States That Would Benefit Most from Biden’s Climate Plan

Solar panels in foreground and wind turbines in the mid ground and off on the horizon, all at sunrise or sunset.

More solar and wind power, and less fossil fuels. More electric cars, and fewer gas guzzlers. President-elect Joe Biden’s climate plan would fundamentally change how we live, work and play.

All the states and the District of Columbia will be impacted by the plan — for better or worse.

At the heart of the Biden climate plan are two key goals:

  • Net-zero carbon emissions: Biden wants carbon-free electricity production by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The BBC called this target “the most progressive climate strategy the U.S. has ever attempted.”
  • Millions of new jobs: Biden’s climate policies aren’t just about saving the planet — they’re also a strategy to create millions of new jobs and transform the economy. 

These climate goals might seem ambitious, but with John Kerry leading an experienced team of climate-conscious diplomats and an incoming Democratic-controlled Senate, Biden’s vision for a healthier planet is closer to becoming a reality.

Which states will be winners under Biden’s climate change plan? Which will be losers?

LawnStarter combed through the data to rank the states that will be most heavily impacted by Biden’s climate policies. We looked at 30 key factors connected to his plan, from the frequency of natural disasters to oil production to the share of electricity from renewable resources. See which states stand to change the most in our rankings below.

Table of Contents

State Rankings

See how each state fared in our ranking:

OVERALL RANKStateOverall ScoreClimate Change Impact RankInfrastructure RankPollutants RankClean Energy Potential RankEnvironmental Policies RankWaste Management Rank
1Texas62.4312221239
2Louisiana58.62149815514
3Oklahoma56.59943219725
4West Virginia55.513512030820
5Missouri54.437152191011
6Tennessee54.424461426326
7Mississippi54.021032681829
8Kansas53.7811323518139
9Alabama53.383372516541
10Ohio51.8215304312210
11Alaska51.2249111745212
12Wyoming50.672919505813
13Georgia49.7964319141435
14Indiana49.2718283232638
15Nebraska49.2124334812446
16Nevada48.623951114123
17Arkansas47.96191236112042
18Kentucky47.95232933201719
19Arizona47.5539421821931
20Illinois47.248205253215
21New Mexico46.8637134232522
22Utah46.824348761532
23Pennsylvania45.831271214517
24Florida44.562550910248
25Idaho44.39342430461328
26Montana44.28332537362018
27Michigan44.242786353330
28South Carolina43.19133523132737
29South Dakota42.29411051441549
30Virginia42.0554129173127
31North Carolina41.5824412223536
32North Dakota40.93463647401051
33Colorado40.5921382473040
34New Hampshire40.0845264641292
35New York38.371761542465
36New Jersey37.22221813284324
37Hawaii37.21502143432721
38Rhode Island36.453624429474
39Iowa36.35201634393850
40Maryland36.0916473833377
41Wisconsin35.74312716273947
42Massachusetts35.30301740384016
43Delaware35.05324910243633
44District of Columbia31.8050314550341
45Maine30.9248539484143
46California30.10261422324923
47Minnesota29.43424541374245
48Washington27.1044402849446
49Connecticut26.57282327345034
50Oregon25.28383931474844
51Vermont14.09473449515148
Infographic showing how states rank on climate factors such as eco-friendly commuting methods, percentage of power from renewable energy sources, etc.

Winners and Losers

Southern heat

Six of the top 10 ranked states are in the South, and it’s easy to see why. States like Louisiana and Mississippi tend to have fewer existing environmental policies and less reliable infrastructure while also remaining susceptible to climate-related disasters such as hurricanes and floods.

All this has the potential to change under Biden’s climate plan. The coming years could be an exciting time to move south — and Americans have taken notice.

Appalachia rising

States along the Appalachian Mountains such as Tennessee and West Virginia find themselves at the top of our ranking.

These states have traditionally been where the U.S. has mined for coal, leading to higher rates of pollutants and lower current rates of electricity from renewable sources.

Biden’s climate policies could bring some much needed change and investment to a region that has been economically struggling for decades.

A Texas-size impact

The Lone Star State took the top spot in the Climate Change Impact category with over 63 billion-dollar natural disasters in the past 10 years.

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.

Pacific coasting

California, Oregon and Washington are at the bottom of our ranking, mostly because these states have already implemented a number of environmentally friendly measures and infrastructure projects.

Washington, for example, already gets 77% of its electricity from renewable sources. While the West Coast is a lovely place to live, it’s not likely to see great changes emerging from Biden’s climate policies.

Ask The Experts

Biden’s climate plan touches nearly every aspect of American society, from energy to health to jobs. With so many competing factors, it’s difficult to see what lies ahead.

That’s why LawnStarter asked a panel of experts to read the tea leaves about the impact of Joe Biden’s climate policies and how they might alter our country’s future for decades to come.

Explore below how the experts answered these questions:

  • Is Joe Biden’s climate plan enough to curb the most damaging effects of climate change? Why or why not?
  • What is the biggest misconception about Joe Biden’s climate plan?
  • With Republicans likely to maintain control of the U.S. Senate, what would it take for the future Biden administration to realize its climate plan? How soon could that happen?
  • Fossil-fuel lobbyists argue that Joe Biden’s climate policy would “eliminate jobs and shift energy production overseas.” If this is true, how could the Biden administration best support states that depend heavily on oil, natural-gas and coal production to sustain their economies in the transition to renewable energy?
Joshua Eastin, PhD
Associate Professor of Political Science, Mark O. Hatfield School of Government, Portland State University
James Lutz
Professor of Political Science, Purdue University Fort Wayne
Paul Watanabe
Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Boston
Matthew J. Costello, PhD
Professor of Political Science, Saint Xavier University
Paul Nolette
Associate Professor, Marquette University
Peter S. Alagona, PhD
Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, University of California
Dr. Mary Finley-Brook
Associate Professor of Geography and the Environment, University of Richmond
Joshua Eastin, PhD
Associate Professor of Political Science, Mark O. Hatfield School of Government, Portland State University

Is Joe Biden’s climate plan enough to curb the most damaging effects of climate change? Why or why not?

The plan is short on details, but from what I gather, it’s not even close to sufficient for climate change mitigation.

The plan is not bad in that there are some decent, common-sense proposals for clean energy, auto-emissions, and infrastructure upgrades. It also appears to recognize the need for investment in climate adaptation, especially for marginalized communities.

However, If the goal is to make a meaningful impact on greenhouse gas emissions, which is the only way to slow rising temperatures, then anything short of a heavy tax on carbon and other greenhouse gasses is not going to be enough.

I find no support for this idea in the plan.  

What is the biggest misconception about Joe Biden’s climate plan?

I can’t answer this without looking at some public opinion data, but if I had to guess, the biggest misconception among the general public might be that the plan would be sufficient to mitigate climate change. It is not. 

With Republicans likely to maintain control of the U.S. Senate, what would it take for the future Biden administration to realize its climate plan? How soon could that happen?

If Republicans maintain control of the Senate, then any proposal requiring congressional support is unlikely to be acted upon.

This is true for Biden’s plan, as well as for legislation related to the Green New Deal.

Unlike virtually every other developed country in the world, the issue of climate change in the U.S. has become hyper-partisan. Republican politicians go to great lengths to avoid association with climate-forward policy. 

Fossil-fuel lobbyists argue that Joe Biden’s climate policy would “eliminate jobs and shift energy production overseas.” If this is true, how could the Biden administration best support states that depend heavily on oil, natural gas and coal production to sustain their economies in the transition to renewable energy?  

This is a difficult issue, as any societal transition from old to new technology will necessarily have winners and losers.

For both economic and political reasons, it makes sense for the government to invest in job training to help fossil fuel industry workers transition to new jobs in new industries.

I think the argument about shifting jobs overseas is a red herring, in part because it assumes that the global supply and demand for fossil fuels will remain the same if the U.S. invests heavily in clean energy and shifts its energy production away from fossil fuels.

What is more likely is that U.S. investment in clean energy would lower the price of wind, solar, and nuclear technology, which would help facilitate their spread to other parts of the world. 

Moreover, as the world’s second-largest energy consumer (behind China), a U.S. shift away from fossil fuels would be likely to depress their prices through reduced demand. The result would be more of a net loss for fossil fuel jobs than a shifting of jobs overseas. 

James Lutz
Professor of Political Science, Purdue University Fort Wayne

Is Joe Biden’s climate plan enough to curb the most damaging effects of climate change? Why or why not?

His plan will help to deal with the most dangerous aspects of climate change, but it will take time for these efforts to have an impact in conjunction with efforts in other countries. 

The process cannot be reversed overnight, but it is possible to begin to move along the appropriate route by limiting out “carbon footprint” which will include energy conservation.

What is the biggest misconception about Joe Biden’s climate plan?

Probably the biggest misconception is that it will hurt American manufacturers who will be at a competitive disadvantage. 

Some companies could face a disadvantage while others would have a competitive advantage. The overall impact would be neutral, contrary to the misperception. 

Some industries, however, would have to make adjustments and focus more on conservation and improved energy usage.  

With Republicans likely to maintain control of the U.S. Senate, what would it take for the future Biden administration to realize its climate plan? How soon could that happen?

Republican control of the Senate would have a minimal impact on rejoining the Paris Climate Accord since that can be done by presidential action just as the withdrawal by President Trump was done with Senate approval. 

Efforts to control energy usage in the United States could be more limited by the Senate. Representatives and senators from some states, regardless of party, will protect local interests which could be an additional problem.

Fossil-fuel lobbyists argue that Joe Biden’s climate policy would “eliminate jobs and shift energy production overseas.” If this is true, how could the Biden administration best support states that depend heavily on oil, natural-gas and coal production to sustain their economies in the transition to renewable energy?  

There might indeed be some job losses in some sectors that would be replaced by jobs in other areas (coal mining jobs lost while jobs in the solar industry would be gained).

It is highly unlikely that there would be jobs shipped overseas in the aggregate. This claim by opponents is misleading and is designed to scare voters. 

What does happen, however, is that persons unemployed in coal mining may not be able to get similar jobs in the solar energy industry. 

Winners and losers could even out, but will not necessarily be the same people.

Paul Watanabe
Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Boston

Is Joe Biden’s climate plan enough to curb the most damaging effects of climate change? Why or why not?

Biden will have his hands full initially on trying to recapture lost ground battling climate change during the Trump years. Those years are essentially ones where we got knocked back and off course with respect to combating climate change.

Biden will surely move us in the right direction, but the lost four years will mean that catching up rather than significantly curbing damaging effects will be the first order of business.

What is the biggest misconception about Joe Biden’s climate plan?

During the campaign the Republicans portrayed Biden as a radical climate activist willing to sacrifice jobs in the name of combating climate change. He was characterized as fully embracing the Green New Deal, for example.

His commitment to a safer, healthier environment is clear and genuine, but any actions must not harm fundamentally economic interests.

Instead, as he argues, his plan is sensitive and even sold as a bold economic and employment plan as opposed to a strictly environmental policy.

With Republicans likely to maintain control of the U.S. Senate, what would it take for the future Biden administration to realize its climate plan? How soon could that happen?

The agenda for post-election activities suggests that we must be reasonable in the near term as when to expect much progress.

Republican control of the Senate will indeed make it difficult to secure an aggressive climate change agenda.

By stressing job creation and the economic gains related to newer more environmentally friendly policies, he may score a few points for the  environment.

We will also see some pretty aggressive use of executive agreements to move parts if the Biden agenda forward.

Fossil-fuel lobbyists argue that Joe Biden’s climate policy would “eliminate jobs and shift energy production overseas.” If this is true, how could the Biden administration best support states that depend heavily on oil, natural-gas and coal production to sustain their economies in the transition to renewable energy?  

First of all, fossil fuel lobbyists are supposed to throw cold water on any initiatives aimed at limiting their production.

Second of all, when the data is evident that moving on a green agenda can at least in some major ways produce positive economic and health benefits even some Republicans will more to the Biden position.

Matthew J. Costello, PhD
Professor of Political Science, Saint Xavier University

Is Joe Biden’s climate plan enough to curb the most damaging effects of climate change? Why or why not?

I do not know if we can “curb the most damaging effects of climate change” without some radical global intervention at this point, so a national plan developed to pass through a divided government does not seem likely to get us there, but it is a move that can help.

The global position is largely symbolic — the Paris Agreement, while broad-based — committed signatories to no action other than publishing a plan.

That at least gets it on the agenda, and if the U.S. takes a signal position on climate change, it could induce others to join if the U.S. still has some soft power.

What is the biggest misconception about Joe Biden’s climate plan?

One big misconception is that it is a radical, anti-energy plan. This is not true. 

The goal is to become carbon-pollution free within 15 years — this is not the same as carbon free, which some have advocated.

Instead it would blend energy production with pollution controls and carbon sequestration while trying to encourage investment in non-carbon energy production. 

This is likely to occur anyway because of costs and industry awareness that has many carbon-based energy companies investing heavily in non-carbon production.

Fossil-fuel lobbyists argue that Joe Biden’s climate policy would “eliminate jobs and shift energy production overseas.” If this is true, how could the Biden administration best support states that depend heavily on oil, natural-gas and coal production to sustain their economies in the transition to renewable energy? 

The centerpiece of the Biden plan is an environmentally friendly infrastructure and stimulus package. 

This would be a very important step, as it could help reconstruct energy and transportation grids to being more environmentally friendly, setting a longer term agenda that would provide the backbone to non-carbon energy reliant and transportation grids by installing charging stations, subsidizing solar, wind, hydro and biomass energy, developing more efficient and accessible mass transport systems, etc. 

There has been some bipartisan support for both infrastructure and stimulus bills, neither of which was achieved by the last administration. 

Unless some factions are dedicated to denying a Biden administration any successes, this could be possible, particularly with the president-elect’s history of cooperation across the legislative aisle. 

Such a plan could be the job creating engine for these areas where carbon-dependent jobs are concentrated and which face an inevitable decline.

Paul Nolette
Associate Professor, Marquette University

Is Joe Biden’s climate plan enough to curb the most damaging effects of climate change? Why or why not?

It is unlikely to be enough by itself. Tackling climate change, as a global issue, is going to take a worldwide effort well beyond what even large economies like the U.S. can do alone.

There are some aspects to Biden’s plan that are explicitly global, including recommitting the U.S. to the Paris Agreement.

However, the challenge will be to convert any domestic changes the U.S. makes in political capital used to convince other countries to likewise reduce their emissions, especially China.

What is the biggest misconception about Joe Biden’s climate plan?

I’d say the biggest misconception is that combating climate change is necessarily at odds with economic growth.

When discussing climate policy, it is frequently described as being a choice between growth and climate.

One thing Biden’s plan tries to do is merge these two goals, speaking much about building infrastructure and creating new jobs in the automobile and construction industries.

With Republicans likely to maintain control of the U.S. Senate, what would it take for the future Biden administration to realize its climate plan? How soon could that happen?

Anything involving direct spending is going to require congressional approval, which means that it will be very difficult to get this through a Republican-controlled Senate.

It is possible that Biden will be able to pitch some of his plan — such as spending on infrastructure — as a jobs proposal that happens to benefit the climate.

That would probably appeal more to Republicans than pitching it as an environmental plan.

The administration also may focus attention on getting a few environmentally-minded Republican senators on board, including Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. That said, any policy would still need to withstand a filibuster.

The most likely scenario is that the Biden administration will try to pursue its policies through the rule-making process.

The EPA has the legal authority under existing environmental laws to set emissions standards in industries including stationary sources (utilities) and mobile sources (cars and trucks). It is likely that Biden will take an aggressive tack here.

He might also be able to make deals with industries to voluntarily reduce emissions in order to avoid stricter regulation. If the Senate is not willing to go along with any plans, then this regulatory route will be more promising.

Fossil-fuel lobbyists argue that Joe Biden’s climate policy would “eliminate jobs and shift energy production overseas.” If this is true, how could the Biden administration best support states that depend heavily on oil, natural-gas and coal production to sustain their economies in the transition to renewable energy? 

There may be ways to shift resources to states that see large job losses, particularly through additional unemployment support, job training, and using federal dollars to support individuals with skills in polluting industries to use those skills in more environmentally-friendly ways (again, looking at infrastructure development).

Of course, the challenge will be convincing individuals and states that they will ultimately benefit from implementation of a Biden climate plan even if it means that their current jobs will become obsolete.

That will not be an easy task, and is already one reason why oil- and coal-heavy states like West Virginia have turned sharply against Democratic administrations in recent years.

Peter S. Alagona, PhD
Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, University of California

Is Joe Biden’s climate plan enough to curb the most damaging effects of climate change? Why or why not?

No. No single plan is up to the task, and certainly none of the plans out there now respond nearly aggressively enough.

With each day that ticks by, the need for us to act grows greater. But Biden’s plan is the best we’ve seen in the White House up until now, and it has the potential to place us back into a leadership role — or at least a respectable role — in this area.

What is the biggest misconception about Joe Biden’s climate plan?

That it kills jobs. Biden’s plan is a jobs plan. He wants to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in research, manufacturing, and construction.

In fact, I think that, if carried out, Biden’s plan would be more effective as an economic stimulus than as a climate mitigation effort.

With Republicans likely to maintain control of the U.S. Senate, what would it take for the future Biden administration to realize its climate plan? How soon could that happen?

Biden has many options for executive orders, climate plans falling under the category of infrastructure bills, and other legislation like the farm bill.

If Republicans retain control of the Senate, however, they will likely try to make Biden seem ineffectual by thwarting all of these efforts.

Fossil-fuel lobbyists argue that Joe Biden’s climate policy would “eliminate jobs and shift energy production overseas.” If this is true, how could the Biden administration best support states that depend heavily on oil, natural-gas and coal production to sustain their economies in the transition to renewable energy?

I don’t believe this is true for the economy as a whole or in the long run. These are scare tactics.

It is, however, true that areas economically dependent on fossil fuels will experience short-term pain without a good transition plan.

One of the best things Biden can do, I think, is to invest in these places as centers of green innovation and manufacturing, thus enabling them to modernize their economies through stable, high-paying green jobs.

Much of this is in Biden’s plan; it also happens to be the basis for the Green New Deal.

Dr. Mary Finley-Brook
Associate Professor of Geography and the Environment, University of Richmond

Is Joe Biden’s climate plan enough to curb the most damaging effects of climate change? Why or why not?

Due to the urgency of climate change and expensive repercussions from fires, hurricanes, flooding, drought and other disasters, transition away from fossil fuels like coal, oil, gas and LNG must occur immediately.

All subsidies to fossil fuels and all bailouts to fossil fuel companies must end right away under the Biden administration.

COVID-related relief distributed to energy companies was used irresponsibly in corporate buybacks, bailouts, and large executive bonuses, while workers were laid off.

Global banks are avoiding coal — it is a liability. Similarly European investors recently decided U.S. fracked gas was too dirty.

Oil and gas impacted communities in the U.S. are asking local and state governments to ban fracking, to stop building pipelines, to avoid risky transport by road and rail, and to halt export terminals.

Fracked gas is not viable due to the costs associated with water and air pollution, particularly leaked methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and toxic pollutants spread throughout the gas lifecycle, including from radioactive waste.

Moving forward, one of the most effective investments the Biden administration could make to benefit the whole economy would be to support clean, distributed (localized), sustainable energy.

Renewable energy needs to be the cornerstone of an equity-centered Green New Deal.

Wind and solar are cost competitive with other energy sources. Renewables create more jobs than fossil fuels and well-paid green energy jobs have fewer occupational risks, thus contributing to a more resilient economy by supporting a healthier workforce with job security, rather than the boom-and-bust economies and health risks (asthma and respiratory disease, cancer, etc.) associated with fossil fuels.

Methodology

To determine the impact that Joe Biden’s climate plan will have on each of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, LawnStarter first reviewed the issues and priorities outlined in the president-elect’s climate agenda. 

We then identified and collected the most recently available data for 30 key metrics related to those climate issues and priorities, grouping these into six categories:

  • Climate Change Impact
  • Infrastructure
  • Pollutants
  • Clean Energy Potential
  • Environmental Policies
  • Waste Management

Next, we assigned a weight to each metric based on its significance within its indicator category and applied a weight-based score out of 100 points. Each single weight is equal to roughly 1.85 points, calculated by dividing a total possible score of 100 points by the total number of weights, 54.

Finally, we compared the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia by summing up their scores across the 30 indicators. The state that scored the highest was ranked No. 1, or “most impacted,” while the state with the lowest score was ranked No. 51, or “least impacted.”

MetricWeightingMin ValueMax Value
Number of Billion-Dollar Natural Disasters in Past Decade5.55063
Total Economic Impact of Large Natural Disasters in Past Decade3.707906.1415552.7
Climate Change Impact Category Total9.26
Road Condition (% of Major Roads in Poor or Mediocre Condition)3.701579
Bridge Condition (% of Bridges in Poor/Structurally Deficient Condition)3.70122
Number of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations1.854528327
Broadband Coverage3.700.5430.983
Power Grid Reliability (Average outage duration per customer, per year; minutes)3.7059.43630.29
Share of Workforce in Auto Industry1.850.0190.07
Oil Production3.7041850714
Median Age of Home3.702663
Share of population that uses public transport, bicycles or walks to commute; 20193.700.0140.51
Infrastructure Category Total29.63
Water Quality (no. of violations)3.70103433
Air Quality - Federally Reportable Violations3.701347
Toxic Chemicals Release (per sq. mile)3.7039.483590.56
Risk-Screening Environmental Indicator Score1.85316.94353924162.76
Pollutants Category Total12.96
Share of Electricity from Renewable Sources5.550.0180.997
Potential for Solar Power3.700.671.19
Potential for Wind Power3.70192.361347992.1
Clean Energy Potential Category Total12.96
Climate Action Plan5.5502
Plastic Bag Bans1.8502
Beverage Container Deposit Laws1.8501
Yard Debris Bans1.8502
Food Waste Disposal Bans1.8501
Electronic Waste Recycling Programs1.8501
Multifamily Recycling Policies3.7002
Share of Households with Residential Food Collection Programs1.8500.90
Mandatory Recycling Laws3.7001
Tailpipe Emission Standards3.7001
Environmental Policies Category Total27.78
Number of Recycling Facilities per 100,000 residents3.7000.32
Number of Large Waste Facilities per 100,000 residents3.7001.58
Waste Management Category Total7.41

Limitations

Data for LEED-certified residential and commercial spaces was originally intended to be included in our data set to demonstrate which states are most or least likely to benefit from Biden’s climate plan to “upgrade 4 million buildings and weatherize 2 million homes over 4 years” and “spur the construction of 1.5 million sustainable homes and housing units.”

However, consistent data could not be obtained from the source, the U.S. Green Building Council, at the time of collection.

Sources: Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Alternative Fuels Data Center (U.S. Department of Energy), American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, BroadbandNow, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, Environmental Finance Center (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill), Facility Level Information on GreenHouse gases Tool (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), House Method, National Centers for Environmental Information (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), National Conference of State Legislatures, Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy, Northeast Recycling Council, The Recycling Partnership, TRIP, U.S. Composting Council, U.S. Energy Information Administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Why This Study Matters

While Biden’s climate change plan could face pushback and opposition, there’s no denying that his administration will fundamentally alter America’s approach to climate change.

But not all states are primed to benefit from Biden’s changes equally. The states themselves, especially those with large employment in the energy sector, have vastly different climate agendas. 

At the same time, increasingly intense wildfires and hurricanes make clear that the negative effects of climate change are uneven across the U.S.

Climate change, of course, isn’t only a U.S. issue. Biden’s plan aims to make America a model, a key player in how the world tackles the problem. To that end, on Day 1, Biden plans to return the U.S. to the Paris Climate Agreement. 

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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