OPINION: Joe Biden has hit the ground running with a series of executive orders that are set to significantly change the energy landscape in the US and beyond.

The incoming US president has taken steps to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, axed the Keystone XL pipeline project from Canada to the US and halted plans to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).


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He has temporarily suspended oil and gas permitting on federal lands and waters while also bringing in a new chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

This is heady stuff and some leading figures in the oil sector and opposition policymakers are already crying foul and claiming it will only lead to more oil imports.

But this is only the beginning of change and it certainly should come as no surprise. Biden and his team made clear all along that they had a completely different vision to their fossil fuel-supporting predecessor, Donald Trump.

There was talk upfront of the $2 trillion “accelerated investment” in green energy and the infrastructure to support it.

There are plans to move from a largely fossil-free generated electricity grid to zero carbon by 2035.

There will be a drive on electric cars, on electric trains and “climate-smart” technologies in agriculture and urban planning.

This will also involve tougher regulations on methane and other emissions alongside the end of some oil and gas projects, such as Keystone.

None of this will be easy for the world of oil and gas at a time of Covid-19 lockdowns, although the Democrats' tiny majority in the upper house will dilute Biden's ambitions.

Meanwhile, the wider question remains about whether the new president can repair the economy while disrupting the energy status quo.

Critics point out that 1000 jobs alone will be lost from scrapping the $9 billion Keystone link.

Making moves: US President Joe Biden will favour greener energy over fossil fuels Photo: Image RYTIS DAUKANTAS/UPSTREAM

Alberta Premier Jason Kenny called the decision a “gut punch” for his region and it will likely rock wider US-Canadian relations.

The move to halt drilling in Alaska’s ANWR puts on ice nine oil exploration leases granted in the last days of the Trump administration.

Despite this — and the end to permitting on federal land and water — Biden still appears a better bet for oil and gas than Trump.

The recklessness of Trump — highlighted in his refusal to accept electoral defeat and his encouragement to those who stormed the Capitol in early January — was enough to sink the Republican.

Climate denial, trade wars and rule by Twitter did not create a stable business environment.

Biden is a much steadier hand on the tiller and a man that will surely respect the rule of law and its key institutions as well as taking global warming seriously.

The ice caps are melting, the forest fires increasing and weather changing rapidly and moving away from high-carbon energy must be part of any serious government strategy.

There is still a role for oil and, particularly, gas in the coming decades. The immediate future also looks better.

The Brent oil price has recovered to around $55 per barrel and big service companies such as Schlumberger have reported rising quarterly revenues.

The leading European oil majors are on a journey to refocus from fossil fuels on to wider energy production and supply.

US companies need to do the same, taking their cue from Biden but also from some of their own investors.

The Biden binge of executive orders may be a shock but there should be opportunities as well as threats for the oil and gas industry.

(This is an Upstream opinion article.)

Climate conscious: Biden has already picked John Kerry as his climate tsar Photo: Image RYTIS DAUKANTAS/UPSTREAM