Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Would Help California meet its Climate Goals

June 23, 2021

Recently Washington was all abuzz with news that the Biden administration has set its sights on getting support for a comprehensive infrastructure plan.

When President Joe Biden introduced his infrastructure proposal, The American Jobs Plan, it became clear that it was not using a 20th century understanding of infrastructure: roads, highways, bridges, water systems and the electricity grid. Instead, the plan uses a more expansive definition of infrastructure that also includes homes, schools, childcare services, job creation, research and development, the supply chain, and even Internet broadband services. The definition includes not just the infrastructure network making up our transportation and utility systems, but the infrastructure supporting our families and our society as a whole.

The American Jobs Plan includes infrastructure for transportation, utility systems, and support for society as a whole.

California Needs Support and Bold Leadership from Washington

California Governor Gavin Newsom has established ambitious goals to reduce GHGs 40 percent below 1990 levels, including a requirement for 100 percent of in-state sales of new passenger cars and trucks to be zero-emission by 2035. California’s State Transportation Agency’s 2021 Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure states that we must achieve our emission reduction targets “under California’s climate laws” in order “to realize a truly low-carbon, sustainable, resilient, and economical future for the state.” But California alone cannot meet the moment without strong support and bold leadership from Washington.

If approved by Congress, The American Jobs Plan could pour trillions of dollars into making our infrastructure and societal support systems more sustainable and more reliable. The Plan provides critical funding support for high-speed trains, charging stations for electric cars, financial incentives for near-zero and zero-emission vehicles, and many more much-needed investments.

The American Jobs Plan could pour trillions of dollars into making our infrastructure systems more sustainable.

The Infrastructure Plan Will Invest Heavily in Transportation Improvements

The Biden Administration’s infrastructure initiative would invest around $621 billion into transportation improvements, $35 billion into the research and development of clean energy technology and clean energy jobs, $46 billion into clean energy manufacturing, and $100 billion into the construction of electric transmission systems that move clean electricity nationwide. This plan would also provide incentives and rebates for Americans to purchase American-made electric vehicles. It would facilitate the establishment of a national network of a half million electric vehicle charging stations by 2030, replace 50,000 diesel transit vehicles, and transition 20 percent of the nation’s school buses from diesel to electric engines.

These kinds of investments are long overdue to upgrade and modernize our infrastructure. With these changes we can transition not only California, but the entire nation, to a sustainable economy that is not reliant on fossil fuels that create greenhouse gases and air pollution that is damaging to our health.

By reducing emissions from the transportation sector we can reduce cases of asthma, emphysema, pulmonary hypertension and cancer.

By reducing emissions from the transportation sector, and in particular, major sources of diesel air pollution, we can reduce the cases of asthma, emphysema, pulmonary hypertension, and cancer, which will reduce emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and ultimately our nation’s exorbitant health care costs. The major sources of diesel pollution to focus on are short-haul (drayage) and long-haul trucks, construction and cargo loading equipment, agricultural machinery, locomotives, maritime shipping and aircraft. Ships and aircraft are the most complicated because both are regulated by international agreements. But we are seeing some container shipping lines prioritize sustainability and strive for carbon neutrality. In just two years, for instance, Maersk is planning to introduce its first liner vessel to run on biomethanol. The aviation sector is also looking at ways to reduce the carbon footprint of aircraft by exploring new approaches to technologies, fuels, and propulsion systems.

Southern California Must Address the Issue of Diesel Pollution

Tackling the impacts and root causes of diesel pollution is an important part of our infrastructure here in Southern California. And in doing so, it is going to take a sizable investment not only from our state and local governments but also our federal government. Addressing these challenges given the multiple crises we are facing as a nation and here in California will not be an easy task. Still, approaching the issue of diesel pollution and attempting to move beyond a world with hazardous air quality, poor health outcomes, and wellbeing disparities throughout Southern California is a challenge we must honestly face.

Let’s hope the buzz in Washington continues, and there is enough support to make our nation’s economy stronger while also growing green jobs and decarbonizing our transportation system. If this happens, diesel pollution can become a thing of the past.