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Energy and climate: Comparing Trump's and Biden's plans

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A key issue on voters' minds this election is energy, be it climate change concerns or concerns of the economic fallout of trying to curtail the planet's warming. While Democratic nominee Joe Biden is running on a bold overhaul of environmental policy, President Trump is running on his legacy of establishing energy independence and rolling back regulations.

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Here's a look at how their plans compare:

Biden’s climate and energy plan 

Cost: $2 trillion

Goal: 100% clean energy by 2035, net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, create jobs

Biden has called for transforming the federal fleet of vehicles from gas to electric, building 500,000 charging stations along the nation’s highways for electric vehicles, upgrading 4 million buildings and weatherizing 2 million homes over the next four years to increase energy efficiency, and offering government grants to retool factories.

Consumers would also get subsidies for switching their gas-powered cars to electric vehicles.

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His plan also calls for creating an Environmental and Climate Justice Division within the Department of Justice.

The former vice president’s proposal goes further than the one he unveiled during the Democratic presidential primaries – and reflects his adoption of some of his former rivals' positions. His overall $2 trillion price tag is up $300 billion from his original plan.

The plan would be paid for by tax increases on corporations and the wealthy and stimulus spending, the campaign said.

While he’s recently said he would only ban fracking on federal land, he said he would “transition” the U.S. away from the oil industry over time.

“I would transition from the oil industry, yes,” Biden said when pressed by Trump in a recent debate, adding that “the oil industry pollutes, significantly” and “has to be replaced by renewable energy, over time.”

On an international level, Biden would return to the Paris Climate Accords and pressure America’s allies to similarly invest in clean tech and low carbon initiatives.

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Trump's energy plan 

Goal: maintain energy independence, keep rolling back regulations

The White House has offered little in the way of a second-term energy plan. When asked about the matter, Trump told the New York Times his administration would “continue doing what we’re doing.”

"I think it would be, I think it would be very, very, I think we'd have a very, very solid, we would continue what we're doing," Trump said. "We'd solidify what we've done and we have other things on our plate that we want to get done."

And while the president has at times expressed skepticism about man-made climate change, he’s more recently come around to the idea.

“You believe that human pollution, gas, greenhouse gas emissions contributes to the global warming of this planet?” moderator Chris Wallace asked during the first presidential debate.

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“I think a lot of things do, but I think to an extent, yes,” Trump said.

One of Trump’s 2016 campaign promises was to achieve energy independence, and he now often touts the U.S. as an energy-independent nation in his rallies.

President Trump’s energy focus has centered on energy independence, particularly through dismantling President Obama’s climate agenda to free energy and auto industries from regulations the Trump administrations says kill jobs.

“We are now the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. We are independent and we do not need Middle East oil,” Trump said in January.

The U.S., now the top oil producer in the world, has in recent months turned an amount of oil roughly equivalent to what it uses, but the U.S. has not completely disengaged from the global market.

Ahead of the Republican Convention, Trump’s campaign released a 50-point list of priorities, which included promising to advance a "deregulatory agenda for Energy independence."

In 2016, Trump ran on a campaign promising that for every new regulation, at least two would be rolled back.

In his first administration, the Trump administration has worked to roll back nearly 100 Obama-era environmental rules and regulations. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2019 officially undid Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which required states to meet targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and aimed to reduce power sector emissions to 32 percent the level in 2005 by 2030.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said that analyses had predicted double-digit electricity price increases in 40 states under the CPP.

The Trump administration replaced the CPP with a more lax standard called Affordable Clean Energy. Wheeler says emissions would still continue to decline under Affordable Clean Energy, without damaging the coal industry. The ACE rule would lower power sector emissions by between 0.7% and 1.5%.

But due to a boom in natural gas production and falling prices for wind and solar power, the coal industry has continued to suffer. Last year, coal-fired electricity fell 18% to the lowest level since 1975. 

Trump also revoked an Obama executive order that set a goal of cutting the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40%.

In a move Trump said would reduce auto prices, his administration revoked California’s right to set strict fuel economy standards.

California's authority to set its own emissions standards tougher than the federal government's goes back to a waiver issued by Congress during passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970. The state has long pushed automakers to adopt more fuel-efficient passenger vehicles that emit less pollution. A dozen states and the District of Columbia also follow California's fuel economy standards.

Trump said the decision was “in order to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer.”

“This will lead to more production because of this pricing and safety advantage, and also due to the fact that older, highly polluting cars, will be replaced by new, extremely environmentally friendly cars,” Trump tweeted.

In August, Wheeler announced that the EPA would do away with an Obama-era restriction on methane leaks. The rollback was a gift to small and mid-size energy companies, whose profits had collapsed under the Covid-19 pandemic, but some experts say methane leaks are a major contributor to the globe’s warming.

Wheeler announced the rollback in Pittsburgh, Pa., the heart of the nation’s natural gas boom. The EPA estimated the rule change would result in $100 million of economic benefits every year through 2030.

And as Trump highlights his support for natural gas production in battleground Pennsylvania, he’s weighing an executive order showing his support of fracking through an economic analysis of the practice’s effects on the economy and trade, according to the Wall Street Journal.

He’s repeatedly hammered his opponent on fracking, saying Biden “really blew it” when he suggested he would “transition” the U.S. away from the oil industry in a Pennsylvania rally.

“That means no fracking, no natural gas, no coal, no jobs, no energy, no Pennsylvania families being well taken care of,” Trump said at Altoona-Blair County Airport. “Fracking is saving Pennsylvania families $2,500 a year, at least. It’s saving families all over the country. We are energy independent and you’re a big part of it – and they want to end that.”

Still, the president has repeatedly touted that U.S. “air and water are the cleanest they’ve ever been,” without supporting evidence.

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“We are creating a future of American energy independence, and yet our air and water are the cleanest they’ve ever been by far,” Trump said at a Florida rally in 2019, sentiments that have been reiterated at nearly every rally since.

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