Biden’s Climate Plan: Which States Will See the Biggest Impact

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Big Green Deal

The administration of President Joe Biden sees climate change as one of the most pressing issues facing the nation and world, and rejoined the Paris climate accord — which former president Donald Trump quit — just hours after Biden’s inauguration. On his campaign website, Biden detailed plans for a 100% clean energy economy that would reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050 by supporting such things as wind and solar power and electric cars, creating millions of union jobs in the process as part of the clean energy economy. But not all states are primed to benefit equally. A recently released study from LawnStarter ranks which states may be changed the most and least based on 30 key metrics related to Biden’s climate policy priorities; we’re looking at the 10 states at each end of the spectrum — starting with those that are likely to see the biggest changes in the coming years.

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Burlington, Vermont
Erika J Mitchell/shutterstock

Smallest Impact: Vermont

Ah Vermont, where to begin? Yes, it will be changed the least by Biden’s climate action plan, but likely because it’s doing quite well on its own already. It ties with a handful of other states for having the fewest air quality violations, and leads in lowest toxic chemicals release — and is No. 1 for electricity from renewable sources. It’s experienced among the fewest billion-dollar natural disasters in the past decade. Maybe every state will reach this threshold.

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Portland, Oregon

2nd Smallest Impact: Oregon

Oregon has among the lowest toxic chemical releases in the country (ranking 47 out of 51). The state has also adopted a climate action plan that provides a sector-by-sector approach to quitting dirty energy sources.


3rd Smallest Impact: Connecticut

Connecticut is another national leader Biden’s plan could look to for inspiration, with its Governor’s Council on Climate Change and climate-related goals including a 45% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The state’s plan for a low carbon future also calls for more clean transportation and zero carbon electricity generation. 


4th Smallest Impact: Washington

The Evergreen State is already a national leader in producing electricity from renewable sources, ranking third. It’s also plotted a climate action plan of its own speeding the transition away from fossil fuels to 100% clean electricity. 


5th Smallest Impact: Minnesota

Minnesota is off to a fairly good start on its own: In October, its House of Representatives introduced a climate action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to climate change, and build resilience. The plan outlines steps to a carbon-free future that includes significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.


6th Smallest Impact: California

California is regularly in the news now for devastating wildfires worsened by climate change. It also has the most unreliable power grid in the entire country, though it leads in non-hydroelectric renewable electricity generation and has worked to attain one of the lowest per capita energy consumption levels. Renewables supplied almost half of California's in-state electricity generation in 2018.

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7th Smallest Impact: Maine

Maine ties with Vermont for fewest billion-dollar natural disasters in the past decade, coming in at 49th. It also does better than most in generating electricity from renewable sources, coming in fourth. But it falls short on power grid reliability, third-worst in the country.

Related: 20 Things You Never Knew About New England

Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.
Sean Pavone/istockphoto

8th Smallest Impact: District of Columbia

The nation’s capital has the third-most reliable power grid in the country. It also ranks best for highest share of population using eco-friendly commuting.


9th Smallest Impact: Delaware

The president’s home state ranks second-best in the nation for power grid reliability. But there’s still work to be done here: It ranks worst in generation of electricity from renewable sources and is fourth-worst for toxic chemical release.

Boston, Massachusetts

10th Smallest Impact: Massachusetts

Massachusetts is tops in power grid reliability, comes in third-best for people using eco-friendly commuting, and ties for first for fewest air quality violations. While there’s not much for Biden’s plan to do here, he may want to use Massachusetts as an example for states playing catch-up.

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Sean Pavone/istockphoto

10th Biggest Impact: Ohio

Ohio also stands to benefit from making transportation more eco-friendly and ranks 50th for lowest share of electricity from renewable sources.

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Sean Pavone/istockphoto
kansas wheat field

8th Biggest Impact: Kansas

By its own account, Kansas is poised to benefit from a clean energy economy: It has an abundance of natural resources and ranks second in the nation for wind potential. It also has more than 200 sunny days a year, which bodes well for solar energy potential. Yet solar and wind are still largely untapped resources in the state.

Related: The Coldest and Warmest Cities in Every State

jackson, MI

7th Biggest Impact: Mississippi

With among the lowest share of electricity from renewable sources — ranking 48 out of 51 — Mississippi also suffers from having one of the least reliable power grids in the country (also ranking 48th). Eco-friendly commuting is another area where the state has room for improvement, since Mississippi is dead last, with the lowest share of its population of any other state using eco-friendly commuting methods.

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Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Jonathan Ross / istockphoto

6th Biggest Impact: Tennessee

Tennessee ranks 48 out of 51 for eco-friendly commuting methods, and Biden’s climate action plan calls for fuel economy standards that demand electrically powered light- and medium-duty vehicles.

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Gateway Arch in St. Louis
west virginia
179 LLC/istockphoto

4th Biggest Impact: West Virginia

One of five states with the lowest power grid reliability, West Virginia stands to benefit from a shift to alternative energy sources such as wind or solar.

Related: Which States Pay the Most for Electricity?

oklahoma oil production

3rd Biggest Impact: Oklahoma

Oklahoma is among five states that have experienced the most billion-dollar natural disasters over the past decade, and one of the biggest oil-producing states. Its population has one of the lowest shares of eco-friendly commuting methods in the United States, while Biden’s plan promises to accelerate the deployment of electric vehicles nationwide, noting that “a key barrier to further deployment of greenhouse-gas reducing vehicles is the lack of charging stations and coordination across all levels of government.” Biden says he will work with the nation’s governors and mayors to add more than 500,000 public charging outlets by the end of 2030.

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2nd Biggest Impact: Louisiana

Louisiana generates among the lowest amount of renewable electricity in the nation — ranking 47 out of 51 — so there’s much potential for improvement. The Bayou State is also the nation’s third-worst offender in toxic chemical releases, and Biden’s climate action plan promises to take action against “polluters who put profit over people and knowingly harm our environment and poison our communities’ air, land, and water.” Finally, Louisiana is among the bottom five states in the country for power grid reliability, which stands to be improved by switching to wind or solar energy.

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rural texas

Biggest Impact: Texas

Texas has had the most billion-dollar natural disasters over the past decade, such as hurricanes and hail storms, a reality Biden’s climate change plan aims to address. “While Texas has borne the brunt of climate-related damages, it also is poised to reap some benefits from its enormous clean energy potential, especially from wind power. They’re not called the Great Plains for nothing,” the study says. Texas is the second-worst offender in the nation when it comes to air quality violations, another issue Biden’s climate plan would tackle. 

Related: The Deadliest Hurricanes and Other Natural Disasters in the U.S.