Joe Biden To Meet Climate Crisis Behind Gym, Punch It Right In The Snoot
President Joe Biden yesterday called climate change "literally, not figuratively, a clear and present danger" that has to be addressed with "urgency and resolve," and announced several executive actions he's taking. Biden stopped short of formally declaring the climate crisis a "national emergency," a move that would allow more aggressive executive powers, but made clear that's also very much on the table, and soon, holding out the slim chance that Congress might act first.
Biden spoke in Somerset, Massachusetts, at the site of a former coal power plant that's now manufacturing components for offshore wind power, to emphasize the energy transition that's needed to slow global warming. Here's video of the speech (oh, and a transcript, too):
Biden cited the most recent UN climate report, which called the climate crisis a "code red for humanity," and emphasized that the effects of climate change are already here, in the extreme heat waves hitting the US, Europe, and Asia. He noted that extreme weather events in the US caused $145 billion in damages just last year, including more frequent droughts, extreme wildfires, and stronger, more destructive hurricanes.
[Just] take a look around: Right now, 100 million Americans are under heat alert — 100 million Americans. Ninety communities across America set records for high temperatures just this year, including here in New England as we speak.
These climate-caused disruptions aren't just bad for the economy, he said; they're also a national security risk as military bases are affected, to say nothing of the geopolitical threats that will result as the planet gets hotter and less sustainable.
Since Congress isn't yet taking action, Biden said, he'll be announcing in coming weeks the details of executive actions he'll take, including that emergency declaration if necessary.
Biden also announced several things he's doing right now, largely with funds from last fall's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. He announced that $2.3 billion will go to helping communities nationwide upgrade infrastructure to "withstand the full range of disasters we’ve been seeing up to today – extreme heat, drought, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes."
And to help with the extreme heat hitting the South and Midwest, the federal government will roll out $385 million in emergency funds to "pay for air conditioners in homes, set up community cooling centers in schools where people can get through these extreme heat crises."
As for why he chose to speak in Massachusetts, that was clear enough: The former Brayton Point power plant used to be the largest coal-fired power station in New England, generating enough electricity to power one in five homes in Massachusetts. But along with all the other coal plants in the US (half of US generating capacity just 15 years ago, Biden noted), coal and other fossil fuels left a legacy, Biden said, of "toxins, smog, greenhouse gas emissions, the kind of pollution that contributed to the climate emergency we now face today."
Biden reminded his audience that the good old days were pretty damn dirty, nasty, and downright unhealthy, thanks to unregulated emissions. He said his climate advisor Gina McCarthy, who once served as a regulator in Massachusetts,
was telling me on the way up how folks used to get a rag out and wipe the gunk off of their car’s windshields in the morning just to be able to drive — not very much unlike where I grew up in a place called Claymont, Delaware — which has more oil refineries than Houston, Texas, had in its region — just across the line in Pennsylvania. And all the prevailing winds were our way.
And guess what? The first frost, you knew what was happening. You had to put on your windshield wipers to get, literally, the oil slick off the window. That’s why I and so damn many other people I grew up [with] have cancer and why can — for the longest time, Delaware had the highest cancer rate in the nation.
And no, Biden was almost certainly not saying he now has cancer; he's previously disclosed that before he became president, he's had non-melanoma skin cancers treated.
Biden shifted to explaining that we don't have to remain in the gunk, because clean energy. The Brayton Point plant will now manufacture cables to be used in offshore wind power, and the cable manufacturing enterprise "will mean good-paying jobs for 250 workers — as many workers as the old power plant had at its peak." And when a major offshore wind complex is up and running, those cables will tie into existing infrastructure to move clean power to the grid,
putting old assets to work delivering clean energy. This didn’t happen by accident. It happened because we believed and invested in America’s innovation and ingenuity.
That's absolutely the messaging we'd like to see more of, to counteract the dishonest claims that moving to clean energy would somehow be bad for the economy. The shift to clean energy, as we keep pointing out, is all about creating new jobs and wealth — but it won't necessarily go to the shareholders of existing fossil fuel companies, which have only had 40 years to change their business model, the poor dears.
Biden highlighted several other projects in which fossil fuel plants are being retired and the infrastructure being adapted for wind and solar, such as a former oil plant in California that's being converted into "the world’s largest battery storage facility" — and with union workers, at that. He noted that the Infrastructure Law has already invested $4 billion to help former coal communities make the transition to new ventures, and that
we’re investing in clean hydrogen, nuclear, and carbon capture with the largest grid investment in American history.
We’ve secured $16 billion to clean up abandoned mines and wells, protecting thousands of communities from toxins and waste, particularly methane.
We hope the administration will keep hitting that point and showing Americans that we're not only facing a crisis, but that the solution to the crisis is going to create jobs — and without all that crap on our windshields and in children's lungs.
Heck, to help people visualize how the green energy revolution is pretty damn cool, I'd even be willing to accept corporate sponsorship to convert my monstrous old 1973 Chevy, Vlad the Impala, to use General Motors' new drop-in electric drivetrain. I'm just that generous!
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.