NEW ORLEANS — President Joe Biden signed a series of executive orders to “super-charge” the country’s response to what he called the “existential threat” of climate change.
“Our plans are ambitions, but we are America,” Biden said. “We’re bold. We’re unwavering in the pursuit of jobs and innovations, science, and discovery. We can do this. We must do this, and we will do this.”
Biden ordered a freeze on new energy leases on public land and waters including the Gulf of Mexico.
The oil and gas industry is a $73 billion a year business in Louisiana. It supports the jobs of more than 250,000 people.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, called the Biden plan a terrible idea.
“President Biden has just put a target on these energy jobs and that is bad for the worker,” Cassidy said. “It’s bad for the environment, it’s bad for our country and it’s bad for the world.”
Eric Smith, Associate Director of Tulane’s Energy Institute says President Biden’s moratorium on new drilling could also deal a major blow to the many chemical plants and refineries in Louisiana.
They depend on a steady supply of cheap oil and natural gas as raw materials for the products they make.
“What we will see is higher costs for fuel and a lessening of enthusiasm for all the heavy capital investment that’s gone into the state in the last ten years,” Smith said. “I don’t think that (Biden’s) advisors understand the seriousness of the impact that they could have on the U.S economy, in particularly on the Louisiana economy.”
President Biden wants to eliminate pollution from fossil fuels by 2035.
Logan Burke from the Alliance for Affordable Energy in New Orleans supports the plan.
She says it recognizes the external costs of climate change and sea level rise.
“Which is worse, storms, hotter summers and saying we need to change what we’re doing in order to protect our homes and our way of life,” Burke said.
President Biden’s orders also promote the growth of solar and wind energy.
He promises to create new jobs in renewable fuels, in communities now in danger of losing positions as a result of his environmental policies.
“The kinds of energy that we have been advocating for that this new administration is putting forward is actually less expensive for a lot of different reasons,” Burke said. “The cost of wind and solar have plummeted exponentially over the last number of years.”
Professor Smith maintains renewable energy is not as efficient or as cheap as people would have you believe. He also says the industry doesn’t require as many jobs.
“There actually relatively few operating jobs with a wind farm for example or a solar farm,” Smith said. “You can go out to east New Orleans to the Entergy site, and you’ll see one or two guys walking around. It’s not 500.”
Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, not only objected to the executive orders, he's already introduced a bill to reverse President Biden’s action.
"I am very upset, and I want to ask all of my colleagues, my Democratic colleagues, in Louisiana and the legislature and local government, state government to please call President Biden,” Kennedy said. “Call the White House and let them understand how much this is going to hurt Louisiana families.”
Kennedy added, this is going to cause people to leave our state.