On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted 66-34 to confirm Michael Regan as the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Biden campaign had signaled that it wanted to clean house following appointments from the Trump administration well before the election, noting that the EPA was of particular importance since it needs to be in line with the bold energy strategy. Regan’s role as administrator is essential since he’ll have the ability to encourage the United States to reduce emissions wherever possible.
Whereas the Trump administration sought to undo Obama-era policies it deemed untenable and soften the power of highly influential independent executive agencies, Biden and company are bent on restoring those policies while strengthening some of its own. Regan (44) is presumed to pursue greenhouse gas emissions reductions for automobiles, powerplants, and oil refineries by any means available. He began his career as an environmental regulator for the EPA during the Clinton administration, stayed on through the Bush years, and later joined the Environmental Defense Fund — a nonprofit environmental advocacy group that frequently partners with multinational companies to create “market-driven” solutions to climate change.
Democrats have claimed this background as ideal, suggesting it showcased Regan’s commitment to the environment. But a minority of Republicans argued that his background indicated he’d only move one direction on the issues. The big concern was how this might impact America’s workforce, however. The Biden administration’s green policies have already resulted in the loss of 11,000 jobs when it nixed the Keystone XL pipeline by executive order, according to TC Energy Corp. But Republicans have argued the actual number is much higher when the big picture is taken into account (drilling bans) and caution against similar actions in the future. They’re arguing that shifting away from oil is just going to make fuel prices higher and make us more dependent on the whims of foreign nations. Dems have claimed this is bunk and that millions of new jobs will eventually be created via environmental focused initiatives.
Automotive issues are a bit more nuanced. Most seem to think the United States should absolutely be a leader in battery technologies. But many are also worried that transitioning toward EVs will reduce the number of American jobs since they require fewer man-hours for final assembly.
There are likewise growing concerns that the U.S. could paint itself into a corner by enacting emission targets that some powerplants cannot meet — resulting in more renewable sources of energy production. While Democrats argue this is a good thing, Republicans are once again fretting about the likelihood of rising energy prices. It’s a valid concern, frankly. Energy prices are already rising and there’s a fear that the U.S. could end up like Germany or China — both of which signaled that they would strive for carbon neutrality and joined the Paris Climate Accord, but ultimately ended up increasing their emissions by building a slew of coal-fired powerplants after renewables failed to produce sufficient energy.
Then again, the Biden administration has set goals to totally eliminate emissions from powerplants by 2035 and Democrats have said that’s not possible without there being major changes to the infrastructure and strengthened environmental policies. For all the strides national gas and oil companies have made to enhance carbon capture and greenify their facilities, it would be next to impossible for them to emit no carbon in a little over a decade. That really only leaves nuclear power and/or a total shift toward renewables and with an updated energy grid capable of storing vast amounts of energy — the latter being to be the general trajectory Michael Regan is assumed to take.
While this opens us up to the ecological impact of renewables and building an almost unfathomable number of bus-sized batteries, we’ve seen the focus stay on carbon (or hydrocarbon) emissions for the most part. The same is true for electric vehicles, which have some ecological problems of their own. But since they don’t pollute at the tailpipe, they’ve become a popular alternative with lawmakers and Wall Street.
Regan has already indicated his unbridled support for EVs and the Biden administration wants to normalize them as quickly as possible. But we imagine there will be some limitations. As tempting as EVs are, most examples of governments utilizing them serve as an example of what not to do (e.g. the LAPD’s fleet of BMW i3s). The current level of the technology sort of makes them ideal for certain situations and terrible for others. They also cost substantially more than a similarly capable internal combustion car — something we’ve seen manifest with the USPS recent truck purchase from Oshkosh Defense — and are anticipated to recoup the added expense by requiring less maintenance and boasting lower operating costs.
It’s the usual political drama with members on one side claiming Regan was an ideal candidate while the other suggests he lacks an objective perspective. West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito (the top Republican on the Senate’s energy panel) even went so far as to claim the new head of the EPA won’t matter much with Gina McCarthy serving as the White House National Climate Advisor. As a former EPA administrator under Obama, McCarthy has a long history of supporting green initiatives and Biden used an executive order to create an entirely new position so she could head the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy.
“I hope Secretary Regan can cut Gina McCarthy out of power and let her know who is calling the shots for environmental policy in the Biden administration,” Capito told the legislature.
[Image: The White House]