Speaking at what was once one of the most polluting coal-fired power plants in Massachusetts, President Joe Biden announced his plans to address climate change, which include executive orders addressing extreme heat and promoting additional offshore wind opportunities. Biden cited a recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in which U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres described the worsening climate crisis as “code red for humanity.” Before lawmakers and press at the former Brayton Point power plant in Somerset, Biden said, “I said it last week and I’ll say it again loud and clear: As president I’ll use my executive power to combat the climate crisis in the absence of Congressional action.” That plant will soon provide 250 jobs, according to Biden—the same amount Brayton Point once offered workers at its peak of operation as a coal-fired plant. Instead of powering the region with fossil fuels, the facility will manufacture critical subsea cables meant to connect offshore wind farms to existing power grids.
Employment opportunities were frequently highlighted in Biden’s speech, with the president describing Brayden as being “on the frontier of clean energy for America.” This goes hand-in-hand with executive actions meant to support further offshore wind development. A White House fact sheet notes that the Interior Department could soon hold offshore leasing in the Gulf Of Mexico as part of its first designated Wind Energy Areas spanning 700,000 acres off the coast of Galveston, Texas, and Lake Charles, Louisiana. Those areas could potentially power as many as 3 million homes—or nearly two-thirds of the population of Louisiana—through wind power generation. It’s quite the contrast compared with Lake Charles’ other burgeoning energy industry, liquified natural gas (LNG). Biden’s likely been hearing a lot from Southwest Louisiana activists concerned about LNG terminals given protests held by climate action group the Louisiana Bucket Brigade near Biden’s beachfront home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Therein lies the frustration of many activists who feel that Biden is compromising his administration’s climate goals in approving projects that will only add more greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time championing renewables. Biden wants the Interior Department to advance offshore wind initiatives off the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Yet the Biden administration has also signaled its support of a controversial oil and gas project in Alaska, among other projects. The initial thinking was that this was an attempt to placate Sen. Joe Manchin, who ultimately put an end to hopes of climate action being passed through Congress.
If Biden’s truly committed to doing everything in his power to tackle climate change regardless of what his fellow lawmakers can or can’t advance, he must put an end to supporting pollution-heavy projects. It’s not enough to roll out support for communities facing natural disasters made worse by oil and gas projects that the Biden administration seemingly has no interest in eliminating. Providing cooling centers for marginalized communities or ratcheting up inspections to address high temperatures in the workplace don’t exactly negate signing off on projects that only make extreme heat worse. The White House states that “Biden will announce additional executive actions to combat this emergency” in the coming weeks. Let’s hope that includes a radical departure from our fossil fuel dependency and declaring climate change to be exactly what it is: a national emergency.
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