[Editor's note: A version of this story appears in the November 2021 issue of Oil and Gas Investor magazine.]
In May 2021, the Biden administration began showcasing its climate agenda. The agenda’s centerpiece, a “clean electricity standard” (CES), calls for elimination of all greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions from the U.S. power sector by 2035. Some, especially the utilities charged with carrying this out, would call this plan far-reaching, even radical. But it proved too timid for a coalition of environmental groups, who sent the administration a letter protesting the plan’s half measures. As reported in Politico, the letter advocated as follows:
“More than 600 groups sent a letter to Congress … warning that a CES would promote ‘false climate solutions’ such as natural gas, nuclear and biomass power plants, as well as efforts to keep polluting plants open by capturing their carbon. The dissenters instead called for a stricter renewable electricity standard limited to wind, solar and geothermal power, not only to accelerate the deadline for a zero-emissions grid from 2035 to 2030 but to avoid perpetuating the deep racial, social and ecological injustices of our current fossil-fueled energy system …
“The dissenting groups—including Friends of the Earth, the Center for Biological Diversity, 350.org, the NAACP and Food and Water Watch—say that no plan would be better than a flawed plan that values political viability over scientific necessity and could help prop up natural gas.”
It is of course possible that this effort is largely one of political tactics. Strong protests out on the extremes can make even a radical plan seem moderate by comparison. However, for the sake of gaining some clarity about achieving an energy transition that might be feasible, let us take this environmental position at its word. What does this protest letter say about green plans for transition, and what are they missing?