Apr 20, 2021 - Economy

Potential public support for Biden's climate bet

Which do you prioritize given risk to the other: Environment vs. economic growth
Reproduced from Gallup; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans are more split on the question of prioritizing the environment over economic growth than they have been in years, which could be a good sign for public support of President Biden's climate and economic agenda.

Driving the news: Historically, more people favor prioritizing the economy over the environment when unemployment is high, and the opposite when unemployment is low. 

  • But when asked by Gallup last month, half of the respondents agreed that the environment should be given priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth.
  • 42% said the opposite in the annual poll — that economic growth should be given priority, even if the environment suffers some.
  • The 8 percentage point difference is the smallest it’s been since 2015.

Axios' Ben Geman and Andrew Freedman’s thought bubble: There’s little evidence that environmental protections are a brake on growth — and actual evidence shows that environmental protection and jobs growth can go hand in hand. It's not a choice between the two.

Why it matters: Ben writes that the findings suggest Biden has political running room to pursue his aggressive environmental and climate agenda because it’s happening alongside recent economic and job growth.

  • The White House is also extremely aware of the political peril around economic attacks on the plans, which is why they’re trying very hard to paint the infrastructure plan — stuffed with low-carbon energy and transit provisions — as a jobs plan, he adds.

What’s happening: President Biden’s infrastructure proposal (and larger macro level bet) is a blend of two of his top four priorities: climate change and the economy. 

Businesses stand ready: Hundreds of companies are signaling support for a clean-energy economy and are starting to prepare for regulatory changes as they look for ways to benefit from backing the larger infrastructure proposal. 

  • ExxonMobil, for example, says it wants to collaborate on carbon capture and storage projects in Texas.
  • A group of 300-plus corporations and investors issued a letter last week calling for the administration to commit to cutting emissions to “at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.”
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