Cars, Carbon, and Congress

Earlier this year, President Biden proposed the American Jobs Plan with the goal of rebuilding the U.S.’s economy by creating jobs and improving America. The infrastructure section of this bill hopes to alleviate climate change through increasing the usage of electric vehicles and funding innovative ideas. Currently the bill is being discussed in Congress and Biden has said that he is “prepared to compromise” in order to pass the bill. Although Biden has stated that he wants the U.S. to become “a leader in climate science, innovation, and research and development,” this bill is not the most productive usage of our resources, time, and money when combating climate change. 

Within the infrastructure bill, the most extensive climate-related policies are dedicated towards transportation. Biden wants to fund the production of electric vehicles and make them more accessible through infrastructure improvements. Legislation around electric vehicles seems like a great place to start promoting climate change on a wider scale because they are tangible and accessible to the average consumer. Putting money into electric vehicles is a good decision, but increasing the use of electric vehicles is not the most efficient or helpful path to address climate change, as it does not create enough of a reduction in the country’s carbon footprint. Some alternative methods, such as putting money towards insulating and sealing buildings to reduce the amount of energy used, or increasing the use of composting, are more effective ways to reduce America’s carbon footprint on an individual level. Switching to electric vehicles will help to reduce the amount of carbon emissions in the air through the consumer, but more widespread legislation needs to be put into place in order to make a big enough impact. The U.S. has to expand their policies to continue to combat climate change. 

That being said, there are many different plans and bills that have been introduced to Congress to address climate change, however, they are not all physically possible or politically feasible to pass. For example, the Green New Deal is one of the most, if not the most, ambitious plan that has been introduced. The Green New Deal’s main goal is for the United States to reach net zero-emission by 2030. This is a hefty goal, and is definitely possible if enough infrastructure is put into place promptly. However, in order for a plan to be put into action, it needs to not only be scientifically plausible, but also politically achievable. The Green New Deal is a plan that is unlikely to pass through Congress because of its partisan nature and lack of support among non-progressive Democrats and Republicans. However, a bill that I think is more likely to pass with more widespread support is a carbon pricing bill. This is a bill that both helps the environment significantly, while being more bipartisan than the more ambitious plans. Carbon is extremely bad for the environment because it traps heat in the atmosphere. This is the leading contributor to global warming, which causes a whole host of problems for the planet and the climate. 

The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, or the H.R.763, was previously introduced to Congress to combat this specific problem and this act puts a fee on the amount of carbon released when producing a good or service This bill received support from 86 cosponsors in the House. Essentially, this law will push producers to switch to more renewable energy sources and manufacture more environmentally friendly products, because they want to avoid these fees. Carbon pricing is a way to regulate the amount of carbon put into the air and help incentivize companies to switch to more renewable energy. This bill simultaneously gathers considerable political support since it will supply dividend payments (money paid regularly to citizens) to Americans. Low and middle income households will benefit the most from these because they typically have lower carbon footprints, which means that they will end up with more money from the dividend that they can use at their own discretion.The original bill is a great model as to what productive and effective change looks like. It received bipartisan support, helps the economy, pushes for renewable energy, and helps the average person through its monetary benefits and long-term effects. 

There is no ‘correct’ way to solve climate change. There are many different approaches that the U.S. government can take, and the infrastructure bill may be a great place to start. But, I think this is only the beginning. We need to continue pushing forward, and I think that reintroducing the carbon fee and dividend bill is a great next step in protecting our environment and ensuring a safe and sustainable future for Americans.