St. Patrick’s Day is a great excuse to think green
As the horror of the Russian war in Ukraine continues, much of our attention has been on the various ways we can starve Russia’s economy with the hope of defeating Vladimir Putin or, at the very least, causing him to change course. As one of the leading distributors of oil in the world, restrictions on Russian oil companies is a major step in the right direction, even if Europe is still stopping short of an all-out ban for the time being.
This inevitably has raised questions centered on how we can fill the void left by the Russian gas industry. And although it’s only a small percentage of oil that the United States imports and was relatively easy to cut off, that’s still barrels we need to find or fill with our own product. The expectation — and what we have seen thus far — is that the fossil fuel industry will increase output to fill the void. Oil prices have decreased and are now around $96 a barrel, but gasoline prices aren’t keeping pace with the decline and soon the average price may top $5 a gallon, according to some estimates.
The White House has used the opportunity to talk up the benefits of electric vehicles, which is a cornerstone of President Biden’s climate policy, as well as other clean energy alternatives. And on the greenest of all holidays, St. Patrick’s Day, it feels like an appropriate time to discuss the importance of going green for the environment — and health of the U.S. economy.
The partisan disparity about the effects of climate change has always been a head-scratcher. The environment is one of the only issues that affects Americans across the board.
There are lead pipes poisoning Americans’ drinking water in all 50 states and industrial polluters dumping dangerous toxins during storms so that government watchdogs can’t catch them. We know nine out of 10 people are breathing polluted air and that roughly one-third of all deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease can be attributed to air pollution. We know that increased flooding will cost the United States $40 billion annually by 2050 and that, according to the United Nations, climate change presents the largest threat modern society has ever faced.
Still, not a single Republican in Congress would support Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which had a big climate focus. In fact, they made inane comments such as that Biden is “bowing to all of this environmentalism as a religion and climate change as a god,” as Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) argued on Tuesday.
The senator obviously dabbles in hyperbole, but the reality is that there’s good reason to bow to environmentalism: The physics of climate change are unforgiving. Biden and his administration understand that and have crafted an agenda to meet the moment.
Consider the green benefits in the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Clean water is on the way for many Americans. The administration is making a $55 billion investment to expand access to clean drinking water for households, businesses, schools and child care centers and eliminate lead service pipes in communities across the country. There’s also money to tackle legacy pollution by cleaning up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaiming abandoned mines, and capping orphaned oil and gas wells.
Dozens of House Democrats are pushing the Biden administration to revive negotiations on the climate provisions of the Build Back Better plan — and for good reason. About $550 billion was aimed at fighting climate change and would be spent doing important things such as researching and developing low-carbon energy technologies like clean hydrogen fuels and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The clean energy tax credits, which would go to businesses that install wind, solar, geothermal, batteries and other clean energy technologies over the next decade, would be a tremendous economic boon to the businesses that take that step.
As we mentioned, electric vehicles (EV) are a central piece of the Biden plan — a potential solution to lower our oil dependency. The price tag always has been a concern when it comes to making the switch to electric. And while Kelley Blue Book estimates an EV will cost roughly $10,000 more than the industry average, incentives can radically lower the cost. There’s a $2,500 to $7,500 tax credit from the federal government and lower fuel costs, which puts EVs at 60 percent of the cost to run than the average internal combustion engine vehicle. That includes the cost of charging. Understandably, these vehicles need their own infrastructure, and the government will invest $7.5 billion to help build the first national network of EV chargers along highway corridors to facilitate long-distance travel, with a focus on serving rural and disadvantaged communities.
There are also policies aimed at overhauling the industrial sector to curb carbon pollution. How can we make steel, concrete, chemicals and other industrial products in a zero-carbon way? Fossil fuels will take a hit. And the government is willing to step in where the private sector hasn’t, to do things such as boost hydrogen production. The Department of Energy is set on cutting the cost of making hydrogen by 80 percent over the next decade.
These are all things that are possible with support for the Biden climate agenda. They can make a huge difference for the environment and have quantifiable economic benefits when you consider the health care, social and infrastructure costs if we do nothing.
So, when you don your green gear today or take a sip of green beer, think about how much the environment needs us. There’s good reason for Americans to pay attention to the crisis in Ukraine and to domestic problems such as inflation. But that doesn’t mean that we can afford to push climate change to the side for an easier time. The earth won’t be able to wait, literally.
Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.
Antjuan Seawright is a Democratic political strategist, founder and CEO of Blueprint Strategy LLC, a CBS News political contributor, and a senior visiting fellow at Third Way. Follow him on Twitter @antjuansea.