Currently, global warming is 1.1 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. Climate scientists say temperature rise should not exceed 1.5 degrees to avoid the worst climate change impacts. We are cutting it dangerously close. However, we can reduce greenhouse emissions with more clean energy deployment. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory study found that deploying 35 percent of electricity from wind and solar in the western U.S. would reduce carbon emissions by 25 to 45 percent.
The Biden administration plans to increase clean energy in the U.S., including repurposing old mines and coal sites. President Biden released details about his plan for investing billions in clean energy jobs and revitalization. Biden’s plan gives tax credits to developers of clean energy projects and facilities in energy communities historically at the frontlines of fossil fuel energy production. Both can receive a bonus of up to 10 percentage points on top of the Investment Tax Credit and a 10 percent increase for the Production Tax Credit.
President Biden’s plan includes a new mapping tool to help communities and stakeholders identify areas eligible for clean energy incentives. The program also consists of the Coal Power Plant Redevelopment Visualization Tool that identifies coal power plants that have either closed or are set to retire.
“Coal mining and power plant communities helped power America for generations, receiving little more than pollution in return,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous, in a statement. “It’s past time we invested in the communities that have given so much, and we’re pleased to see the Biden administration unlocking billions in additional incentives to drive family-sustaining jobs and bring new economic opportunity to communities sacrificed by the fossil fuel industry.”
President Biden’s plan builds on over $14.1 billion energy communities received through federal agencies like the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization. That includes $480 million in American Rescue Plan funds for economic development, $877 million for abandoned mine land reclamation, and $134 million in the largest-ever Appalachian Regional Commission awards to coal communities. In addition, companies invested $7.4 billion in energy communities for clean energy manufacturing, steel production, and critical minerals processing.
The Department of Energy Makes Funds Available for Clean Energy Projects
The Department of Energy announced that $450 million is available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for clean energy demonstration projects on current and former coal and mining land. There are 17,750 mine land sites across 1.5 million acres in the U.S. Those sites release pollutants that contaminate the air, land, and water quality in surrounding areas. Repurposing these sites for clean energy projects will generate up to 90 gigawatts of clean energy, enough to power almost 30 homes.
The Department of Energy also announced that $16 million is available to the University of North Dakota and West Virginia University through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The funds are available to complete design studies for a full-scale demonstration refinery that will extract and separate rare earth elements and minerals from coal and mine waste.
The Biden Administration’s Energy Inconsistency
President Biden’s energy policies are inconsistent. In March, the Bureau of Land Management approved ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project in Alaska’s Western Arctic. The Willow Project is the largest oil extraction project ever proposed on federal lands. It will generate around 287 million metric tons of carbon dioxide over 30 years, equivalent to the annual emissions from 76 coal power plants, a third of all coal plants in the U.S.
Reducing emissions consistent with keeping temperature rise to 1.5 degrees means reducing fossil fuel development and not increasing it. As Jealous said, “Now, we hope to see the Biden administration focus on the root of the climate pollution problem: stopping the expansion of oil and gas extraction and use of fossil fuels.”
Photo by Andres Siimon on Unsplash