US Aims to Again Lead World on Climate

Special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry speaks during a press briefing at the White House on Tuesday. Source Getty

Special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry speaks during a press briefing at the White House on Tuesday. Source Getty

U.S. President Biden addressed the nation Wednesday outlining his administration's ambitious climate change goals ahead of signing three executive orders. Approximately 22% of US oil production and 12% of natural gas production occurs on federal land and water.

His focus on climate change has cheered global partners and environmental advocates, but upset Big Oil, which argues that the moves will cost the country millions of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue at a time when the USA economy has been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic. He spoke highly of American ingenuity before signing three executive orders dealing with tackling the climate crisis at home and overseas, and the US government's science and technology policy making.

Another order establishes climate considerations as an essential element of U.S. foreign policy and national security.

Biden last week announced plans to rejoin that accord after Trump abandoned it, part of a previous series of climate actions that included blocking TC Energy Corp's Keystone XL oil pipeline project from Canada.

Mr Biden directed the Interior Department to pause new federal oil and gas leases on public lands or offshore waters "to the extent possible" and review the program's climate impacts and taxpayer benefits. The pause will not restrict energy activities on lands that the government holds in trust for Native American tribes.

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An official from the Interior Department, which oversees federal lands and waters, would not comment.

The Western Energy Alliance, which represents drilling companies that operate in Western U.S. states, sued to block the federal drilling freeze hours after the order was signed.

"Federal lands and water don't belong to President Biden; they belong to the people of the United States", Cassidy said in a statement.

It was not clear which subsidies could be stripped away under this order, given numerous industry's tax breaks were congressionally approved. McConnell on Thursday claimed the flurry of orders flew in the face of what Biden said in an October town hall: That "you can't legislate by executive action unless you are a dictator". In addition to the expectation that existing oil and gas operations will not be suspended, oil and gas producers also have a large number of previously approved but unused applications to drill (only half of approximately 20,000 applications to drill approved between 2014 and 2019 are in use) or nonproducing leases (more than 13 million acres of federal land leased for oil and gas were not producing during fiscal year 2019).

Environmentalists welcomed Biden's moves.

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