By Jeff Brady
The $3.5 trillion budget blueprint Democrats agreed to this week includes a key part of President Biden’s climate plan: a national “clean energy standard.” It’s aimed toward zeroing out greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by 2035.
Often called a clean electricity standard, it would be similar to renewable energy requirements that 30 states have now. But instead of only boosting things like wind and solar this national standard is focused directly on eliminating the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
There are a lot of details that still need to be worked out, but right now it looks like utilities would be required to get 80% of their electricity from zero-emission sources by 2030, and 100% by 2035.
As the Biden administration focuses on this national clean energy standard, it appears to be sidelining efforts to pass a carbon tax that large oil companies have supported. Economists also have long been big fans of carbon taxes, saying it’s the most efficient way to eliminate greenhouse gases across the economy.
Among them is Michael Greenstone, who worked in the Obama administration. Still, he’s pleased to see work on a clean energy standard underway.
“Relative to no climate policy, this is way better,” said Greenstone, who is a professor and director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.
Greenstone has examined state renewable energy requirements and developed recommendations for a clean electricity standard, most of which appear to be reflected in what Democratic policymakers are discussing now.
The U.S. is shifting to renewable energy, but not fast enough to meet Biden’s ambitious climate goals. While supporters were thrilled to see the clean energy standard in the budget proposal, it’s not certain the deal will make it past Congress. And with scientists warning the world needs to act now to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, Greenstone says the stakes are high.
“Without a clean electricity standard it’s going to be very, very challenging to meet any of the goals that the Biden administration has set out,” he said on ‘All Things Considered.’