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Elon Musk’s expensive and dangerous space delusion

The Musk delusion  daryan energy blog 2 May 21, I’ve critiqued a number of Musk’s projects before, but I think we need to be a bit more direct. Quite simply is Musk entirely the full shilling? Is he the real life Tony Stark the fan boys seem to think, or a modern day Howard Hughes? Because if its the latter his bizarre behaviour will only get worse and worse until things come to a head. Which could have rather serious consequences………….

his proposed use of Starship, as a point to point transport mechanism amounts to saying that the rich should be allowed to burn vast amounts of fuel, just so they can save a few hours in transit. Well, if Starship was a vaguely sane suggestion that is. In truth, it would take almost as long to get its passengers point to point as a conventional airliner (once you factor in the time taken to get passengers out to the launch pad, suit them up, put on their astronaut diapers (yes, how do you think astronauts meet the calls of nature in a space suit), strap everyone in, fuel the rocket, etc.). And that’s assuming you’d be given permission to fly, given the many likely health and safety, environmental and noise related concerns.

In fact let’s talk about starship. It is a terrible design. I’m not going to waste time going over the many issues, in part because I’ve done so already, but also there are others who have done a far better job. But in summary, even if it worked, its a one trick pony….and that trick is the potential for down cargo (which its far from proving it can do) not going to Mars.

Even so, Musk has managed to blow up a dozen or so test prototypes with not a lot to show for it. He’s now in a dispute with the FAA and environmental groups over the mess he’s making, adding to the thousand or so active legal cases he’s currently fighting, largely because of his inability to keep his big mouth shut and not say dumb things online.

Which raises the question, what is the point of starship? ………

Caricature above by courtesy of Ryadav –


NASA just awarded SpaceX the contract to build the Lunar lander? Ya and if one was cynical it would be that the Biden administration, whose never really committed to space flight, knows they don’t have the funds or the political capital to blow hundreds of billions repeating Apollo. But they equally don’t want to be identified as the assassins who killed off manned lunar/Mars missions. They need a fall guy…which is where Musk comes in!

SpaceX happens to have facilities in key states that will matter in 2024 (most notably Texas, which might be a swing state by then). So, given that Congress sees NASA as a jobs programme, they sling a few billion his way. If he succeeds, well then great. If he crashes and burns, well aw shucks we tried our best, I mean we even got Elon Musk to design the hardware, how can we be to blame.

And this is what worries me about Musk and his fans. Sooner or later his luck is going to run out. Environments such as space, or public transport do not suffer fools. Likely we’ll end up with some tragic accident, or a massive overspend on a government project and he gets to spend the rest of his life going form congressional committee to committee and court house to court house…….

May 12, 2021 Posted by | election USA 2020, space travel | Leave a comment

Donald Trump and the ”nuclear football” on January 20

Independent 16th Jan 2021, Donald Trump will get to take the nuclear football with him when he leaves Washington DC on his final day in office – but the codes will be deactivated at the stroke of noon.

Mr Trump will be accompanied by the 45-pound briefcase when he flies to Florida on the morning of Joe Biden’s inauguration, as he is reportedly expected to do. But the nuclear codes that accompany it will stop working as soon as Mr Biden is sworn in as his successor 1,000 miles away on Wednesday.

January 18, 2021 Posted by | election USA 2020, politics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

What happens to the nuclear bomb codes, if Trump avoids the inauguration of Biden?

Here’s what happens to the ‘nuclear football’ if Trump skips Biden’s inauguration, Business Insider, RYAN PICKRELL, DEC 16, 2020, 

  • American presidents are accompanied by a military aide carrying a briefcase with the tools necessary for nuclear war.
  • During presidential inaugurations, nuclear command authority and the “nuclear football,” as the briefcase is called, are transferred to the new president.
  • But President Donald Trump says he will not participate in President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, which could complicate the transfer.
  • The Pentagon told Insider there was a plan for the transfer in that scenario but declined to provide details. Nuclear-weapons experts and a former military aide who carried the briefcase were able to offer some insight though.
An important yet discreet part of the inauguration of a new president is the transfer of command and control authority over the US nuclear arsenal, but President Donald Trump does not plan to attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, which could complicate matters.

Trump said Friday that he “will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.” He did not say where he will be instead.

So what happens to the “nuclear football” that accompanies the president if Trump doesn’t show? How does it get to Biden?

“That’s a good question,” Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists, told Insider. “It is an unprecedented situation.” In the nuclear age, no president has skipped their successor’s inauguration.

The president has the sole authority to conduct a nuclear strike, and wherever he goes, he is accompanied by a military aide carrying a briefcase called the “president’s emergency satchel,” more commonly known as the nuclear football………….

The transfer of the nuclear football is supposed to occur at noon as the new president is sworn in. The military aide who has been carrying the briefcase hands it off to the newly designated military aide, former Vice President Dick Cheney said in a past Discovery documentary. This traditionally happens off to the side and is not a part of the show.

If Trump is not at the inauguration, then the transfer process will be different. Still, the transfer will need to be instantaneous, said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Buzz Patterson, who carried the football for former President Bill Clinton.

“That’s the way it has to be,” he told Insider. “For the process to work, you have to have this clear handing off of responsibilities.” He said that how that happens would be up to the Pentagon, which serves the office of the commander in chief, not the man.
A Pentagon spokesperson told Insider the Department of Defence had a plan for the transfer on Inauguration Day but declined to provide any further details. …………

January 9, 2021 Posted by | election USA 2020, politics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA Congress Speaker Nancy Pelosi asks military to stop Donald Trump accessing nuclear codes

January 9, 2021 Posted by | election USA 2020, politics | Leave a comment

Biden Plans Renewed Nuclear Talks With Russia While Punishing Kremlin

Biden Plans Renewed Nuclear Talks With Russia While Punishing Kremlin, Adviser Says.   The president-elect also plans to pursue a “follow-on negotiation” with Iran over its missile capabilities if Tehran re-enters compliance with the nuclear deal.   

NYT, By David E. Sanger, Jan. 3, 2021 

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s incoming national security adviser said on Sunday that the new administration would move quickly to renew the last remaining major nuclear arms treaty with Russia, even while seeking to make President Vladimir V. Putin pay for what appeared to be the largest-ever hacking of United States government networks.

In an interview on “GPS” on CNN, Jake Sullivan, who at 44 will become the youngest national security adviser in more than a half century, also said that as soon as Iran re-entered compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal — which he helped negotiate under President Barack Obama — there would be a “follow-on negotiation” over its missile capabilities.

“In that broader negotiation, we can ultimately secure limits on Iran’s ballistic missile technology,” Mr. Sullivan said, “and that is what we intend to try to pursue through diplomacy.”

He did not mention that missiles were not covered in the previous accord because the Iranians refused to commit to any limitations on their development or testing. To bridge the impasse, the United Nations passed a weakly worded resolution that called on Tehran to show restraint; the Iranians say it is not binding, and they have ignored it.

Taken together, Mr. Sullivan’s two statements indicated how quickly the new administration would be immersed in two complex arms control issues, even as Mr. Biden seeks to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and the economic shocks it has caused. But the first issue to arise, renewing the New Start, will be made more complex because of Mr. Biden’s vow to assure that Moscow pays for the hacking of more than 250 American government and private networks, an intrusion that now appears far more extensive than first thought.

Mr. Biden has said that after the government formally determines who was responsible for the attack, “we will respond, and probably respond in kind.” But that means moving to punish Russia while keeping New Start — a remnant of the era when nuclear rather than cyber was the dominant issue between the two countries — from lapsing and setting off a new arms race. ………

January 7, 2021 Posted by | election USA 2020, politics international | Leave a comment

President-elect Joe Biden – in the grip of the “new nuclear” industry

Biden, once a critic, may boost nuclear power, Peter Behr, E&E News reporter , December 3, 2020 When mismanagement of a nuclear plant on the Lower Delaware River forced an emergency shutdown in 1994, harsh criticism came from a junior U.S. senator whose state lay opposite the Salem, N.J., plant 3 miles away.”For more than a decade, I have sought expanded oversight, enforcement and sanctions to make the Salem facility operate according to the law,” then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) said, accusing the operator and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of turning a blind eye to serious, repeated safety issues, including dangerously degraded reactor equipment.

Fast-forward a quarter-century, and now it is President-elect Biden who has included proposals for a new generation of nuclear reactors in his clean energy platform, parting ways with “no-nuke” progressives further to his left.

It isn’t clear how hard Biden will fight in the next few years to support the possible development of a fleet of still-experimental, billion-dollar reactors that wouldn’t come online until at least the 2030s.

A second issue centers on the 95 operating U.S. reactors, some of which may close prematurely because they are losing money, plant owners warn. Getting public support to hold on to the plants’ zero-carbon electricity has been an issue for state governors, but not the White House, so far.

In the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden focused his support for nuclear power on new designs……

“Joe Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate who’s ever actively talked about advanced nuclear power” as part of the campaign platform, said Jeff Navin, acting chief of staff at the Department of Energy in President Obama’s first term. Navin heads governmental affairs and public policy for TerraPower LLC in Bellevue, Wash., which won an $80 million DOE contract in October to further its novel reactor design.

Navin said he does not think that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ reservations about nuclear power as a senator will turn into opposition as Biden’s No. 2. Harris, for example, had opposed the 2018 Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act — co-sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), her 2019 opponent in the Democratic presidential primary — citing reactor safety and nuclear waste disposal concerns………

“Things we’ve seen out of the Biden campaign and the transition team are very promising for a continuation and even acceleration of programs and policies that will support nuclear energy,” said John Kotek, policy development vice president for the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s chief lobbying organization. Kotek was assistant DOE secretary for nuclear energy in the Obama administration. ………

But Biden will hear from environmental policy advocates and nuclear power opponents protesting that the NRC has gone too far to streamline and reduce costs of safety oversight on old reactors as well as safety reviews of new reactor designs.

“The Biden administration will have to turn first to regulatory issues and repair the damage that’s been done at the NRC over the past four years” under President Trump, said Matthew McKinzie, director of the nuclear, climate and clean energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

There are still too many critical questions about new reactor designs to justify writing them into clean energy plans, McKinzie said. “We are very far from an understanding of whether they could ever be commercialized,” he said……..

Transition choices

To head his transition team on energy, Biden chose one of the top technology experts in the Obama administration, Arun Majumdar, founding director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which funds experimental energy technologies. Majumdar now directs a Stanford University energy institute (Energywire, Nov. 19).

Others on the Biden-Harris transition team bring specific expertise on nuclear issues, including Rachel Slaybaugh, a nuclear engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior technical adviser at ARPA-E…….

December 5, 2020 Posted by | election USA 2020 | Leave a comment

Reject Michele Flournoy as U.S. Defense Secretary – too close to military-industrial-complex

December 5, 2020 Posted by | election USA 2020, politics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Analysis: why Michèle Flournoy should not be U.S. Secretary of Defense

December 4, 2020 Posted by | election USA 2020, politics, weapons and war | 2 Comments

Biden’s team includes top posts linked to corporations and military contractors

Biden Aides’ Ties to Consulting and Investment Firms Pose Ethics Test
Some of the president-elect’s choices for top posts have done work for undisclosed corporate clients and aided a fund that invests in government contractors.
NYT,  By Eric Lipton and Kenneth P. Vogel,  Dec. 1, 2020

WASHINGTON — One firm helps companies navigate global risks and the political and procedural ins and outs of Washington. The other is an investment fund with a particular interest in military contractors.

But the consulting firm, WestExec Advisors, and the investment fund, Pine Island Capital Partners, call themselves strategic partners and have featured an overlapping roster of politically connected officials — including some of the most prominent names on President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s team and others under consideration for high-ranking posts.

Now the Biden team’s links to these entities are presenting the incoming administration with its first test of transparency and ethics.

The two firms are examples of how former officials leverage their expertise, connections and access on behalf of corporations and other interests, without in some cases disclosing details about their work, including the names of the clients or what they are paid.

And when those officials cycle back into government positions, as Democrats affiliated with WestExec and Pine Island are now, they bring with them questions about whether they might favor or give special access to the companies they had worked with in the private sector. Those questions do not go away, ethics experts say, just because the officials cut their ties to their firms and clients, as the Biden transition team says its nominees will do.

WestExec’s founders include Antony J. Blinken, Mr. Biden’s choice to be his secretary of state, and Michèle A. Flournoy, one of the leading candidates to be his defense secretary. Among others to come out of WestExec are Avril Haines, Mr. Biden’s pick to be director of national intelligence; Christina Killingsworth, who is helping the president-elect organize his White House budget office; Ely Ratner, who is helping organize the Biden transition at the Pentagon; and Jennifer Psaki, an adviser on Mr. Biden’s transition team.

WestExec did not respond when asked for a list of its clients. But according to people familiar with the arrangement, they include Shield AI, a San Diego-based company that makes surveillance drones and signed a contract worth as much as $7.2 million with the Air Force this year to deliver artificial intelligence tools to help drones operate in combat missions.

At the same time, Mr. Blinken and Ms. Flournoy have served as advisers to Pine Island Capital, which this month raised $218 million for a new fund to finance investments in military and aerospace companies, among other targets.

The team recruited by Pine Island Capital Partners — which is led by John Thain, the chief executive of Merrill Lynch at the time of its collapse in 2008 during the recession and sale to Bank of America — was chosen based on its members’ “access, network and expertise” to help the company “take advantage of the current and future opportunities present in the aerospace, defense and government services industries,” including artificial intelligence, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing in September describing the new fund, Pine Island Acquisition Corporation.

Pine Island Capital has been on something of a buying spree this year, purchasing the weapons system parts manufacturer Precinmac and a company until recently known as Meggitt Training Systems and now known as InVeris, which sells computer-simulated weapons training systems to the Pentagon and law enforcement agencies.

Another person listed as a member of the Pine Island team is Lloyd J. Austin III, a retired Army general who is also under consideration for defense secretary, according to a person familiar with the selection process……..

Mr. Biden’s team has faced pressure from the left and government watchdogs to outline steps to minimize the sort of corporate influence and conflicts of interest that marked President Trump’s tenure from the start.

These groups worry not only that Mr. Biden’s aides could shape government policies in ways that could benefit companies that paid their firms, but also that the firms could become magnets for access seekers in the Biden administration………..

December 4, 2020 Posted by | election USA 2020, politics | Leave a comment

Trump still has the awesome power to launch America’s nuclear arsenal

By the Way, Donald Trump Could Still Launch Nuclear Weapons at Any Time The president’s responsibility for the US nuclear arsenal is a Cold War anachronism. The Trump era shows why it needs reform,   Wired, .GARRETT M. GRAFF, SECURITY, 11.17.2020 
THE NATION IS entering a particularly dangerous period of Donald Trump’s presidency. Still refusing to concede his election loss and angrily tweeting at all hours of the night, Trump faces the dwindling days of his administration, with all the authorities of the office intact and nothing left to lose. Among the authorities he’ll retain until his final minutes in office? The awesome and awful power to launch the United States’ nuclear arsenal on command.

Donald Trump’s “fire and fury” presidency has exposed all too clearly the intellectual fallacy at the heart of the nation’s nuclear plans: that the commander-in-chief will always be the most sober, rational, and conservative person in the room.

Many people assume, wrongly, that some other official has to agree with a presidential order to launch nuclear weapons; surely the White House chief of staff, the secretary of defense, the vice president, or maybe the general in charge of the nation’s nuclear forces has to concur with a presidential launch order, right? Nope. The president can choose to consult with those officials, or whoever else he may like, but from the dawn of the atomic age in the 1940s and 1950s, there has been no procedure to require any such second, concurring opinion in order to authorize a nuclear strike.

The nation’s hair-trigger alert system is an anachronism of the early days of the Cold War, when the limited size of the US arsenal and its comparatively primitive technology meant that if the weapons weren’t quickly used, they might be destroyed by an incoming attack—and with them, the country’s nuclear deterrent.

Advancing technologies and expanding arsenals have negated that fear; today’s nuclear submarines ensure a so-called “survivable deterrent” such that even under the most extreme surprise attack scenarios, the US could still destroy dozens of foreign targets and kill tens of millions of people.

Even as the underlying technology and need changed, the US has never revisited its launch strategy. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. There’s simply no need for the nation’s weapons to be placed on routine high-alert and left in the hands of a single individual. We shouldn’t have to worry whether presidential whims endanger our world and human civilization.

This isn’t the first wake-up call for the US. In the final days of Richard Nixon’s presidency, as Watergate consumed his administration from within, his top aides worried what he might do. Nixon was despondent and drinking heavily. Those around him raised fears about his mental state; during one meeting with members of Congress he’d reportedly emphasized the world-ending powers at his fingertips …………

The impending end of Donald Trump’s presidency and a new Biden administration provides an important opportunity to reform the nation’s launch authorities. The country should insist upon a new command-and-control system that ensures the same checks and balances that we insist upon elsewhere in the nuclear system, as well as the same checks and balances we insist on other aspects of government power. Such a move would dramatically improve the safety of the world.

Policymakers have sketched out some ideas for what a new system might look like in recent years………..

November 19, 2020 Posted by | election USA 2020, politics, weapons and war | 6 Comments

For Joe Biden – an early trial problem – the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

The New Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Will Be an Early Trial for Biden, World Politics Review, Miles A. Pomper Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020,      With support from nearly half the world’s nations, a new United Nations treaty banning the possession and use of nuclear weapons will take effect early next year. The U.N. confirmed last month that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, or TPNW, had been ratified by the required 50 countries. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called it “a tribute to the survivors of nuclear explosions and tests, many of whom advocated for this treaty.”

Many non-nuclear-armed states, as well as pro-disarmament activists and organizations like the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, have celebrated the agreement, which they see as a milestone in global efforts to prevent nuclear war. However, it has drawn strong opposition from nuclear-armed states, especially the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and the United States. The Trump administration has called on the treaty’s 84 signatories to back out of it. Its entry into force on Jan. 22, 2021, will pose a thorny diplomatic challenge for the incoming Biden administration………..

In the case of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions, the major possessors of these arsenals, such as the United States and Russia, helped draft and build support for the pacts. However, the TPNW was drawn up by non-nuclear-armed states over the objections of nuclear powers. The initiative reflected the frustration of non-nuclear-weapons states with what they contended was the failure of their nuclear-armed counterparts to uphold their end of the “grand bargain” at the heart of the NPT. That bargain calls on the non-nuclear-weapon states to permanently renounce nuclear arms in exchange for access to peaceful nuclear technology and a commitment by nuclear powers to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures” toward nuclear disarmament. ………

November 19, 2020 Posted by | election USA 2020, politics international | Leave a comment

Could a mad, unhinged US president, push the nuclear button?

Could a mad, unhinged US president, push the nuclear button?  From JFK and the Cuban crisis, to Nixon and Watergate, to now: the sum of all fears, is still carried in a suitcase, By DAVE MAKICHUK, NOVEMBER 19, 2020  “I had no idea we had so many weapons … what do we need them for?”

— A stunned President Bush, after his first briefing on US nuclear forces

It is the elephant in the room.

And it is a very big elephant, and, a very big room.

We are living in a very surreal time, that much we know. Officials would even say, challenging — I would even say, it’s a bit worse than that.

We have a US president who still believes he won the election, despite the fact he clearly lost.

He imagines bizarre conspiracy theories, things that one can’t even comprehend, as proof that the 2020 election was


Yet, there isn’t one iota of evidence to back up President Trump’s claims.

He is, without question, angry, in denial and — most importantly — vengeful to those who served him, whom he thinks

let him down.

All in all, it paints a picture of a man, who only cares about himself …. not the will of the people, not the country, and

not the office of the White House.A man with his finger on the nuclear trigger.

The exact opposite, in fact, of one President John F. Kennedy, who, after a meeting with the Joint Chiefs during the

Cuban missile crisis, dominated by gung-ho Air Force General Curtis LeMay, who destroyed Tokyo in a deliberate
firebombing — men, women, children, anything that walked — thought they’d all lost their minds.  ………

November 19, 2020 Posted by | election USA 2020, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

A win for decency, rationality, co-operation , and science

Joe Biden, Kamala Harris,  and the Democrats have won the American election.

For four years, the world has put up with a lying, narcissistic,  sociopath as American President. Trump has done such damage to civil systems of health and environment, to democratic institutions, and to international relations. He has epitomised the bullying style of leadership that has become so popular and so dangerous in this 21st century world.

Jo Biden, in the way that he ran his campaign, and in his winning speech, demonstrates a completely opposite style –  one of reasonableness, courtesy, and respect for science and democratic agencies.

A key factor today is the appalling state of coronavirus cases, and coronavirus deaths in the USA.  That is a no. 1 challenge to the American administration. Now, they will have a leader who understands the seriousness of the pandemic, and cares.

The Democratic leadership understands the climate crisis, and even if the Senate should be dominated by Republicans, Biden can still rejoin the USA to the Paris Climate Accord. Much action against global heating can be done by executive action, bypassing the Senate,

On the nuclear issue, Biden will almost certainly support international arms control agreements, but not the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  Unfortunately, the Democratic Party now, as it did under Obama, still basks in the arms  of the ”peaceful”nuclear lobby, and the nuclear weapons making industry.

November 8, 2020 Posted by | Christina's notes, election USA 2020, politics | 2 Comments

U.S. Senate election results – a disappointment for climate action, but with a couple of bright spots

Also this week, the United States exits the Paris climate agreement,
NYT,  By Henry Fountain and Lisa Friedman, Nov. 4, 2020,  The United States presidential race is still up in the air, and the battle for control of the Senate appears far from over. But one thing is clear the day after Election Day 2020: The “green wave” that environmentalists had hoped for failed to materialize.

There were bright spots for the environment. In the Senate, two Democrats, John Hickenlooper in Colorado and Mark Kelly in Arizona, have defeated incumbent Republicans who have received poor marks from environmental and conservation groups for their voting records.

Mr. Kelly was endorsed by Climate Hawks Vote, a progressive group that promotes candidates who promise to take action on climate change. Mr. Hickenlooper was not. While he declared during the campaign that action on climate change was urgently needed, his past ties to the oil and gas industry in Colorado made some groups wary.  ……..

Mr. Hickenlooper could turn out to be the greenest of green lawmakers, but if Democrats don’t win control of the Senate it might make little difference. While the House looks certain to remain in Democratic hands, in the Senate the party needs more victories: Two, if Joseph R. Biden Jr. wins the presidency, which would allow Kamala Harris to break tie votes; or three, if President Trump is re-elected. Even two more Democratic victories seemed less likely on Wednesday than they did before the vote count began.

Climate and the environment were front and center in several state and local elections, and the outcomes appear certain in a few of those………


November 7, 2020 Posted by | climate change, election USA 2020 | Leave a comment

Australian govt will feel the heat when a Biden administration rejoins the Paris climate agreement

Biden says the US will rejoin the Paris climate agreement in 77 days. Then Australia will really feel the heatThe Conversation Christian Downie, Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow, Australian National University, November 6, 2020   When the US formally left


the Paris climate agreement, Joe Biden tweeted that “in exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it”.

The US announced its intention to withdraw from the agreement back in 2017. But the agreement’s complex rules meant formal notification could only be sent to the United Nations last year, followed by a 12-month notice period — hence the long wait.

While diplomacy via Twitter looks here to stay, global climate politics is about to be upended — and the impacts will be felt at home in Australia if Biden delivers on his plans.

Biden’s position on climate change

Under a Biden administration, the US will have the most progressive position on climate change in the nation’s history. Biden has already laid out a US$2 trillion clean energy and infrastructure plan, a commitment to rejoin the Paris agreement and a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050……..

Can he do it under a divided Congress?

While the votes are still being counted — as they should (can any Australian believe we actually need to say this?) — it seems likely the Democrats will control the presidency and the House, but not the Senate.

This means Biden will be able to re-join the Paris agreement, which does not require Senate ratification. But any attempt to legislate a carbon price will be blocked in the Senate, as it was when then-President Barack Obama introduced the Waxman-Markey bill in 2010.

In any case, there’s no reason to think a carbon price is a silver bullet, given the window to act on climate change is closing fast.

What’s needed are ambitious targets and mandates for the power sector, transport sector and manufacturing sector, backed up with billions in government investment.

Fortunately, this is precisely what Biden is promising to do. And he can do it without the Senate by using the executive powers of the US government to implement a raft of new regulatory measures.

Take the transport sector as an example. His plan aims to set “ambitious fuel economy standards” for cars, set a goal that all American-built buses be zero emissions by 2030, and use public money to build half a million electric vehicle charging stations. Most of these actions can be put in place through regulations that don’t require congressional approval.

And with Trump out of the White House, California will be free to achieve its target that all new cars be zero emissions by 2035, which the Trump administration had impeded.

If that sounds far-fetched, given Australia is the only OECD country that still doesn’t have fuel efficiency standards for cars, keep in mind China promised to do the same thing as California last week.

What does this mean for Australia?

For the last four years, the Trump administration has been a boon for successive Australian governments as they have torn up climate policies and failed to implement new ones.

Rather than witnessing our principal ally rebuke us on home soil, as Obama did at the University of Queensland in 2014, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has instead benefited from a cosy relationship with a US president who regularly dismisses decades of climate science, as he does medical science. And people are dying as a result.

For Australia, the ambitious climate policies of a Biden administration means in every international negotiation our diplomats turn up to, climate change will not only be top of the agenda, but we will likely face constant criticism.

Indeed, fireside chats in the White House will come with new expectations that Australia significantly increases its ambitions under the Paris agreement. Committing to a net zero emissions target will be just the first.

The real kicker, however, will be Biden’s trade agenda, which supports carbon tariffs on imports that produce considerable carbon pollution. The US is still Australia’s third-largest trading partner after China and Japan — who, by the way, have just announced net zero emissions targets themselves……

With Biden now in the White House, it’s not just global climate politics that will be turned on its head. Australia’s failure to implement a serious domestic climate and energy policy could have profound costs.

Costs, mind you, that are easily avoidable if Australia acts on climate change, and does so now.

November 7, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change, election USA 2020 | Leave a comment