Biden sets out his green vision for America, but weaning the US off fossil fuel will be hard

In a speech pitched squarely at working American men and women the US President invoked history to sell his vision of a green future.

It was no mistake he chose a Union hall in Pittsburgh – this was a cry out far beyond the big corporations and the highly partisan politics of the Beltway.

“I’m convinced if we act now in 50 years people are going to look back and say this was the moment that America won the future.”

This was Joe Biden attempting to impress on the nation not only the urgency and the scale of the task ahead, but also the opportunity presented by climate change.

His “build back better” $2 trillion (£1.45trn) infrastructure programme is certainly ambitious.

And if he can deliver the agenda it will be transformational.

That amount of money has not been spent in a concerted way by the federal government since the Second World War – this was according to the president “once in a generation” stuff.

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Clearly a large amount of the money will be used to rebuild traditional infrastructure.

But a big chunk will also be spent moving the power-hungry US economy to greener energy over the next eight years – a way to limit the chaos caused by climate change.

As well as modernising 20,000 miles of roads and fixing thousands of bridges the US power supply will be made “clean”.

Biden wants to reduce the country's dependence on fossil fuel Pic: AP
Image:Biden wants to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuel Pic: AP

What Joe Biden is proposing is a green industrial revolution.

Such a dramatic shift will not only be transformational it will be disruptive.

The president acknowledges jobs will be lost in traditional energy industries.

His sell to the nation, and it’s a tough one, is to convince and help people transition into the new greener jobs.

He will also need to build bipartisan support which is not an easy task in the cauldron of America’s highly polarised politics.

Paying for the projects will also involve raising taxes. For instance corporation tax is set to rise from 21% to 28%.

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Although the speech was for domestic consumption it was far more than that.

They will have been watching closely in Beijing and in Moscow.

Mr Biden feels the weight of the century on his shoulders and was also setting down a marker. America needs a green industrial revolution not just because it’s the right thing to do but also because it will keep the country in the vanguard of global competitiveness.

There will be no doubt resistance to such an extreme package and it would be easy to write this off as a non starter in ordinary times; but these are no ordinary times.

The pandemic – and changing public opinion – may just give this administration the opening they need to push through what amounts to a revolutionary agenda.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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