Biden forgets a key message on the environment: Balance

Associated Press

Amid disastrously low approval ratings, President Biden recently gave his first State of the Union address, verbally dodging and weaving around a year filled to the brim with disappointment.

For young people especially, the Biden presidency has been disiullionsing. According to a new poll from my organization the American Conservation Coalition, 53 percent of Americans aged 18 to 30 believe we’re on the wrong track as a country. On the campaign trail, Biden promised ambitious climate action and a return to normalcy from the COVID-19 pandemic. The administration has delivered neither.

Young Americans propelled Biden to the White House in 2020; with midterms around the corner, Democrats must deliver if they hope to maintain that support. This is especially true as more and more Republican candidates begin to throw their hats into the climate arena. Ironically, Biden’s failure isn’t for lack of trying; he’s simply using the wrong approach by embracing partisan wish lists over common-sense reforms. The president doesn’t need to pass Build Back Better or the Green New Deal to achieve what young people want. Yes, young Americans want climate action — but they also want their economic concerns to be heard without a climate caveat at every turn. Americans want a balance between environmental protection and economic prosperity.

Despite other current events looming, Biden still touched on climate, although he noticeably excluded popular solutions such as planting trees and other nature-based solutions. With his signature Build Back Better agenda all but buried, Biden instead focused on the success of the bipartisan infrastructure package and promised future climate spending. He touted the potential of solar and wind power, but inexplicably forgot the importance of nuclear power. With so much at stake, the omission of nuclear and natural gas as a viable way to rapidly reduce emissions read as disingenuous.

The Biden climate strategy, while admirably ambitious, has consistently been out of touch with the American people. Even last week, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry implored Russia to think of the climate implications of their aggression toward Ukraine. During his recent address, Biden said that climate spending will actually help Americans amid historic inflation. 

While climate change is top of mind for Americans, high gas prices and foreign affairs serve as a sober reminder that balance must be struck between energy independence and an energy transition. To understand the consequences of a rushed energy transition, all one must do is look to Europe.

We would be foolish to make the same mistake here in the United States. Dependence on Russian natural gas may not have caused Russia to strike against Ukraine, but there’s no doubt that the dependency emboldened Putin and his allies. We need clean energy, yes, but we also need abundant, secure, domestic energy. We have the tools to achieve both — its not either or. Once again, it’s all about balance.

As Biden navigates his second year in office, it’s crucial that climate change continues to be a priority, but it needs to be weighted equally with realistic economic concerns and securing our energy supply. If Biden has any chance of becoming the president he promised young people he’d be, it’s clear that he must course correct.

Danielle Butcher is the executive vice president at the American Conservation Coalition (ACC).

Tags Climate change Danielle Butcher Emissions reduction Environment Fossil fuels Joe Biden John Kerry Renewable energy

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