Science and Environmental Communities Call on Biden, Congress to Decarbonize Transportation and Power Generation

April 14, 2021 | 11:55 am
Alexander Popov/unsplash
Jonna Hamilton
Former Contributor

President Biden recently unveiled his American Jobs Plan— a two trillion-dollar package with significant investments in infrastructure, advanced technologies, and jobs that will reduce our global warming emissions.  Next week, he will host the Leaders’ Climate Summit on Earth Day where he will likely announce how he wants us to re-engage with the rest of the world on climate, including some specifics on our national contribution to reducing emissions as we re-enter the Paris Climate agreement (yay!).

Today, more than 1,500 scientists, engineers, and other experts sent a letter to the administration calling for bold steps to reduce emissions that cause climate change by at least 50% in 2030, compared to 2005 levels, and highlighting some of the major policies that will be necessary to get us there— including serious policies to decarbonize the power and transportation sectors, which together are the largest emitters in the country.  Scientists are speaking out as never before on this issue and President Biden and others in his administration have taken steps to reinstate science to its proper role as a basis for sound policy— now is the time for the White House to demonstrate that science will drive critical decisions about the future of our health and the planet. [If you are a scientist or expert and want to sign this letter, you can do so here.]

Transportation has a huge role to play

To significantly reduce emissions from transportation, we are going to need standards that drive automakers to produce much cleaner and more efficient vehicles, as well as significantly more zero-emission vehicles than are offered today. Congress has a role to play in ensuring the administration has the tools and funds needed to jumpstart electrification

On March 31, President Biden released his American Jobs Plan (already dubbed the AJP by acronym-loving DC insiders) which holds a lot of promise for transitioning the transportation sector to zero-emission vehicles as well as supporting domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles and jobs in that industry.

The Biden American Jobs Plan invests in electric vehicles in a significant way, supporting:

  • Plug-in electric vehicle point-of-sale rebates that will ensure that purchase incentives for all electric vehicles will be available for consumers for a longer period of time. A switch to a point-of-sale rebate would make the incentive available at the time of purchase or making the credit refundable would ensure that the credit is available to all consumers, regardless of income (or tax liability).
  • Investment in charging infrastructure for electric vehicles so that consumers will have confidence that they will be able to charge their EVs where they live, work, or when they are on the go. President Biden has long been talking about installing 500,000 chargers by 2030 and this will be a major step in increasing availability of charging infrastructure that will be needed as we shift to EVs becoming the standard vehicle driven.
  • A switch to electric transit and school buses which will reduce pollution in communities where they operate, save transit agencies and school districts money on operation and maintenance costs, and reduce carbon emissions.
  • Supporting additional domestic manufacturing of EVs and their components will help ensure that we are building tomorrow’s technology in the US to maintain our leadership in this industry. By assisting automakers and component manufacturers retool their facilities and attracting more battery manufacturing to the US, we can support good paying jobs building the cars, trucks, and buses of the future.
  • Electrifying federal fleets so the government can lead by example and reduce its contribution to climate change and air pollution.
  • Incentivizing the purchase of electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks to reduce both carbon pollution and tailpipe pollution from these giant emitters.
  • Investing in modernizing transit by addressing the maintenance backlog and expand existing systems, as well as investing in rail, including new routes, and fast inter-city train service.
  • Additional research and development and demonstration programs for key climate priorities, including electric vehicles.

Next up – Congress

You may be wondering what happens next now that the American Jobs Plan is out.  The plan was basically an outline or a blueprint of what the administration would like to see in a Congressional infrastructure package— so now it’s Congress’s turn to take the wheel and write a bill that includes these pieces (and likely others).  This is a big job— it involves most of the Congressional committees and lots of members have bills or priorities that they will want to make sure are included.  It will take a few months to hammer out the details of a national plan.

We have put together a set of funding priorities that largely track with the Biden American Jobs Plan and sent a letter to the Hill yesterday with 36 other organizations calling for consumer incentives for EV purchases, investment in charging infrastructure, transitioning transit and school buses to be zero-emission, incentivizing zero-emission heavy-duty trucks, and reforms that need to be made to make transit better for everyone.

We are excited to see what we can get done to decarbonize and expand access to cleaner transportation this year.