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Biden’s Infrastructure Bill Will Make or Break His Climate Legacy

President Joe Biden is turning to his next legislative priority, a $3 trillion pair of infrastructure bills that put climate change front and center. As first reported in the New York Times on March 22, funding will be directed to the electric grid, energy-efficient affordable housing, electric vehicle charging stations, and other clean energy priorities. It follows a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package signed earlier this month.
The infrastructure package shows that Biden is taking a different approach to the climate crisis than Barack Obama. Rather than centering his climate policy agenda on regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants (as Obama did, with his Clean Power Plan), Biden’s priority is to pour money into new technologies and clean energy hardware with a goal to decarbonize the US electricity system by 2035. The administration is betting that leading with a carrot, rather than the stick, will be the fastest, lowest-cost way to make a lasting dent in emissions, while breathing life in to the post-pandemic economy (new emissions regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency will likely follow).
“This could be the most promising opportunity to make progress on decarbonization across the economy that the US has had in a long time,” said John Larsen, director of climate and energy at Rhodium Group, a research firm. “And as far as getting very quick returns on investments, the power sector is the most important place to make progress.”
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