From red to blue: Five consequences of a Biden administration for U.S. energy
- December 1, 2020: Vol. 7, Number 11

From red to blue: Five consequences of a Biden administration for U.S. energy

by Mike Consol

President-elect Joe Biden has promised U.S. voters a radically different energy policy compared with sitting President Donald Trump, one focused on boosting renewables to address the threat of climate change.

He will enter the White House with a goal of setting the United States on course for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and will recommit the country to the Paris climate agreement. But there is a good chance the Republicans will retain control of the Senate, limiting how much of the Biden agenda can actually be delivered.

With the federal government constrained, state policies will continue to be important, according to Ed Crooks, vice chairman for the Americas at Wood Mackenzie. The key influences shaping the U.S. energy industry are likely to be market forces, just as they were under Barack Obama and Donald Trump, he says, but the change of federal government will have some significant consequences, Crooks says, including some of the following:

A boost for offshore wind. The Trump administration has slowed the process of approving offshore wind and proposed to close off a section of the U.S. Atlantic coast from Florida to Virginia. A Biden administration will act faster to support states and companies seeking to develop offshore wind industries.

Restrictions on oil and gas development. There will not be a ban on fracking, but Biden has pledged to end sales of new leases for oil and gas development on public lands and waters. Onshore, the impact would be minimal. Offshore, the effects would be more significant, although they would take some time to become apparent. A ban on new leasing, if permanent, would mean that by 2035 U.S. offshore oil and gas production would be about 30 percent lower than if lease sales had continued.

New hurdles for oil and gas infrastructure projects. Decisions on federal permits for infrastructure projects will take into account their implications for greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, creating new hurdles for developers of oil and gas pipelines and export facilities.

Support for electric vehicles. Biden plans to impose tighter fuel economy standards, which will help sales of electric cars. By 2030 there could be 4 million EVs on U.S. roads as a result of those standards, almost 60 percent more than if the Trump administration’s rules had taken effect. However, the impact on fuel demand this decade will be minimal. Even 4 million EVs represent only about 1.5 percent of the total of 275 million vehicles expected on U.S. roads in 2030.

No quick relaxation of sanctions on Iran. Although Biden has been strongly critical of Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear agreement, and the new president has promised a change in approach, negotiations about a possible renewed deal are not likely to begin until June 2021 at the earliest, after Iran’s elections, and there is no guarantee the two countries will reach agreement.


Mike Consol ( is editor of Real Assets Adviser. Follow him on Twitter @mikeconsol to read his latest postings.



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