A Warmer World

How the infrastructure bill aims to tackle climate change

Andy Uhler Aug 11, 2021
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The bipartisan legislation includes funding for electric vehicle charging stations and eco-friendly public transit options. Dan Kitwood via Getty Images
A Warmer World

How the infrastructure bill aims to tackle climate change

Andy Uhler Aug 11, 2021
Heard on:
The bipartisan legislation includes funding for electric vehicle charging stations and eco-friendly public transit options. Dan Kitwood via Getty Images
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Some provisions in the bipartisan infrastructure bill the Senate just passed are aimed at mitigating wildfires and their effects. Other parts of the bill, however, could have a direct impact on the size and spread of those wildfires, namely energy infrastructure. 

The investment in the clean energy transformation touted by the Joe Biden administration seems to be getting underway with this legislation.

After bridges and roads, the biggest-ticket item — at more than $70 billion — is upgrading the nation’s electricity grid and power infrastructure. 

That’s an investment in the future, said Joshua Rhodes, a research associate with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin.

“If we’re going to run more of our grid off of renewables, we’re probably going to have to build more transmission lines to move that power longer distances. And some of the things in this bill do put money towards that,” Rhodes said.

The bill also allocates some $15 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure, including more charging stations along highways and $40 billion to make public transit more environmentally friendly.

“The public transit piece is way, way more important. We’re going to get way more bang for our buck,” said David Pellow, professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Specifically from things like low-emission municipal buses, school buses and ferries. 

Now, this bill could do more to address climate change realities, according to Jennifer Haverkamp. She’s director of the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan and worked in environmental policy in Barack Obama’s State Department.

But still, “it’s a significant move in the right direction with some good elements in there, and especially important for what it signals about a bipartisan recognition of the importance of addressing climate change infrastructure,” Haverkamp said.

She said she’s turned her attention to additional climate change policy funding in the budget resolution that was approved Wednesday in the Senate.

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