At first glance, US President Joe Biden’s massive American Jobs Plan appears to be an environmentalist’s dream: massive investments in electric cars, large tax incentives for renewable energy, and widespread upgrades to the country’s ailing power grid.
For the first time, the program will create a Civilian Climate Corps, placing young Americans on the front lines of improving resilience and conserving public lands. And, most importantly, it will devote significant resources to low-emissions technology research and development.
However, in the midst of such a huge climate crisis and four years of inaction by former President Donald Trump’s administration, some progressive advocates argue that Biden’s massive $2.25 trillion infrastructure initiative is too small to make a significant difference in reversing global warming.
Advocates and elected figures, such as New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are calling for a four-fold increase in funding.
However, the Biden administration is trapped between the Democratic Party’s left wing, which wants more massive financial support to protect the environment, and the conservative members of Congress that Biden needs to pass landmark infrastructure legislation.
“The administration struck the right balance with the scope and scale of what they’re putting forward,” Anne Kelly, vice president of government relations at sustainability non-profit Ceres, told Al Jazeera. “There’s a lot that the business community will support.”
“Our very strong hope is that we can cultivate Republican support for many of the key provisions as well, but that remains to be seen,” she added. “There is lots to like in the package — though of course, it could be bigger.”
Biden’s opening gambit could only be a starting point for discussing which aspects of the infrastructure campaign take priority and how corporate taxes will be used to pay for the gargantuan outlays, as the bill’s journey ahead will require months of political maneuvering.
A nod to carbon capture technology, which is beneficial to coal-dominated states, is one of the concessions that could win some moderate votes. However, opponents of Biden’s position on fossil fuels argue that he should not be giving money to oil and gas firms to plug their own orphan wells.
But if Biden wants his proposal to become law, he’ll have to balance bipartisan support with decisive action on the world’s most pressing environmental crisis — and it’s a delicate dance.