesterday, that task force has come out with its first set of goals for Biden’s consideration

As Lisa Friedman and Katie Glueck reported:

Those goals, according to three people familiar with the task force’s decisions, include:

  • Committing to seeing the United States’ electricity sector powered fully by renewable energy by 2035 and a rapid transition to energy-efficient buildings.
  • They also seek a Day 1 promise to begin developing new vehicle efficiency standards — and to include labor unions in the discussions — to replace and improve upon the Obama administration measures that President Trump has weakened.

Why This Matters: These recommendations go beyond that of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis’ federal policy recommendations that were recently released. Converting the entire electricity sector to renewable energy will require a massive federal effort at a time when such goals seem like a pipedream in heavily partisan Washington. BUT, Democrats need to present an ambitious vision to the American public. Voters need to hear ideas for how our nation can be made better and how jobs can be recovered especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Undertaking an overhaul to our national grid is certainly bold enough of a plan.

By The Numbers: According to recent polling data from the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of Americans think the federal government should be doing more to combat the effects of climate change. Americans continue to say they see the effects of climate change in their own communities and believe that the federal government falls short in its efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change.

  • 79% of Americans say the priority for the country’s energy supply should be developing alternative sources of energy, such as wind and solar; far fewer (20%) give priority to expanding the production of oil, coal and natural gas.
  • To shift consumption patterns toward renewables, a majority of the public (58%) says government regulations will be necessary to encourage businesses and individuals to rely more on renewable energy; fewer (39%) think the private marketplace will ensure this change inhabits.

BUT, while these numbers paint a positive picture, a swing state like Pennsylvania (which President Trump won by less than 1% in 2016) relies on the natural gas sector for jobs.  Joe Biden knows this and as a result, has been reluctant to support a nationwide fracking ban. If he takes up the plan being proposed by his climate task force, it’s still unclear how his campaign would reconcile 100% renewable electricity by 2035 with Pennsylvania voters. It’s really tricky political terrain.

Fixing Variability: Building a nationwide clean grid will already be a massive undertaking. The pertinent detail that will be needed from the Biden campaign is how they will propose to fill the gaps created by variable energy like solar and wind. Power-to-gas has emerged as a viable possibility for how to keep a clean grid powered by renewables smoothly functioning to provide power where and when it’s needed as the lithium-ion battery capacity needed to do this would be immense.

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