In Biden’s 1st SOTU, he doubled down on his climate agenda, asserting that it would save Americans $500/year in energy costs. He promised to build 500,000 charging stations, upgrade miles of highways, and modernize the nation’s ports and airports, all to lower transportation costs for Americans. He said his climate plan would beat inflation by lowering costs, not wages.
Republican response echoed a letter the party had sent to the White House the day before that drew heavily on oil industry talking points. Biden, they charged, started the war in Ukraine to hurt them. They called for more oil production and more gas exports. The GOP’s support for Big Oil is indefensible in light of the near unanimous agreement by climate scientists that the emission of heat-trapping gases is causing the globe to heat, disrupting the multiple systems that make up our weather and, long term, our climate. It is indefensible too because it must be obvious by now to everyone but the kid the Who sang about, that our climate is deteriorating — fast.
The heat-disrupted climate will get worse unless the burning of fossil fuels ends. The industry knows this, but to preserve itself argues against any transition to alternative energy sources. Such arguments now sound hollow. They are contra-factual at a time when more and more people know it through personal experience. A common reaction to pro-oil apologists now is, “You’re crazy. It’s obvious that the climate is changing.”. The charge that Biden (or Pelosi) started the Ukraine war is equally ludicrous. However, the reality is that the fossil fuel industry is deeply entwined with American society. Many jobs, communities, state and local budgets (think city payrolls, schools, libraries, civic organizations) are supported by the industry’s activities — and taxes. The industry supports more than a few elected officials too, with substantial campaign donations. It sells essential products to all of us. We are the capillaries of the industry. We need the industry to travel, heat and cool the house, to run the factories that make the products that we feel are necessary to live our lives in the comfort to which we’ve become accustomed. The transition to clean energy will force many changes upon us and the country. We will, however, adapt. We have to. Biden is right to push hard for his climate agenda on economic grounds. Clean energy will save Americans money at the pump and in heating bills. He mentioned jobs in his SOTU, but missed an opportunity to tout the longer, healthier lives most citizens will enjoy. Nor did he avail of perhaps the most persuasive argument for ditching fossil fuels: keeping Earth livable for humans.