Leadership Blog Part 17: Infrastructure Investment and Climate Change

We have all heard a lot about the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the 1.2 trillion dollars that it promises to pump into fixing our roads, bridges and other infrastructure.  What might not be readily apparent to some who have not yet taken a deep dive into the IIJA is what the investment could do for climate change. The IIJA proposes to invest approximately $75 billion in targeted carbon emission reduction initiatives and billions more in other initiatives that will have the effect on reducing emissions.  Below are some of the key emissions reduction initiatives addressed by the IIJA:

  • $65 Billion in clean energy transmission upgrades and installing smart grid technologies;
  • $7.5 Billion for a nationwide network of electric vehicle charging stations;
  • $5 Billion for low or zero emission public transit buses; and
  • $2.5 Billion for low or zero emission ferries.

The Biden Administration is vowing to build 500,000 public charging stations (one every 50 miles) along designated Alternative Fuel Corridors (AFCs) which are located along most interstates across the country.  These charging stations would be less than a mile off an interchange exit to provide ease of access.  This investment will ease the public’s “Range Anxiety” and fuel the demand for Electric Vehicles (EVs). Of course, the higher costs of EVs will need to come down some so as to make a difference in emissions reduction, but I’ll save that topic for a future blog post.

In addition to the investment in these above obvious emission reduction initiatives, there are several other areas that the IIJA will have an emission reducing effect.  $39 billion will be spent for the modernization of public transit systems which will encourage more people to use public transportation, thereby reducing the number on gasoline-powered vehicles on the road.  Another $25 billion will be invested in airports, including airplanes with low-carbon technologies.  And $1 billion will be used to reconnect communities and neighborhoods divided by highways and other infrastructure (think walkable streets).  Add to this the fact that all states and municipalities receiving federal funds will use matching funds to receive even more money for emission reducing projects and the IIJA will be a big step forward in slowing climate change, at least for us here in the USA.

But as we have already seen, this of course, all depends on getting projects started and delivered; so far that has been a slow process. Now if only inflation, and the many problems in our supply chain during the pandemic, could get resolved, we will be making great progress toward building new, modern, resilient infrastructure for all of us and our future generations.

Brian McGowan

NAEP Leadership Development Committee

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