ON Nov 3, Americans will cast their ballots to select their next president. Since July, the Democrat candidate Joe Biden has had a lead over United States President Donald Trump in the national polls by eight to 11 points. According to the US Election Project, up to Oct 23, 53.5 million Americans had voted either through mail or in person.
Americans do not directly vote for their president; rather, they vote through each state’s electors in an electoral college system. Therefore, the result of the election may hinge on a handful of swing states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, South Carolina and Arizona.
If Trump wins, we can expect a continuation of his administration’s policies of the last four years albeit with some adjustments. If Biden wins, expect the focus to be on domestic issues — containing Covid-19, restarting the economy and healing societal rifts.
The US is likely to re-engage multilateralism as indicated by Biden’s intent to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and restart talks with Iran. The centrepiece of Biden’s economic plan is the US$2 trillion investment on a transformative “green economy” to escalate the use of clean energy in the transportation, electricity and building sectors.
Biden’s plan aims at boosting the economy without compromising on the environment. To put it in context, the size of the US economy in terms of GDP was US$21.42 trillion last year. US defence spending, the largest pie of the federal budget, was at US$732 billion in the same year. The green economy budget will come in at US$500 billion per year if distributed equally.
A breakdown of the green economy includes major investments in retrofitting four million buildings to be energy efficient; installing 500,000 charging stations; building 1.5 million energy efficient homes and converting and purchasing government vehicles to electric ones.
The plan is expected to create one million jobs from factory workers to engineers and benefit domestic businesses. The government will disburse grants and funding for research and development in green technology, low cost financing and cash rebates for conversion to clean energy.
Ultimately, the US will enjoy better air and water quality, lower energy bills, and an increase in job opportunities and wages as a leading exporter of green technology-related goods and services.
However, the plan is not without criticism or scepticism. For one, the pro-environment left feels that it did not go far enough towards creating a sustainable future; there are doubts about funding given the current Covid-19 economy and resistance from oil-producing states.
If implemented, the Biden green economy could be far-reaching. Most obviously affected will be oil and gas companies as well as countries heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Failure to adapt to change will be detrimental to their future wellbeing.
There could be geopolitical implications as well, particularly in the Middle East. Will the region be as prominent if they were to lose their place as a major provider of energy?
On the plus side, the green economy will create mass demand, hence the production of solar panels, wind turbines and batteries. The economies of scale created will reduce costs differential in production between fossil fuels and renewable energy. An increase in invention and innovation in related sectors can also be expected.
The biggest draw of a green economy is its potential as a game changer. The US has managed to keep abreast as a world economic leader through its ability to progress from one stage of economic development to the next. Whether or not Biden wins the election could be immaterial in the evolution of the green economy.
With the recent unpredictable climate and devastating pandemic, it is not hard to imagine the rest of the world embarking on a cleaner, sustainable path. The US, regardless of who is at the helm, could do well by following suit or risk being left behind.
This article was first appeared in New Straits Times on 27 October 2020.