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Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

Joe Biden is offering hints about how he’d try to thread the political needle to move big climate and energy plans through Congress.

Why it matters: If the 2020 election opens a path to moving substantial legislation, it's likely to be a fraught and narrow one that could vanish entirely in the 2022 midterm elections.

Catch up fast: Biden yesterday unveiled plans to spend $2 trillion over four years on clean energy and climate-friendly infrastructure projects like mass transit.

The plan also calls for policies including a requirement that power companies provide 100% zero-emissions electricity by 2035.

  • His overall platform is a mix of executive moves and proposals that would require new legislation.

The big picture: Biden campaign officials, on a call with reporters Tuesday, said the plan would involve "some amount of stimulus spending."

  • And Biden is casting the plan as a pillar of the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • If Biden wins, big clean energy investments will likely be part of a recovery package — which means political pressure to speed up the Senate's slow legislative gears.
  • If this sounds familiar, it is. In 2009, the Obama administration and Capitol Hill Democrats wove clean energy measures into the stimulus package during the financial crisis, albeit on a smaller scale than what Biden's floating.

What they're saying: New York Magazine's Eric Levitz wrote about why linking climate and energy goals to a recovery package matters politically...

  • "In ordinary economic times, mobilizing congressional support for massive federal intervention in the economy can be difficult, even if such intervention is ecologically necessary," he writes.
  • "The silver lining of the present calamity is that it has rendered private investors incapable of achieving a socially acceptable level of unemployment, and has thus broadened support for Uncle Sam stepping in to pick up the slack," his item adds.

The intrigue: Separately, Biden this week slightly backed off his longstanding support for Senate filibuster rules.

  • "It's going to depend on how obstreperous [Republicans] become," he told a group of reporters, per several reports like this Politico piece.
  • That's important because it suggests a potential path for moving the policy — as opposed to spending — parts of his platform that require Capitol Hill approval, such as a "clean energy standard."
  • Of course, if Democrats take the Senate, they can also try to move some big measures through the budget reconciliation process, which provides limited chances to make policy changes without a super-majority.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 28, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: How the pandemic has changed the energy industry

On Wednesday, October 29 Axios' Amy Harder hosted a conversation on the pandemic's effects on the environment, the energy industry, and how these shifts will have a lasting impact on the private sector's approach to renewable energy. The conversation featured Sunrun co-founder and CEO Lynn Jurich and New York's deputy secretary for energy and environment Ali Zaidi.

Lynn Jurich discussed the shift to renewable energy and the technology making renewable energy cheaper than fossil fuels.

  • On the next biggest global challenge in renewable energy: "How do you decarbonize this energy industry globally?...I view this very much as an opportunity and something where the U.S. should really be just moving faster on this. And that's why I look to the Biden program to help us."
  • On new technologies in the energy space: "We're just scratching the surface of the existing lithium-ion battery technology. If we combine that technology with renewable energy, we can go a long way to decarbonizing our energy system."

Ali Zaidi unpacked Gov. Cuomo's statewide plans around renewable energy, from centering issues of race and equity, as well as New York state's initiative to get to 70% renewable electricity by 2030.

  • On the goals of New York's energy policy plans: "It's an opportunity to advance jobs. It's an opportunity to advance justice. And it's an opportunity to advance our climate ambitions. That's the playbook Gov. Cuomo has laid out."
  • How energy is an equity issue: "What we are seeing increasingly is the intersecting and interconnected challenges of race, of equity and of the environment. And what that reveals to us is a real opportunity. Coming out of this pandemic to build back better."

Axios Chief Revenue Officer Fabricio Drumond hosted a View from the Top segment with Cognite co-founder and CEO John Markus Lervik and discussed the role of technology in increasing usage of renewable energy.

  • "For renewables and renewable transformation, [it is] fully dependent on digital transformation. Technology is the single most important driver for more sustainable and environmentally friendly operations."

Thank you Cognite for sponsoring this event.

The final debate

Trump and Biden at the first debate. Morry Gash-Pool/Getty Image

Watch for President Trump to address Joe Biden as “the big guy” or “the chairman” at tonight's debate as a way of dramatizing the Hunter Biden emails. Hunter's former business partner Tony Bobulinski is expected to be a Trump debate guest.

The big picture: Trump's advisers universally view the first debate as a catastrophe — evidenced by a sharp plunge in Trump’s public and (more convincingly for them) private polling immediately following the debate.

SoCalGas agrees to $1.8 billion settlement for 2015 gas blowout

An evacuee with a Save Porter Ranch sign outside Southern California Gas Company's Aliso Canyon gate in Porter Ranch in January 2016 as the gas leak continued. Photos: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Southern California Gas Company and its parent company announced Monday they've agreed to pay up to $1.8 billion in settlement claims over the 2015 Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility blowout.

Why it matters: Some 100,000 tons of methane, ethane and toxic chemicals poured into the air for 112 days, forcing over 8,000 families to evacuate from their Los Angeles-area homes and sickening many with headaches, nausea and nosebleeds, per the L.A. Times.