First up, coronavirus variants and Biden's plan.
Defense Production Act: An act that gives the president authority to expand materials and services from the U.S. industrial base for national defense.
Under the Biden administration, the U.S. approach to COVID-19 begins a new chapter. Meanwhile, new strains of the virus continue to plague the world.
- President Biden’s COVID-19 response plan outlines the way he and his administration will combat the virus, including exercising the Defense Production Act to expand purchasing and manufacturing the vaccine, expanding testing, and encouraging masks.
- Nationally, the U.S. has now reported around 25 million cases and 430,000 deaths in total. The vaccination pace is increasing and around one million doses are being administered on an average day. 45 states are seeing reductions in new cases.
- New strains of COVID-19 have been appearing in different countries including the U.S., mutating in the presence of antibodies. These are starting to gain an advantage over vaccines and other COVID-19 prevention methods, which proves problematic for the future.
Next, what President Biden has done so far.
Executive Order: An executive order is a directive that can only be issued by the President of the United States.
Last Wednesday, Joe Biden was sworn in as President of the United States, let's take a look at what he has accomplished during his first week in office:
- Biden's plan for his first day in office included 17 executive actions, a record high for a modern-day president. The actions were aimed at helping the six crises Biden named in his inaugural address: the virus, racism, climate change, growing inequality, America's global standing and the attacks on truth and democracy.
- On his first day, Biden signed an executive order mandating masks on federal property and he halted the United States withdrawal from the World Health Organization. Biden also asked Americans to commit to wearing masks for the next 100 days, but he has not elaborated on how he plans on enforcing this.
- In terms of climate change, Biden rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement, a move which drew praise from international leaders. Biden also cancelled the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a pipeline that would have transported oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
- Biden passed several orders focusing on immigration, including halting construction on the border wall between the United States and Mexico and committing to ending discriminatory immigration policies, such those targeting primarily Muslim countries.
- Two other executive orders given by the president extended the student loan pause and eviction moratorium in hopes of helping Americans who are struggling financially during the pandemic. The President also committed to advancing racial equity and providing support for underserved communities.
- On Monday, President Biden reversed the ban on transgender troops serving in the military, anther step towards combating discrimination of the basis of gender or sexual identity.
- A complete list of all the executive actions Biden has taken so far can be found here.
Finally, potentially problematic oil drilling in the Bahamas.
Offshore exploratory drilling: A form of deep water drilling meant to assess and prep a potential reserve of oil or natural gas for extraction from the seafloor.
A British-owned Bahamas petroleum company began offshore exploratory drilling in December, as close as 150 miles from the Florida coast. For a country like the Bahamas that has been a global leader in environmental preservation, here’s why this is concerning:
- Surveying ships usually utilize air guns or high-decibel explosives to map the seafloor and locate oil and natural gas reserves, both of which can have detrimental effects on local aquatic life.
- A mobile drilling platform is then brought to the potential site to dig an exploratory well, which assesses the contents of the deposit and determines whether or not its extraction would be profitable.
- In order to ensure the structural integrity of the well, several hollow shells are placed within the drillshaft and secured with a synthetic mud mixture.
- If the oil is found to be viable for extraction and refinement, production wells are dug and exploratory drilling stops.
- Although exploratory drilling seems like a safer process than actually extracting oil, the nature of oil means that spills occur anywhere oil is exposed. The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 was a result of exploratory drilling.
- The U.S. placed a moratorium on exploratory drilling in the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, which former president Donald Trump expanded in late 2020. The proximity of the drill sites to Florida’s coast prompted 18 U.S. congressmen to write a letter to the Bahamian prime minister urging him to cease the drilling.
While a disaster on the scale of Deepwater Horizon is unlikely to happen, spillage is somewhat common in any oil-related operation. After years of commitment to building some of the best protected oceans in the world, offshore oil exploration in the Bahamas seems unnecessarily risky.