Even climate guru Al Gore was impressed with how President Biden wasted no time Wednesday in delivering sweeping executive orders on global warming.
On his first day in office, Mr. Biden signed orders to rejoin the Paris climate agreement; revoke the cross-border Keystone XL pipeline permit; direct agencies to consider tightening greenhouse gas emissions standards on vehicles and appliances; and reestablish the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases, which former President Trump disbanded in 2017.
There was more. Mr. Biden also placed a “temporary moratorium on all oil and natural gas leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” blocking a 2017 law signed by Mr. Trump that allows development on about 8% of the 19.3-million-acre wilderness in Alaska.
Mr. Gore offered his kudos. “Thanks to American voters, we are back in the #ParisAgreement,” he tweeted. “America is once again poised to lead the world on climate action, working with our allies to build a better future for us all. Time to get back to work!”
The moves sparked elation and relief on the left after four years of fighting Mr. Trump’s pro-business, climate-skeptical agenda. The influential Center for American Progress hailed Mr. Biden’s “ambitious day-one climate actions” as the start of a “new day.”
“On his first day in office, President Biden has joined state and local leaders acting to build a clean and healthy future,” said CAP founder John Podesta and senior vice president Christy Goldfuss in a statement. “He’s heard the voices of Americans who feel the impact of our climate crisis, and he recognizes that the United States must work as a partner on this global challenge. He’s listening to the scientists who say that, without immediate action, the scope of our challenges will only grow.”
Critics, meanwhile, argued that the orders threaten U.S. energy independence, economic prosperity and thousands of jobs while strengthening the hand of China.
“By rejoining the disastrous Paris climate accords and killing the Keystone XL pipeline, the Biden administration is sacrificing American jobs, incomes and future to the far-left climate agenda while giving China the advantage in the process,” said Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action for America.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “disappointed” with the decision to cancel the KXL permit, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that he would be the first foreign leader to receive a call from the president, likely on Friday.
Eight senators from Western states announced they would introduce legislation to authorize the continued construction of the $8 billion KXL pipeline, which would transport oil from Alberta, Canada, to U.S. terminals and refineries.
Construction on the pipeline was halted Wednesday in anticipation of the executive order.
“It’s only day one, and with the stroke of a pen, Biden has already taken steps to kill American energy projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline which is critical to energy-producing states like Montana,” said Sen. Steve Daines, Montana Republican.
He called pipelines “the safest and most environmentally friendly way to transport oil,” given that the alternatives are trucks and railroads.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Mr. Biden “appears to be making good on his promise to turn Alaska into a large national park” with his moratorium on ANWR drilling.
“President Biden’s decision to begin his administration by signing several executive orders aimed directly at agriculture and energy-producing states like North Dakota is the wrong way to bring the unity he spoke of during his inauguration,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong, North Dakota Republican.
Even without the Paris agreement, U.S. emissions reductions continued to lead the world under the Trump administration, falling by 2.8% in 2019, as cleaner natural gas replaces coal in electricity generation.
Meanwhile, China, the world’s biggest emitter, is building coal-fired power plants at home and abroad, and under the accord is allowed to increase emissions until 2030. The non-binding agreement seeks to limit the rise in global temperatures by lowering emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide.
“Over the last several years, the U.S. has already reduced emissions more than any other country in the Paris agreement, due in large part to the increased use of natural gas and our industry’s commitment to innovation and technology,” said the American Exploration and Production Council.
Environmental groups applauding Mr. Biden’s directives also had a message for the Democrat: Don’t stop there.
“Re-joining the Paris agreement is a vital first step for the US to show global climate leadership, but we need to go beyond that. Now is our time to go big,” said May Boeve, 350.org executive director. “After four years wasted, we must redouble our efforts and focus on removing the pillars of support of the fossil fuel economy, in the U.S. and globally, to build a healthy, safe, abundant and just future.”
Jon Goldin-Dubois, Western Resources Advocates president, said that “we must see continued and expanded state action to realize significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and we need additional and more aggressive federal measures, beyond rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, to put our nation on track to meet the reductions called for by the science.”
The American Petroleum Institute had a mixed message, saying it supported “the ambitions of the Paris Agreement,” but disagreed with the decision to pull the Keystone XL permit, calling it “a slap in the face to the thousands of union workers who are already a part of this safe and sustainable project.”
“This misguided move will hamper America’s economic recovery, undermine North American energy security and strain relations with one of America’s greatest allies,” said API President and CEO Mike Sommers.