Biden’s Infrastructure American Jobs Plan ‘Is a Good Start’ but Doesn’t Go Far Enough for Climate Change Measures, Progressive Caucus Says
President Biden unveiled his $2 trillion American Jobs Plan yesterday, a sweeping infrastructure bill which, along with his Made in America corporate tax plan, “will be fully paid for within the next 15 years and reduce deficits in the years after,” he said. The plan includes several billions of dollars to be directed toward clean energy and electric vehicles, a move that is a sharp reversal from his predecessor’s policies.
One of the first executive actions Biden took after his inauguration was to rejoin the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change adopted by 197 countries. Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit), compared to pre-industrial levels. Biden said in the executive order on January 27, 2021, that the order reaffirmed actions his administration had already taken to place the climate crisis at the forefront of the nation’s foreign policy and national security planning.
He reiterated this commitment yesterday in a speech detailing the American Jobs Plan in Pittsburgh, Pa., saying it “will lead to a transformational progress in our effort to tackle climate change with American jobs and American ingenuity.”
“It’ll protect our community from billions of dollars of damage from historic super storms, floods, wildfires, droughts, year after year, by making our infrastructure more secure and resilient and seizing incredible opportunities for American workers and American farmers in a clean energy future,” he said in the speech.
According to details of the plan posted on the White House website, in order to achieve the goals of net-zero emissions by 2050, the United States will need more electric vehicles, charging ports and electric heat pumps for residential heating and commercial buildings. To that end, the President is calling for a “$46 billion investment in federal buying power, creating good-paying jobs and reinvigorating local economies, especially in rural areas.”
In addition, the President is calling on Congress to invest $35 billion in the full range of solutions needed to achieve technology breakthroughs that address the climate crisis and position America “as the global leader in clean energy technology and clean energy jobs,” according to the plan’s details. This includes developing new methods for reducing emissions and building climate resilience, as well as expanding across-the-board funding for climate research.
“In addition to a $5 billion increase in funding for other climate-focused research, his plan will invest $15 billion in demonstration projects for climate R&D priorities, including utility-scale energy storage, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, advanced nuclear, rare earth element separations, floating offshore wind, biofuel/bioproducts, quantum computing, and electric vehicles, as well as strengthening U.S. technological leadership in these areas in global markets,” the plan lays out.
Another key point is that the plan also calls to eliminate tax preferences for fossil fuels and make sure polluting industries pay for environmental cleanup. As part of the president’s commitment to put the country on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050, his tax reform proposal will eliminate all these special preferences.
However, some members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus said the plan, while a good start, was not going far enough and was too small to achieve climate change goals.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on MSNBC yesterday that the ideal size of the plan would be around $10 trillion in spending on core infrastructure, renewable energy, healthcare improvements and other key priorities over the next decade.
“That may be an eye-popping figure for some people,” Ocasio-Cortez said, “but we need to understand that we are in a devastating economic moment, millions of people in the United States are unemployed, we have a truly crippled healthcare system, and a planetary crisis.”
Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal echoed this sentiment and said in a statement yesterday that while her caucus applauds Biden’s vision of government as a force for good in this country and agrees that bold investments in good-paying union jobs, climate action and caregiving are essential to uplifting families and building back better, and this is a welcome first step, “we believe this package can and should be substantially larger in size and scope.”
“During his campaign, President Biden committed to a ‘$2 trillion accelerated investment’ over four years on climate-focused infrastructure alone, which would set America on ‘an irreversible course to meet the ambitious climate progress that science demands.’ Today’s proposal, which includes many other priorities such as care jobs, will invest half that amount — roughly $2 trillion over eight years — or 1 percent of GDP. Given the President’s fierce resolve in passing the overwhelmingly popular American Rescue Plan earlier this month, it makes little sense to narrow his previous ambition on infrastructure or compromise with the physical realities of climate change,” Jayapal said in the statement.
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