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The floating solar sector is on the rise, and the massive energy company Vistra is aiming to pepper retired coal power plants with solar panels (photo courtesy of Vistra, “Vision Zero”).

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With Millions Still Out of Work, We Need Biden’s American Jobs Plan

Now it’s our turn to rally around this vision of a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous future.

Originally published on the NRDC Expert Blog.
By Mitchell Bernard

Today’s unemployment numbers out of Washington affirm what the country’s experiencing on Main Street: a grinding climb from a devastating pandemic that’s taking a continuing toll on the economic security of our people. It’s great news that unemployment is falling. But 9.3 million Americans remain out of work.

President Biden has proposed the right remedy — the American Jobs Plan, a comprehensive package of strategic public investment that weds climate action to equitable recovery and puts people back to work in every community.

This is a bold vision for strong, lasting, and broad-based recovery. It sets the table for a generation of prosperity and progress. It means cleaner, healthier communities, both urban and rural. As the plan makes its way through Congress, it’s time for all of us to rally around it.

The American Jobs Plan is a stirring vote of confidence in the nation’s future. It’s built on the belief that U.S. workers can out-compete anyone in the world when given a fighting chance. That’s what this plan does.

It sets us on the path to 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 — wiping out nearly a third of the dangerous carbon pollution that’s driving the climate crisis — by helping to clean up the nation’s power sector.

It speeds the transition to electric cars and trucks with zero tailpipe emissions, expands sustainable transit options for those who need them most, and reconnects urban neighborhoods divided for decades by misguided highway routes.

It protects our communities from the risks and toxic pollution from more than 3.1 million abandoned oil and gas wells and coal mines, by capping and cleaning up these idled fossil fuel sites as we shift to cleaner, smarter ways to power our future.

And it ends the ongoing and unacceptable exposure to hazardous drinking water in as many as 10 million American homes, by replacing lead pipes and service lines with safe and modern alternatives, while upgrading wastewater, drinking water, and stormwater systems nationwide.

These are essential national priorities. Cleaning up our dirty cars, trucks, and power plants. Capping abandoned wells and mines. Getting the lead out of our drinking water.

Combined with other vital work, such as rebuilding aging bridges, roads, and ports, this investment will create or sustain 15 million jobs over the coming decade, a Georgetown University analysis shows, including 8 million for workers that require only a high school education or less.

These are good-paying jobs for welders, carpenters, truck drivers, electricians, steelworkers, and others, including those who want the collective bargaining opportunities that come from belonging to a union.

The clean energy sector offers multiple advantages: It pays 25 percent more than the average job for some 3 million workers who help to make our homes, cars, and workplaces more efficient; it builds electric and low-emission cars, trucks, and parts; it gets more clean power from the wind and sun; and it modernizes the grid and storage system we depend on for reliable power.

That’s core work in the American Jobs Plan. It’s how we roll up our sleeves and make good on Biden’s pledge to cut the U.S. carbon footprint in half by 2030, so we can stop adding carbon pollution to the atmosphere altogether by 2050.

That’s what the science tells us must happen — at home and abroad — if we’re to avert the worst of a climate crisis that last year alone inflicted more than $95 billion in damage nationwide, while combining with fossil fuel pollution to impose another $820 billion in health-care costs on our people.

Confronting this costly crisis will be the economic play of our lifetime, with clean energy investments set to attract more than $11 trillion in global capital in the space of this generation alone.

The American Jobs Plan will help make the United States a clean energy superpower — and make U.S. companies and workers the winners in the global clean energy sweepstakes.

The plan includes investments to plus-up research and investment in critical new technologies; support innovation to make U.S. factories more efficient; strengthen the domestic supply chain for the next generation of wind, solar, and battery technology; and expand training for workers looking to transition out of fading industries like fossil fuels and into more promising opportunities elsewhere.

Strengthening our economy. Putting our people back to work. Cleaning up toxic pollution that threatens our health. Standing up to the mounting costs and growing dangers of climate change.

These are the pillars of the American Jobs Plan — strategic investment that’s paid for by asking fossil fuel companies, other corporations, and those earning more than $400,000 a year to pay their fair share to support the kind of progress that’s enabled them to thrive. Investing in efficiency, meanwhile, will enable us to do more with less waste in our homes, workplaces and cars, cutting energy costs for our families and businesses.

Small wonder, then, that the plan is supported by nearly two-thirds of the country.

The American Jobs Plan accomplishes one thing more: It addresses what the pandemic has made all the more urgent.

A modern plague that has killed 600,000 people across the United States alone, the coronavirus pandemic has upended the lives of us all. No one is surprised to learn who’s suffered most: primarily the same low-income communities and people of color for whom the pandemic has only worsened long-festering inequities in education and employment opportunities, housing, and health care.

The American Jobs Plan is designed to address those inequities head-on. It’s tailored to deliver 40 percent of the economic, environmental, and health benefits of this strategic climate and clean energy investment to the same historically disadvantaged communities that bear a disproportionate share of the burden of environmental hazard and harm.

The American Jobs Plan is the grand strategy the country needs — and we need it now. The 2022 federal budget Biden proposed last week includes a down payment on this eight-year investment plan, with early investment to jump-start the progress it’s meant to ensure.

Now, it’s our turn to rally around this hopeful vision of a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous future for a nation united behind the climate action that can power a strong, just, and equitable recovery for every family, in every community, across this land.

Image (cropped): “Vistra Zero” renewable energy plan courtesy of Vistra.

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NRDC is the nation's most effective environmental action group, combining the grassroots power of 1.3 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists, and other professionals.

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