December 20, 2021 at 5:00 am ET
The Senate will soon be ready to vote on the Build Back Better Act. Much has been written about how this bill will help slow the rate of climate change by driving investments in clean energy, increasing the affordability of and access to electric cars and upgrading and expanding public transit. These are good and necessary initiatives which are badly needed and long overdue.
But sometimes when we talk about programs of this size and scope, it can be hard to stay focused on how they will benefit the lives of average Americans. So here are three ways the Build Back Better Act’s climate and clean energy provisions will have a positive impact on our lives.
Keep the lights on. From coast to coast, Americans are dealing with power outages that last longer and occur more frequently. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2020 was the worst year for power outages, with the average American spending eight hours in the dark. In Maine, customers had the most frequent outages, lasting nearly 30 hours total. In Louisiana, outages lasted 60 hours — the longest in the country. The problem is pervasive, and increasingly caused by failing electric power infrastructure that’s unable to withstand the uptick in extreme weather events.
Fortunately, Build Back Better will help address this problem. Some $320 billion is earmarked for upgrading and modernizing electric transmission and storage, making our grid more reliable and resilient, allowing more renewable energy onto the system, and making sure the lights stay on for all of us.
Reduce flood damage. The Build Back Better Act sets aside much-needed funding for communities that are experiencing increasingly destructive and costly weather-related damage. According to federal data, the United States now has an average of 12 billion-dollar weather disasters a year, and every state is susceptible. But even in the absence of a hurricane or severe storm, so-called “sunny day” flooding is submerging coastal communities.
With sea levels rising, damaging floods that once happened only during storms are now happening when full moons or changing wind patterns cause unusually high tides. This is only expected to get worse, with scientists predicting as many as 75 flood days a year by 2050. Build Back Better sets aside $105 billion to help communities become more climate resilient — funding that will be critical for the cities and towns struggling to stay above water even on sunny days.
Relieve supply chain headaches. The investments in climate solutions aren’t just good for the planet and the health and safety of our families and communities — they are an investment in the job market and our domestic supply chain. We have all experienced the painful supply chain backlog, especially over the past year and now heading into the holiday season.
Incentives included in the Build Back Better Act will help boost existing American manufacturing, alleviating some of that backlog while also creating good-paying jobs here at home. Combined with the bipartisan infrastructure measure that the president recently signed into law, Build Back Better will add an average of 1.5 million jobs per year for the next decade, according to Moody’s Analytics, a leading rating agency. Economists at Moody’s also determined that these job-creating provisions, paired with consumer tax incentives in the Build Back Better bill, will not add to inflation, but rather ease it by encouraging long-term economic growth.
All of these measures will provide enormous benefits to millions of Americans both now and in the future. Combine them with the other major climate change provisions in the bill, and the Build Back Better Act could be remembered as the moment we began to turn the tide on climate change.
The Senate should approve the bill as soon as possible.
Elgie Holstein is the senior director of strategic planning at the Environmental Defense Fund and a former special assistant to the president for economic policy at the National Economic Council. Felice Stadler is vice president for political Affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund and a 25-year issue campaigns veteran working with Congress and federal agencies to advance nationally significant federal climate and clean air policy.
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