On the 20th of January 2021, Joe Biden became the 46th president of the United States. Since the beginning of his mandate, he has shown a strong willingness to move fast on matters of climate change.
Already on the first days of his presidency, with some “existential” executive orders, Biden wanted to highlight the role that the United States will exercise under his leadership. The highlighted objectives are the achievement of short-term goals and the more ambitious goal for the US to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
In doing so, the new President started by rejoining the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change. In addition to this first achievement, Biden also took additional steps, including more executive orders that created a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing in the U.S land and water and regulations aiming at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The most significant is the order that focuses on the climate crisis by canceling the controversial Keystone XL permit. This project, considered by Trump as “the greatest technology known to man or woman” , involved the construction of a pipeline of more than 1000 miles carrying crude oil from Canada to the United States through Indigenous Land. Revoking the permit, the new president shut down the construction of the above-mentioned pipeline, calling for the need of a significant increase in cost-competitive renewable and clean-burning energy. In addition, the new administration also took action in pausing the drilling of oil and gas from federal lands.
These actions led to an outcry from the American Petroleum Institute (API), which pointed to the potential loss of jobs and consequent increased reliance on imports. Similar concerns came from the Republican Party. Their rhetoric was portraying a gloomy scenario characterized by growing unemployment and negative consequences for the economy of the United States.
Regarding the allegations of the unemployment created by the XL pipeline decision, experts underlined that those jobs not yet exist. In truth, the 10 000 union jobs that the Republicans claimed were lost, were actually bound to the permits that the pipeline project was waiting for to start the construction. At the same time, most of the employment created by the pipeline consisted of temporary contracts. The Biden administration rejected the XL permit asserting that the enormous consequences of climate change outweigh the alleged loss of a few new permanent jobs. In addition, it is also important to underline that the presumed increase in the price of gas would be a possible and expected result to Biden’s attempt to deliver an alternative to fossil fuels. As the president himself underlined, in order to tackle a green transition, there is the need to discourage the use of polluting alternatives.