The Future of Clean Energy: Can Biden Achieve His Cornerstone Climate Goal?
Climate change remains one of the critical challenges of our time, and Joe Biden’s administration has made it a priority to address it. One of his common goals is to convert the US electric grid entirely to clean energy by 2035. Although it seems like quite a lofty goal, it’s more important than ever to reduce carbon emissions to fight the effects of climate change. However, achieving 100% clean power raises the question of its feasibility.
The United States has already grown its share of clean energy in electricity usage in recent years. As of 2021, about 44% of America’s electricity was powered by zero-emissions sources such as wind, solar, nuclear, and hydropower, according to the Department of Energy.
“When you have a fully clean grid, versus a grid that either is a quarter or a half clean, that makes a significant difference in terms of the greenhouse gas performance of the things you’re plugging in to that grid,” White House national climate adviser Ali Zaidi told CNN. “That electric vehicle now is twice or three times cleaner when you shift to a fully clean grid.”
However, by 2035, the government analysis shows that clean and renewable sources will make up around 86% of US energy. In other words, about 14% of energy will still come from non-renewable sources like methane gas and coal. So, it is safe to say that fully clean energy by 2035 may be ambitious.
One of the primary reasons why converting the US electric grid entirely to clean energy may be a challenge is that fossil fuels remain ingrained in the structure of American society. It is the source of not only energy but also jobs and economic growth. Even if the government invests in clean energy sources, it will take considerable time for coal mines and oil rigs to close and for new technology to emerge. Additionally, the transition to clean energy sources is costly.
Another reason the transition is slowing is Coal King Joe Manchin. Manchin is a venal piece of shit bought and paid for by the Koch Brothers. He’s from a coal state, is an investor in coal plants and his son works in the industry. Plus, Joe Manchin Makes $500K a Year From One of the Dirtiest Coal Plants in West Virginia.
Rolling Stone summed this up beautifully when describing the situation with Manchin:
At this point in human evolution, burning coal for power is one of the stupidest things humans do. Coal plants are engines of destruction, not progress. Thanks to the rapid evolution of clean energy, there are many better, cheaper, cleaner ways to power our lives. The only reason anyone still burns coal today is because of the enormous political power and inertia that the industry has acquired since the 19th century. In America, that power and inertia is embodied in the cruel and cartoonish character of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who, paradoxically, may have more control over the trajectory of the climate crisis than any other person on the planet right now. Kidus Girma, a 26-year-old Sunrise Movement activist who helped organize protests against Manchin this past fall, calls him “the final villain.”
Renewable energy technologies have accelerated in recent years due to advancements in technology and increased public support. Solar and wind have grown over the past decade to generate significant amounts of electricity. As of 2021, wind and solar together made up about 228 gigawatts of power.
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), this number, including offshore wind, will grow to over 1 terawatt, or 1 trillion watts of power, by 2034. However, even this incredible growth may not be sufficient to achieve 100% clean power.
Another factor that could impact Biden’s goal is that the industry’s change could take longer than anticipated. Claims have been made by organisations such as the International Energy Agency suggest that clean energy technologies such as solar and wind energy would be responsible for three-quarters of the electricity generation by 2050, but this may not be enough to achieve the 100% goal of renewable energy.
In conclusion, achieving a 100% clean energy goal may be realistic, but it will not happen overnight. It requires multiple stakeholders to work together to institute change, particularly with a deeply ingrained fossil fuel industry to work towards a necessary shift in energy production. Several factors, including the time and cost involved, may obtain delays before a completely clean energy system can be established in the United States. Nonetheless, we can continue to focus on reducing our carbon footprint and expanding methods that protect our environment by gradually contributing to a clean energy future. The journey has begun and is incredibly daunting, but it is achievable like any other challenge, provided there is a willingness to adapt.