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Biden Is Pushing For A Major Expansion Of Offshore Wind Energy


Today, the White House announced an ambitious plan to expand the nation's use of offshore wind power. It's part of President Biden's campaign promise to create new jobs and tackle climate change by investing in green infrastructure. NPR's Jeff Brady joins us now.

And, Jeff, the U.S. doesn't produce much offshore wind energy at all right now. So what's the administration's plan?

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Yeah, this is something that Europe is far ahead on compared to the U.S., though several states do have their own plans. Basically, the administration is trying to make up for lost time, so it's setting a big goal - 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030. That's enough electricity to power more than 10 million American homes for a year, according to the White House. Now, currently, there's only one offshore project operating off Massachusetts and Rhode Island. But they have to ramp up quickly to meet Biden's climate goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by 2035. And fast change like that can make people uneasy, especially in the fossil fuel industry. That's one reason White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy focused her comments on opportunities.


GINA MCCARTHY: This is all about creating great jobs in the ocean and in our port cities and in our heartland, you know, all across America to revitalize communities, in particular those that have been left behind.

BRADY: The administration says this expansion will support 32,000 construction and support jobs through 2030. McCarthy says some of those heartland jobs include manufacturing turbines, making steel and building the special boats that'll be needed.

SHAPIRO: Now, the administration has this big goal for building a lot more wind turbines, but how are they actually going to make that happen?

BRADY: The Interior Department is establishing a new wind energy area in the New York Bight, and that's the relatively shallow water between Long Island and the New Jersey coast. The agency is starting an environmental review process for the proposed ocean wind project off New Jersey. Then they're looking at locations on both coasts and in the Gulf of Mexico. And then there's the money. The administration plans to dedicate $3 billion in loans to the offshore wind industry through the Energy Department. There's $230 million from the Transportation Department for port upgrades and millions more for research and development.

SHAPIRO: This is such a big shift with a pretty short time frame. What are the biggest challenges?

BRADY: Environmental concerns are a big one. During the Trump administration, the Vineyard Wind project off Massachusetts - that once stalled because the fishing industry worried about how its business would be affected. The Biden administration is pushing that project forward now. And, you know, you do still have some shore towns worrying tourists might not like it if they can see these wind turbines from the beaches. Usually, developers say you can't. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo says agencies are trying to work more closely with each other to get these wind developments through environmental reviews. And it sounded like she took a little dig at the Trump administration.

GINA RAIMONDO: We're the gang that's going to shoot straight and on the same page, coordinating what we do and enabling growth in this industry.

BRADY: The wind industry and climate change groups are very happy about this announcement, so are some oil companies that have their own offshore wind projects. And there are oil service companies that will get business supplying ships and ferrying construction workers out on helicopters.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Jeff Brady.

Thanks a lot.

BRADY: Thank you, Ari.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOITIA DEITZ'S "TEMPLES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.