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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The White House decided to go big or go home in proposing a more than $2.2 trillion bill that, if enacted, would be the most far-reaching climate legislation ever adopted by the U.S.

Between the lines: This could be a long slog on Capitol Hill, given Republican opposition to another big spending package and divisions among Democrats over specific provisions.

Here are some key takeaways:

1) The White House has three goals it's trying to address:

  • Slash greenhouse gas emissions from multiple economic sectors, particularly transportation.
  • Address longstanding racial and economic disparities between the communities that reap the benefits of research and development, and those that experience the scourge of pollution.
  • Generate what it claims will be tens of thousands of well-paying, union jobs.

2) President Biden wants lawmakers to forget the price tag. Climate scientists and economists agree that failing to slash emissions and limit the severity of global warming will be even more costly.

  • A 2018 federal climate report found that by the end of the century, global warming could cost the U.S. 10% of its gross domestic product if emissions were to continue on a business as usual trajectory.
  • “Climate change is going to impact our economy in deeper and deeper ways each year,” said Josh Freed of Third Way, a centrist group.

3) But we don't know the whole price tag. The White House summary lists hundreds of billions in energy and transit provisions.But the White House confirmed those tallies don't include costs of the plan's new and expanded tax credits for clean energy, transmission and more.

4) There is no carbon pricing scheme, such as a carbon tax or cap and trade system. Pricing's absence shows how those programs have lost cachet on the left and still face stiff GOP resistance.

5) Biden sees an upside to framing this bill around the need to compete with China, which could attract more support.

  • His speech in Pittsburgh mentioned "climate" just once explicitly, instead focusing on creating well-paying jobs through innovation.
  • "If we act now, in 50 years people are going to look back and say, this was the moment that America won the future," Biden said.

What's next: The proposal will need to be turned into legislative language in the House and Senate.

What they're saying: Leah Stokes, a political scientist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, tells Axios that the proposal is an "opening bid."

  • The provisions, she said, demonstrate “a big appetite for taking on this crisis at a scale that’s necessary to avert even bigger consequences through climate disasters."
  • Matt Piotrowski, director of policy and research at Climate Advisers, said Biden has a tough task ahead of him in trying to find enough support for this plan.
  • "Biden is trying to walk a fine line here. As a starting point, I think he is doing a good job. Whether he can sell this enough to make it pass is an open question."

Go deeper

Biden calls for massive climate and transit package

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden is asking Congress to approve hundreds of billions of dollars to remake transit, overhaul power grids and expand clean energy in a sweeping plan the White House says will fight climate change while outcompeting China.

Why it matters: The plan, if enacted, would be the most far-reaching federal investment to date in programs that would help curb greenhouse gas emissions. But it faces serious challenges in the closely divided Congress.

Updated Mar 31, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden unveils sweeping American Jobs Plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden will ask Congress Wednesday to spend $2 trillion on an infrastructure plan over eight years, and pay for it by increasing taxes on corporations for nearly twice as long.

Driving the news: The package, which he will unveil during a speech in Pittsburgh, seeks to fulfill a range of promises he made on the campaign trail to fix the country’s crumbling infrastructure, slow the growing climate crisis and reduce economic inequality.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Mar 31, 2021 - Economy & Business

Biden's clean energy infrastructure plan draws interest of lobbyists

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

President Biden's attempt to steer huge energy infrastructure plans through Congress and his wide-ranging executive agenda are together creating intense lobbying and advocacy efforts to shape the policies.

Why it matters: The new proposal for an energy infrastructure package is vastly larger than the roughly $90 billion for clean energy in the 2009 stimulus, and the constellation of interests in play is huge.

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