How does Biden's infrastructure plan respond to the climate crisis?
- Apr 2, 2021 2:05 pm GMT
It's no coincidence that U.S. President Joe Biden chose the Pittsburgh industrial center to announce his $2 trillion green infrastructure plan, a risky move for Americans accustomed to hearing that taking climate action will ruin the industry.
So how does the "American Jobs Plan" try to position the environment at the heart of America's future economic growth?
- Green energy -
Biden wants the U.S. energy sector to be completely carbon-free by 2035.
To this end, he asked Congress for $100 billion to invest in the national headquarters and change it to a cleaner one, as well as a ten-year extension of tax credits for the generation and storage of renewable sources.
"The tax credit for wind and solar power has been considerably successful in creating large-scale investments and expansion," Dan Lashof, president of the World Resources Institute, told AFP, celebrating the extension.
The plan foresees $15 billion in prototype prototype projects on a commercial scale for energy storage, carbon capture, hydrogen power plants, nuclear and offshore floating wind farms.
It also provides for a $27 billion "Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator" - in other words, a Green Bank to mobilize private investment.
Lindsey Walters, a climate expert at the Third Way study center, welcomed the idea of introducing a national Clean Energy Standard to encourage renewable production and new jobs.
"Smart regulations are being adopted that are creating the market's long-term demand for clean energy technologies," she told AFP.
White House Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy also mentioned the measure in a phone call to reporters on Thursday.
"We think it's one of the best methods to really achieve the reductions we want with a level of certainty," he said.
- Electric vehicles -
The other major environmental aspect of the project is an attractive $174 billion investment "to conquer the electric vehicle (VE) market," where the United States currently has a third of China's market share.
This includes stabilizing incentives to create a network of 500,000 VE loaders by 2030.
The money will also be used to stimulate domestic supply chains of raw materials and parts and to help factories reequip themselves to build both vehicles and batteries.
Around 50,000 diesel vehicles will be replaced, while at least a fifth of traditional yellow school buses will be 'electrified'.
"Overall, the market seems to be turning to electric vehicles," Walters said, adding that the inclusion of the "right political context" will give this existing trend an extra boost.
"What do experts think? -
Most of the experts consulted by the AFP were satisfied with the proposal.
Scientist Amol Phadke of the University of Berkeley, author of the "2035 report," on energy transition, "energy and transportation are among the most important sectors for climate mitigation, and this plan is legitimately ambitious in these sectors."
But some climate groups believe the United States should invest more.
Denali Sai, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit climate organization 350.org, admitted that the plan provides for five times as much as was spent by former President Barack Obama on his 2009 recovery package.
"But this spending is still too small to address the climate crisis on a scale and much more will need to be spent to make the U.S. economy completely carbon-free," he added.
The group would like to see a $16 trillion project and is skeptical about funding carbon capture technology, which it believes represents a free pass for the fossil fuel industry.
Another criticism is that the United States has not announced that it will follow in the footsteps of other countries that have announced the elimination of new fossil fuel-powered cars.
- Will the package be approved? -
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed Thursday that Republicans will owe the plan because of the tax increase it demands, ending Biden's hopes of bipartisan support.
Although most bills need 60 votes to pass the Senate, it is possible to pass some using the simple 51-vote majority, which Democrats have, through certain legislative procedures.
Still, it will require endorsement from moderate Democrats, more fiscally conservative.
"I would simply reinforce the cost of inaction," Ali Zaidi, the White House's deputy climate adviser, told reporters, pointing to 22 extreme weather events related to climate change reported last year, each cost more than $1 billion.
"On the competitive side of the bill, each year behind schedule, we are letting other countries step forward to achieve the competitive advantage of these incredibly important industries in the future," he added.
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