Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Opinion | An overlooked issue in the presidential race? Planet Earth

CW / Shelby West

The list of political rifts between Joe Biden and Donald Trump is seemingly endless and includes explosive topics such as gun control and abortion. Among these issues, yet often overlooked, is environmental policy.

Both candidates have climate-centric plans to win the White House in November. As with other big-ticket issues, the differences in views are often stark. Each plan would greatly affect the country in very different ways. 

Trump is promising a resurgence of American oil and a decline in large-scale regulation. Biden’s proposed policies would expand upon environmental protections and clean energy.

In many ways, their differences show one consistent contrast between the two candidates: Biden’s policies reflect an interest in reshaping the economy for long-term benefit, while Trump’s promote immediate economic upturn through deregulation.

That much was obvious in both presidents’ first terms.

Just three months after taking office, Trump targeted Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was supposed to drop carbon dioxide emissions from electric power below 2005 levels by 2030. Trump revoked a national regulation on carbon pollution, resulting in lawsuits from 21 states that found the new plan ineffective.

The Trump administration also left the Paris Agreement in 2020. The agreement, signed by 175 countries, aimed to prevent global average temperatures from rising another 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial norm. As the United States faced COVID-19 and economic turmoil, Trump exited to rid the U.S. of regulatory burdens that he saw as ineffective and damaging to the economy.

On Biden’s first day in office, his administration rejoined the Paris Agreement.

The beginning of Biden’s presidency was also marked by the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline project, which sought to connect Alberta, Canada and Nebraska but was delayed for years amid opposition from environmentalists and Native American tribes. The pipeline would have carried 830,000 barrels of crude oil each day; its cancellation echoed Biden’s focus on transitioning to clean power and protecting land but also abruptly ended thousands of temporary jobs.

However, Biden’s most notable environmental action during his term was his successful push to enact the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. While the act has a broad focus on multiple fronts, including taxes and Medicare, it also invested over $300 billion in climate change programs; these actions seek to lower carbon emissions by around 40% by 2030.

In Alabama, the IRA aims to reduce asthma attacks by 100,000 by 2030, cover up to 100% of the cost of installing electric appliances for hundreds of thousands of low- and moderate-income households, and invest nearly $500 million toward clean power generation and jobs.

Looking toward holding on to or retaking the Oval Office, both candidates seek a continuance of their previous environmental policies.

Trump’s allies have articulated a desire to exit the Paris Agreement again and set up barriers to reentering it. The conservative view is that since China and other climate-endangering global competitors are less restricted by the agreement, the U.S. is self-sabotaging its economic position by remaining a part of it.

There are also plans to attack many of the clean-energy and electric-vehicle tax breaks established by the Inflation Reduction Act, thereby stripping it of some of its climate and financial impacts.

Trump also seeks to revoke Biden’s regulations on U.S. coal, oil and gas production, which Republicans also see as making the country more reliant on China.

Yet, contrary to Biden’s and Trump’s messaging, U.S. oil production was the highest on record in 2023 and outpaced the rest of the world.

As November approaches, Biden is continuing to use the White House to bolster his environmental bona fides. On April 4, his administration announced $20 billion in funding for climate and clean energy projects nationally.

In his State of the Union speech, Biden emphasized the “climate crisis” and pushed his new effort to create an American Climate Corps, which would train American young people to perform highly demanded clean-energy jobs nationwide.

The election is fast approaching, but the impacts of each president’s policies will be measured over decades if not centuries. Neither candidate will live long enough to see the true impact of his political agenda.

Young voters, who will actually see the consequences, need to help realize the future they want through the ballot this November.

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