INFRASTRUCTURE BILL MAKES BIG BET ON ENERGY
This week, President Joseph Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The bipartisan bill aims to pour $1.2 trillion into creating an estimated 1.5 mil-lion new jobs annually over the next 10 years by upgrading all manner of public works across the U.S., and a major theme, both direct and indirect, of the planned infrastructure makeover is energy.
Modernizing the country’s electric grids is definitely a priority for the investments of the bill. Per a report on Bloom Energy from October 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that outages drain as much as $150 billion from the U.S. economy every year. Indeed, Winter Storm Uri, which ravaged Texas in February and literally froze many of ERCOT’s generators, is a perfect example not only of the danger posed to U.S. energy infrastructure by climate change but also of the importance of improving the physical resilience of such assets to adapt to the threat. To that end, $65 billion is earmarked for new transmission lines, and approximately $50 billion is set aside to weatherize critical resources against natural hazards such as floods, wildfires, and droughts.
The energy sector is also poised to benefit incidentally from the funds that the Act will funnel into transportation, the top source of carbon emissions in the U.S. The bill seeks to develop cleaner and more energy-efficient transportation technologies. Therefore, in addition to the whopping $42 billion meant to facilitate the implementation of low-carbon and electric technologies in shipping and air travel, $7.5 billion will be used to make progress toward the President’s goal of a nationwide network of 500,000 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.
The Biden Administration appears to recognize the crucial role that energy must play in reviving the U.S. economy. Reforming the nation’s electricity delivery system and revolutionizing how its vehicles are fueled are not guaranteed to lower prices for taxpayers at either the plug or the pump. Nonetheless, the improved reliability of electric grids and greater accessibility of EVs, not to mention the myriad energy-related jobs themselves, that should materialize from the bold initiatives of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would ultimately benefit industry and consumers alike.