US energy: ‘the more ambitious Biden tries to be, the more likely he is to fail’

US energy: ‘the more ambitious Biden tries to be, the more likely he is to fail’

Elected on a promise of a $2tn green energy plan, the US president-elect’s ambitions could be curtailed by political reality

The Dunes Sagebrush Lizard did not vote in November’s presidential election, but it had a lot riding on the outcome. In the coming months, the US Fish and Wildlife Service will decide whether to list the lizard as endangered — a designation that would make it an offence even to disturb its habitat.

This matters a lot to the lizard. But it also matters to the drillers and frackers of southeastern New Mexico and western Texas, home both to the shinnery oak dunes in which the lizard lives but also to the shale rocks of the Permian, the world’s most prolific oilfield.

Environmental concerns are about to rise up the federal agenda, with the impact likely to be felt from the Permian to power plants, reptiles to renewable energy. After four years of a Donald Trump administration that sought to open protected areas to drillers, erase limits on pollution, and support fossil fuel production in the name of furthering “American energy dominance”, Joe Biden’s electoral triumph has brought the promise of abrupt change.

More than 81m Americans and a majority of electors backed a candidate who said he hoped to “transition from the oil industry” and put clean energy at the centre of a $2tn green plan to decarbonise American electricity in 15 years and create a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050.