Mar 28, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Progressives try to sell climate spending with jobs pitch

John Podesta is seen walking up a set of stairs in the Capitol Visitors Center.

John Podesta. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Progressives are trying to sell President Biden's infrastructure initiative with new cable TV ads arguing clean energy projects will immediately create thousands of jobs.

Why it matters: White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggested Sunday that Biden will split his potential $3 trillion package in two — investments in infrastructure, followed by billions more for the “caregiving economy.” The first political fight may be over what qualifies as infrastructure.

  • Climate Power, an environmental group with close ties to the White House, will spend an additional $2 million during the next month on national cable and digital ads arguing major clean energy spending has bipartisan support.
  • The ads will be part of an overall $10 million effort.
  • “Investing in clean energy and infrastructure is the best, fastest and most effective way to put people to work and address the climate crisis,” John Podesta, a member of the group's advisory board, writes in a memo outlining its plans.

Our thought bubble: "There may be resistance to making the infrastructure bills too climate-heavy, unless the public views clean energy spending as a win/win for jobs and the environment," writes Axios energy and climate reporter Andrew Freedman.

Between the lines: White House officials know there’s a limit to the number of “shovel-ready” jobs in any infrastructure package.

  • Progressives are preparing for that coming battle.
  • Their argument is that green infrastructure will give the economy short- and long-term boosts: first, with thousands of new jobs to actually build projects, and then with a round of hiring in an economy catering to clean energy.

The big picture: By dividing Biden’s Build Back Better agenda into two legislative proposals, the White House is trying to suggest the first one won’t engender much controversy.

  • “Roads, railways, rebuilding them — that's not a partisan issue,” Psaki said on "Fox News Sunday."
  • In reality, many Republicans do support traditional surface transportation projects, but some have little interest in spending billions on charging stations and new electricity grids.

By the numbers: Like Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, Democrats insist the president’s infrastructure proposals have national bipartisan support, even if House and Senate Republicans have signaled their opposition.

  • Some 67% of voters say the federal government should be doing more to modernize American infrastructure, according to a new poll for Climate Power and Data for Progress.
  • 73% say it is time for Congress to invest in infrastructure.

Between the lines: More than two-thirds of voters would be more likely to support the Build Back Better plan if it prioritizes oil and gas workers for new clean energy jobs, and if they have the chance to unionize.

The bottom line: Democrats insist any laid-off workers in the oil and gas industry will be able to find employment in the green energy economy.

  • That’s a hard argument to make in Trump country.
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