Originally published on the NRDC Expert Blog.
John Bowman, Managing Director, Government Affairs
Not every White House budget proposal captures the promise of a brighter future for every American. Biden’s proposal does.
President Biden took the first formal step toward wedding climate action to equitable recovery on Friday, rolling out a 2022 budget proposal that funds his grand vision to create millions of jobs in every community by investing in cleaner, smarter ways to power our future.
Biden’s first budget, for the fiscal year that begins October 1, contains an essential down payment on his American Jobs Plan. The budget includes the first installment on Biden’s all-of-government approach to cutting the nation’s carbon footprint in half over the coming decade. And it proposes the opening round of public investment we need to achieve Biden’s goal of cleaning up our dirty power plants and delivering 100 percent clean electricity by 2035. Not every White House budget proposal captures the promise of a brighter future for every American. Biden’s proposal does.
This is a leadership statement. It calls for strategic investment that weds climate action to equitable recovery—in a moment when we desperately need both. It sets the table for sustained growth and broad-based prosperity in every community. And it fosters the innovation we need to restore U.S. leadership in the clean energy revolution that’s powering a new generation of global growth.
Biden’s budget proposal is a blueprint for creating millions of good paying jobs by cleaning up our dirty power sector and building the clean energy economy of the future; protecting our communities from abandoned fossil fuel mines and wells; and putting sustainable transportation and safe drinking water within reach for everyone.
This is a time for elected officials from both parties to drop the hyper-partisanship, do what’s best for the country and rally around this historic call for climate action and equitable recovery in the wake of the devastating yearlong pandemic.
Earlier this spring, Biden laid out his American Jobs Plan. A bold and comprehensive package of strategic national investment, spread out over eight years, the plan will help us to repair the country’s aging bridges, ports, and roads. It will strengthen the competitiveness of our workers and companies. And it will fight the growing costs and mounting dangers of climate change by speeding a just and equitable transition away from the dirty fossil fuels that are driving the crisis and toward clean energy solutions.
The science makes clear that we’ve got to cut the dangerous carbon pollution that comes from burning fossil fuels in half by 2030, and stop adding it to the atmosphere altogether by 2050, to avert the world consequences of climate change.
Biden has pledged the United States will meet that goal.
Biden’s budget proposal advances that goal by increasing research and development; increasing direct funding and tax incentives to help make our homes and workplaces more efficient, so we do more with less energy waste; getting more clean power from the wind and sun; and modernizing our power grid and storage system.
Cutting our carbon footprint also means shifting away from the cars, trucks and buses that account for roughly another third of our carbon footprint, and replacing them with electric vehicles and sustainable, equitable options for public transit.
Biden’s budget proposal supports those goals, with funding, for example, to help consumers shift to electric cars and pickup trucks; to build new charging stations nationwide; to replace aging federal cars and trucks with a modern electric fleet; to expand sustainable public transit options where they’re needed most; and to restore the integrity of low-income communities divided by misguided legacy highway construction.
Hand in glove with those initiatives is Biden’s plan to cap abandoned oil and gas wells—more than 3 million nationwide—many of which release dangerous chemicals into the ground, water, and air, along with methane gas, a powerful global warming agent 85 times worse than carbon dioxide.
Biden’s budget proposal provides funds for this initiative, along with his complementary plan to close down abandoned coal mines, help reclaim those lands in ways that promote economic prosperity in regions long dependent on fossil fuels, and provide training and other transition assistance to workers in those areas with opportunities in more promising sectors.
Phasing out coal, oil, and gas also means reducing the climate impacts and fossil fuels pollution that’s costing our country more than $820 billion in annual health consequences, a burden that falls heaviest on our most vulnerable communities.
Improving public health also includes making sure everyone has access to safe drinking water, no matter their race or income.
Biden’s budget provides funding to make a good start on his pledge to replace the lead pipe and service lines that feed the tap water supplies for more than 18 million people, and to upgrade drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater systems in rural and urban areas nationwide.
Biden’s proposal pays for this strategic investment by requiring profitable corporations and those who earn more than $400,000 a year to pay their fair share. That only makes sense. Cleaning up our dirty power sector. Speeding the shift to electric cars and sustainable public transit. Capping abandoned oil and gas wells. And replacing lead pipes that threaten our families.
These are wildly popular goals. They reflect the abiding national interest in investing in a brighter future. They’re in step with the widening national and global consensus that it’s time to accelerate the shift away from the dirty fossil fuels of the past and toward a more sustainable energy future.
And to achieve these goals will require millions of workers—electricians, steelworkers, carpenters, welders, truck drivers, draftsmen, engineers and more—in every community in the country.
Today, more than 3 million Americans work in clean energy jobs. They pay, on average, about 25 percent more than most jobs.
Biden’s plan will create millions more good-paying jobs to put our people back to work, including those who want the benefits of collective bargaining and other protections that come from belonging to a union, as well as workers in regions that historically have depended on fossil fuels.
And, because Biden has pledged that 40 percent of the benefits of this investment will accrue to historically underserved communities, these jobs and all they go to help improve will directly impact the low-income neighborhoods and Black, Indigenous, and other people of color on the frontlines of environmental hazard and harm.
To help address the disproportionate environmental burden suffered by low-income communities and people of color, Biden’s budget includes the largest investment ever in environmental justice. The $1.4 billion request will, among other things, empower the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help clean up pollution in low-income communities and hold polluters to account for putting the health and well being of the people who live there at risk.
Presidents don’t control federal spending. Congress has the power of the purse. Biden, though, has laid out a clear and compelling vision. It couldn’t come at a better moment.
Let’s get behind this vision, as a country. Let’s rally around these national goals. Let’s support the Biden budget to wed climate action to equitable recovery. Now, more than ever, we need both.