Opinion

Can the new infrastructure plan help fix climate change and save you money?

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Over the last decade, members of Congress from both parties have voiced concerns over America’s crumbling infrastructure. President Biden is now gaining bipartisan support in Congress for the most dramatic infrastructure plan since the Interstate Highway System that began under President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956.

President Biden’s infrastructure plan is more than improving our nation’s crumbling roads, bridges, ports, and inland waterways. The plan includes updating our country’s electric grid to make it resilient against climate-related disasters, which are increasing in frequency and ferocity.

According to the United Nations, extreme weather events around the world increased 83 percent over the last 20 years. As an example, the extreme cold weather in Texas in February resulted in days of rolling blackouts across the state and 210 deaths.

Updating our nation’s electric grid will also accelerate America’s move from coal to clean, reliable, low-cost renewable energy. In 2005, coal and renewable energy were used to generate 49.6 percent and 8.8 percent of America’s power, respectively. In 2020, coal and renewable energy were used to generate 19.3 percent and 19.8 percent of America’s power, respectively. Why the rapid change in coal to renewable energy, like wind and solar?

  1. EconomicsThe cost to generate electricity from coal-fired plants without subsidies is more than double the cost to generate electricity from wind farms.
  2. Pollution – Coal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant, contains arsenic, mercury, and lead, which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was documented to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants across America.
  3. Climate Change Coal generates 40 percent to 45 percent more carbon dioxide (CO2) when burned than natural gas.

Over the last 15 years, utilities in both “blue” and “red” states have steadily moved from coal-fired power plants to renewable energy. As a result, greenhouse gas emission from the nation’s electricity production sector has fallen 33 percent from 2007 to 2019.

The move to renewable energy continues to pick up pace across the country. In 2019, utilities used wind and solar to generate 7.3 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively, of the nation’s electricity. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) now forecasts that utilities will use wind and solar for 37 percent of our nation’s electricity by 2030.

President’s Biden’s infrastructure plan is gaining bipartisan support in Congress because the argument to improve our nation’s crumbling infrastructure is irrefutable. Improving our nation’s electric grid against climate-related disasters is a compelling argument that is also gaining bipartisan support.

Improving the resilience of our nation’s electric grid also enables our country to accelerate the move to reliable renewable energy, which in turn will address climate change and save the taxpayers money.

Jack Kerfoot is a scientist, energy executive, and author; who has been interviewed on over 70 radio and television stations from New York City to Los Angeles.