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Quo vadis, America?

After excited years with Donald Trump and his dayly Twitter rumblings, the new administration under U.S. President Joe Biden has now found itself and has begun its work. During the election campaign, the topic of climate protection took a major position. What has happened since then?

U.S. President Joe Biden wants to do more for climate protection. But is he allowed to? (Image: Pixabay)U.S. President Joe Biden wants to do more for climate protection. But is he allowed to? (Image: Pixabay)

The last few months have been unusually quiet in the U.S., except for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Joe Biden's governing style of calm and reconciliation ensures that the country no longer dominates the world's political scene on a daily basis.

After climate protection took an important role in the election campaign of Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. returned to the Paris Climate Agreement on the very day the government took office.

Since Biden's election victory, the offshore wind industry in particular has high hopes that the U.S. will finally join the league of dominant countries here. A first important decision in this direction was made at the beginning of March. The responsible authority, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), issued the final environmental impact statement for the planned Vineyard Wind offshore wind farm, thus taking a big step towards realisation. "This decision puts the first U.S. commercial-scale project only a small step away from beginning construction. BOEM’s action also brings a sorely needed regulatory decision for investors and re-positions the U.S. as a player in the trillion-dollar global offshore wind industry," the Business Network for Offshore Wind said afterwards.

Now, another major package of measures could be in the offing that will have a decisive impact on advancing the energy transition: According to plans leaked from government circles to various U.S. media, Joe Biden is planning a massive spending of 3 trillion dollars, which could flow into infrastructure and directly into the fight against climate change, among other things.

But these plans are still at an early stage, so the White House initially declined to comment, according to The Hill. However, the U.S. government has announced several times in recent weeks that investment in infrastructure is high on the agenda, following the most urgent COVID-19 decisions. The issue has already received bipartisan support. President Biden has also met with members of both parties to discuss a possible legislative package, but it seems unclear if Republicans will really side with him.

“Biden must not cower to fears of losing bipartisanship — Republicans have already made clear they’re not interested in working with Democrats — and must deliver an infrastructure package that meets the scale of this moment,” Ellen Sciales, a spokesperson for the U.S. climate movement called 'Sunrise Movement', said in a statement.

Things were not so idyllic in Texas during the winter storm with power cuts lasting for days in wide regions (Image: Pixabay)

The importance of investments in the U.S. infrastructure in particular has shown in recent weeks, when Texas was temporarily cut off from power supply after an extreme winter storm. According to The Hill, former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz recently said that the risks of climate change must be better factored into energy infrastructure. "Climate change means that the weather patterns of the past are not adequate to inform those of the future. As we increase electrification of key sectors, we must thoughtfully approach these requirements for, and risks to, a modernized electric grid,” he added. “In addition, increased electrification of other parts of the economy necessitates a substantial buildout of the grid system, from transmission lines to substations and transformers, to distribution systems and [electric vehicle] charging stations, all the way to heat pumps for homes."

Moniz, who sat in Barack Obama's administration, stressed that both the Texas power grid outage and the repeated blackouts in parts of California highlight the need to protect energy infrastructure from extreme climate events.

Before that, however, President Biden will probably have to fight some battles with the Republicans, who have already announced resistance, so the question is how much will be left in the end for the much-needed investments.

Katrin Radtke
USA, climate protection, renewable energy, Joe Biden, President, infrastructure, investment, offshore, wind industry, Vineyard Wind, decision

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