December 4, 2023

WASHINGTON – The A $ 1 trillion infrastructure deal reached Wednesday by a bipartisan group of senators would represent a significant down payment on President Biden’s ambitious environmental agenda, including the first federal spending on electric vehicle charging stations and the largest investment in public transportation and clean water systems in the country USA history.

The plan also includes the first federal spending earmarked for “Climate Resistance” – to adapt and rebuild roads, ports and bridges to withstand the damage from rising sea levels, stronger storms, and more devastating heat waves that come as the planet evolves get warm.

But the money spent on taking precautions to reduce the pollution that fuels climate change is a fraction of the $ 2 trillion Mr Biden once wanted to spend. The White House sees the bipartisan move, which includes $ 550 billion in new spending, as a first step towards passing a separate $ 3.5 trillion bill that the Democrats will pass this fall against Republican objection want to enforce on a party basis.

The Democrats intend to include significant climate change programs in this second bill, including a provision that would essentially pay electricity utilities to generate energy from environmentally friendly sources and tax incentives for consumers to buy electric vehicles.

The switch to electric cars

“As a climate policy, this is a starter,” said Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, of the package unveiled on Wednesday. “It’s not the main course.”

Mr Schatz, who urged Biden to keep his ambitious climate pledges, called the climate regulations in the measure “okay” and noted that both Republicans and Democrats now agree that parts of the country must be protected from the devastation of climate-related droughts, storms and floods. But he warned, “If we just nibble on the edges and run some resilience programs, we will not solve climate change. We are only reacting to the fact that we do not solve climate change. “

Several Republicans who held a blue folder meeting Wednesday afternoon with a 30-page summary of the bill said they still had questions. They said they wanted to see the legal language – which lawmakers said could be around 700 pages – before committing to vote for the package.

“It’s a pretty big pile of paper,” said Senator John Boozman, Republican of Arkansas.

The bipartisan bill would spend $ 7.5 billion on first federal efforts to build a network of EV charging stations across the country. That’s nowhere near the $ 174 billion Biden plans to spend building 500,000 charging stations for electric vehicles.

But it’s supposed to boost a big part of its climate agenda – reducing pollution from vehicle exhaust pipes, the country’s largest source of greenhouse gases.

The bill would spend $ 5 billion to provide electric, low-emission school buses to communities, replacing traditional yellow diesel-powered school buses.

It would spend $ 39 billion to modernize the country’s public transportation systems, including replacing many highly polluting diesel buses with zero or low emission electric buses.

And it would spend $ 50 billion to make communities more resilient to both cyberattacks and the effects of climate change, even though neither lawmakers nor the White House have made it clear how that money will be shared or spent. Last year, the United States experienced 22 extreme weather and climate disasters, each with losses exceeding $ 1 billion.

Legislation allocates $ 73 billion to upgrade and modernize the country’s electrical grid, which would go into building thousands of kilometers of new transmission lines to carry more energy from wind, solar, and other zero-emission sources. And it would create a new office within the Department of Energy to help with approval and funding of transmission lines.

It would allocate $ 55 billion to ensure all Americans have access to safe drinking water by replacing all of the lead pipes and utilities in the country.

The bill also pumps $ 21 billion into cleaning up toxic pollution, especially in colored communities, as well as reclaiming abandoned mines and orphaned gas sources that emit methane and other pollutants.

Mr Biden has vowed to cut US emissions roughly in half by 2030 and is under pressure to demonstrate progress towards that goal when world leaders meet in Glasgow in November for a crucial climate summit . Analysts noted that the bipartisan package alone does not come close to meeting Mr Biden’s goal, but cited it as an important step.

“I don’t think President Biden will take it to Glasgow,” said Joshua Freed, senior vice president of climate and energy for research and advocacy Third Way. Mr Freed said he was confident that the Democrats’ second package, filled with provisions on climate change, will either be complete or nearly complete by the time of the summit.

“Moving the United States is like moving a giant cruise ship,” he said, “and these are absolutely critical steps in building momentum.”