During a speech in Pittsburgh, PA, yesterday, President Biden laid out a plan to invest more than $2 trillion over the next eight years to curb climate change and promote renewable energy, among a wide range of other economic and infrastructure objectives.
The American Jobs Plan is an ambitious initiative that make agriculture a major player in its execution. It will require a bipartisan effort from lawmakers for the plan to serve as a path forward from which the White House can deliver what the administration says are climate solutions, jobs and justice through “investments in people and the economy.”
The plan vows to establish the United States as a leader in climate science, innovation, and research and development (R&D). Biden called on Congress to invest $35 billion in the full range of solutions needed to achieve technology breakthroughs that address climate change and position America as the global leader in clean energy technology and clean energy jobs.
The president announced his plan to launch the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Climate (ARPA-C), a working group charged with coordinating and strengthening federal government-wide efforts to foster affordable, game-changing technologies that can help the nation achieve a White House goal of net-zero, economy-wide emissions by 2050. (ARPA-C will have standing similar to ARPA-E and its energy development work, and DARPA, which is a defense-oriented work group.)
ARPA-C is expected to be an outgrowth of a new Climate Innovation Working Group at the White House, which officials say will call on Congress to support agricultural resources management and climate-smart technologies. Among the key planks of an agenda the working group will pursue is the development of innovative soil management, plant biology, and other agricultural techniques to remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it in the ground – objectives the sector has been pursuing, in part, through climate smart agriculture efforts like those promoted by Solutions from the Land.
While much is being made of the plan’s call for growth in electric vehicles, it appears the White House also recognizes the reality of a transportation system that will be dominated for decades by internal combustion engines. For that reason, the President’s plan also needs to embrace and support the near-term, complementary pathways that high-octane, low-carbon biofuels provide in the form of greenhouse gas reductions, vehicle efficiency and public health benefits. Research continues into the development of more efficient engines that can run on ever cleaner fuels. Biden’s proposal for investing in manufacturing should expand the production of biofuels, along with other biobased products.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack promotes the American Jobs Plan as a vehicle that puts Americans to work managing forests, grasslands and watersheds at the community level. In addition to protecting U.S. forests from burning up in increasing catastrophic wildfires, Biden’s initiative ensures “what’s good for the environment is good for jobs,” the secretary said.
The White House says the plan invests in rural communities, meeting standing utility and transportation needs such as full broadband coverage and the restoration of roads, bridges, and water systems.
SfL applauds President Biden’s infrastructure proposal and calls on lawmakers to come together and support provisions that, while reshaping the U.S. economy, would build out the clean energy infrastructure as part of a broader effort to curb climate change. As policy makers move forward on this massive proposal, they are urged to remember the major contributions that U.S. agriculture and rural communities will continue to make in solving the challenges of our time.