If President Biden wins a second term, his climate policies would take aim at steel and cement plants, factories and oil refineries — heavily polluting industries that have never before had to rein in their heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
New controls on industrial facilities, which his advisers have begun to map out and described in recent interviews, could combine with actions taken on power plants and vehicles during his first term to help meet the president’s goal of eliminating fossil fuel pollution by 2050, analysts said. Industrialized nations must hit that target if the world has any hope to avoid the most catastrophic impacts from climate change, according to scientists.
“If people look at what this administration has done on climate and say ‘This is enough,’ this country is not going to get to our goals,” said John Larsen, a partner at Rhodium Group, a nonpartisan energy research firm whose analyses are regularly consulted by the White House.
But talking about more regulations at the start of what promises to be a bruising election cycle is perilous, strategists said. In particular, the prospect of new mandates from Washington regarding steel and cement, the bedrock materials of American construction, could sour the swing-state union workers courted by Mr. Biden.
“If you are seen as imposing debilitating regulations on heavy industry that employs large numbers of people, you’re not only going to get a backlash from manufacturing, but labor as well,” said David Axelrod, the Democratic strategist who ran former President Barack Obama’s campaigns. “How to do that without looking like you are stabbing these industries in the back, or in the front for that matter, is a real political challenge.”
Still, the urgency of global warming requires action, Mr. Larsen said. “Most other problems in America aren’t going to be 10 times worse in 10 years if we don’t do something right now,” he said. “Climate’s not like that. If this year has shown us anything, with the extreme weather and fires, it’s that it won’t just stay at this level — it’s going to break all the records we’ve just broken.”
Axelrod can be annoying at this point, but he’s not wrong here. On the other hand, there’s no way to mitigate the worst of climate change without this. And of course if Republicans win, forget about it, might as well just start lighting coal on fire in our homes.