HAVING stormed the White House with promises to "drain the swamp", the Donald Trump era has ended with a whimper rather than a bang, with the 78-year-old Joe Biden being sworn in as the 46thPresident of the United States.
As he promised during the election campaign, President Biden has settled down quietly to work, having nominated three issues as crucial to his administration and to the American public.
We can call them "the three Cs": COVID-19, climate change and China.
With no coronavirus joke intended, the old saying, "when America sneezes, the world catches a cold", is as appropriate now as it was when it was dreamt up decades ago.
But the United States caught far more than a cold in 2020.
Exit polling after November's presidential ballot confirmed coronavirus and its economic impacts as major concerns.
In simplified terms, Democrat voters were worried about the virus, while Republicans were concerned about the restrictions.
So President Biden - whose mask-wearing throughout the campaign became a symbol of his intended new direction - has repeatedly stressed beating COVID as a top priority.
He has also moved immediately on climate change, signing a presidential order to have the US rejoin the Paris climate accord.
This move is far from symbolic, and will have major and intended ramifications across the US economy, but especially in energy and electricity policy.
The "C" for climate change has another "C" as a subset: coal. If the Biden administration re-energises the Paris agreements, there could be direct impacts on the Australian coal industry in general, and the thermal (or power station supplying) coal mines exporting through Newcastle in particular.
There are strong arguments to say we are already in a cold war, in all but name.
The days when Australia could remain "neutral" may well be numbered.
As a major supplier of iron ore (and, until recently, coal) to China, and a key Indo/Pacific ally of America, we sit astride an ultimately uncomfortable barbed-wire fence.
Both sides are gearing up their megaphone diplomacy, giving us plenty to think about as we ponder our position.
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