President Biden's Proposed Infrastructure Investment

In late July 2021, President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of senators released the details of a $550 billion infrastructure plan. The Biden Administration states that this plan will drive progress in job creation, economic growth, and climate change mitigation. The legislation would authorize historic investments in transportation, grid modernization, next generation energy technologies, and pollution remediation. As it currently stands, the bill includes $110 billion for roads and bridges; $39 billion for public transit; $66 billion for rail; $55 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure; and additional investment in airports, seaports, broadband Internet, and electric vehicle charging. The bill supports the largest investment ever made in public transit and clean water/wastewater infrastructure. The bill also makes the greatest dedicated investment in passenger rail and bridge construction/repair since the inception of the interstate highways and Amtrak systems.

The bill includes the first-ever national electric vehicle charging network with a $7.5 billion investment in direct current fast charging. Chargers would be installed along national highway corridors and in communities, with particular focus on rural, remote, and disadvantaged areas. Other electric vehicle investment includes $5 billion for low-emission and zero-emission buses and ferries.

The deal additionally includes a $73 billion investment in clean energy transmission and development of a Grid Deployment Authority research initiative. General investment to modernize infrastructure will mitigate climate change impacts and create resilience as we face increasing climate threats. The plan addresses environmental remediation and allocates significant investment into pollution cleanup and alleviation of environmental injustice.

Though the infrastructure deal is an impressive bipartisan effort, critics still have qualms. The initial proposal included significant support for public building growth and modernization, equitable health and social reform, and additional investment in climate and clean energy research and programming. The current bill reduces, and in some cases, completely eliminates these initiatives. Clean energy tax credits, such as the energy storage investment tax credit (ITC) and extension of the solar ITC, were completely cut out of the plan during legislative negotiations. These tax credits are important in driving clean energy investment and deployment. Electric vehicle funding, while still present, was cut by 90 percent. Support for equitable, low-income housing and climate and energy innovation were also dropped from the current proposal. The figure below from The New York Times shows the remaining funding allocations for the current infrastructure bill.

All-in-all, the infrastructure bill does not provide the massive investment in clean energy and climate progress needed to put us on track for net-zero emissions by 2050. It is possible that additional, positive measures for clean energy and the climate could be put in place through the budget reconciliation process, which is expected later this year.

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