"Build Back Better" Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden on Our Clean Energy Future in Wilmington, Delaware
As prepared for delivery.
Yes, I'm here today to talk about infrastructure, jobs, and our clean energy future.
But I have to start by speaking to what millions of Americans know when they wake up every morning with more worry, anxiety, and fear — we are still a country in crisis.
This pandemic has infected more than 3 million Americans. It has cost more than 135,000 lives — and it shows no signs of slowing down.
In just the last few days, 19 states reported record cases, including Florida, which saw more than 15,000 new cases in a single day.
Hospitalizations and deaths – two of the most concerning indicators of Trump's failed response – are already unacceptably high, and they're rising.
It's gotten bad enough that even Donald Trump finally decided to wear a mask in public. I'm glad he made that shift — but it's not enough, Mr. President.
We won't be able to turn the corner and get the American people back to work safely without presidential leadership.
"Open everything now" isn't a strategy for success. It's barely a slogan.
Quit pushing the false choice between protecting our health and protecting our economy.
All that does is endanger our recovery on both fronts.
Please listen to your own public health experts instead of denigrating them.
Do your job, Mr. President. Because if we can't deal with the public health crisis, we can't deal with the economic crisis … or deal with almost 18 million Americans who are out of work, and the incredible pain inflicted on small businesses and communities of color.
And we can't deal with the climate crisis that could cast an even darker and more permanent shadow over our country and the world.
And we won't be able to do what America has always done — come back stronger than ever
with grit, toughness, and resilience
That's what I want to talk about today.
Last week, I shared the outlines of my plan to Build Back Better — a bold plan to build an economy of the future, not the past.
The first plank of the plan rejects the defeatist view that automation and globalization mean we can't ensure our future is Made in America, with good-paying union jobs here at home.
We clearly can.
But today, I'm here in Wilmington to talk about the second plank – how we can create millions of high-quality, union jobs by building a modern infrastructure and a clean energy future.
These are the most critical investments we can make for the long-term health and vitality of the American economy and the safety of the American people.
Even if we weren't facing a pandemic and an economic crisis, we should be making these investments.
One in five miles of our highways are still in "poor condition."
Tens of thousands of bridges are in disrepair.
Tens of millions of Americans lack access to high-speed broadband.
To get our people to work and our kids to school safely, to get our goods to market swiftly, and to power a clean energy revolution in this country, we need to modernize America's infrastructure.
Despite this overwhelming need, this President and Republicans in Congress have simply failed to act.
They continue to break promises to the American people.
Donald Trump promised a big infrastructure bill when he ran in 2016. He promised it again in 2017 … and in 2018 … and in 2019. And he's promising one again.
Every few weeks when he needs a distraction from the latest charge of corruption in his staff — or the conviction of high ranking members of his administration and political apparatus — the White House announces it's "Infrastructure Week."
But he's never delivered. Never even really tried.
Well, I know how to get it done.
In 2009, President Obama and I inherited an economy in free fall, and we prevented another Great Depression.
We enacted the largest infrastructure plan since President Eisenhower's interstate highway system, not only generating jobs, but improving the safety of our roads.
We made the largest investment in clean energy in history — 90 billion dollars.
It put us on a path toward a thriving clean energy economy, powering new economic growth and reducing energy costs. Here we are now with the economy in crisis, but with an incredible opportunity not just to build back to where we were before, but better, stronger, more resilient, and more prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.
And there is no more consequential challenge that we must meet in this next decade — than the onrushing climate crisis.
Left unchecked, it is an existential threat to the health of our planet and to our very survival.
That's not up for dispute, Mr. President.
When Donald Trump thinks about climate change — he can muster is one word: "hoax."
When I think about climate change — I think of a word as well: "jobs."
Good-paying, union jobs that put Americans to work: making the air cleaner for our kids to breathe, restoring our crumbling roads and bridges and ports, and making it faster, cheaper, and cleaner to transport American-made goods all across this country, and around the world.
Jobs to build and install a network of 500,000 charging stations all across the country, which will not only help the American auto industry lead the world in manufacturing electric vehicles, it will save working families money on gas.
Jobs to lay the lines for the second great railroad revolution, which will not only slash pollution — it will slash commute times and open up investment in areas connected to metropolitan centers for the first time.
When Donald Trump thinks about renewable energy, he sees windmills somehow causing cancer.
When I think about those wind-farms, I see American manufacturing — and American workers — racing to dominate the global market.
I see the steel that will be needed — for the windmill platforms and towers and ladders that could be made by small manufacturers like McGregor Industries, where I visited last week.
And I see the union-trained and certified men and women who will manufacture and install it all.
I see the ports that will come back to life – the longshoremen, and the ship builders, and the communities they support.
When Donald Trump thinks about improving energy efficiency by retrofitting lighting systems with LED bulbs, you want to know what he says? He says he doesn't like LEDs because: the light's no good. I always look orange."
When I think about energy retrofitting for lighting, I see incredible projects like the one here at the Chase Center.
I see the small businesses like Preferred Electric that design and install award-winning energy conservation measures that reduce the consumption of electricity and save businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in energy costs.
I see the master electricians and union workers who went through union apprenticeships — who start off with good wages and quality benefits that only grow from there.
These investments will be a win-win-win for this country. Creating jobs. Cutting energy costsbills. Protecting our climate.
That's why today I'm releasing my plan to mobilize millions of jobs by building sustainable infrastructure and an equitable clean energy future.
In my first four years, we're going to give 4 million buildings all across the country the same energy make-over that the Chase Center got.
It's going to create at least one million jobs in construction, engineering and manufacturing to get it done.
It's going to make the places where we live, work, and learn healthier, improving indoor air quality and water quality, and it's going to save tens of billions of dollars of energy costs over time.
But we're not just going to focus on commercial space, we're going to give direct support to help families do the same thing for their homes.
We're going offer cash rebates and low-cost financing to upgrade energy inefficient appliances and windows — improvements that will also cut their monthly energy bills.
And we're going to make a major investment to build 1.5 million new energy-efficient homes and public housing units that will benefit our communities three-times over: by alleviating the affordable housing crisis, by increasing energy efficiency, and by reducing the racial wealth gap linked to home ownership.
Last week I talked about using the purchasing power of the federal government to reinvigorate domestic manufacturing — that's what we're going to do with the American auto industry as well.
The United States owns and maintains an enormous fleet of vehicles — and we're going to convert those government fleets to electric vehicles — made and sourced right here in the United States of America.
With the government providing the demand and the grants to re-tool factories that are struggling to compete, the U.S. auto industry and its deep bench of suppliers will step up —
expanding capacity so that the United States – not China – leads the world in clean vehicle production.
And we're going to make it easier for American consumers to switch to electric vehicles too.
Not only by building those 500,000 charging stations, but by offering rebates and incentives to swap older, fuel inefficient vehicles for new, clean, American-made models, saving hundreds of millions of barrels of oil annually.
Together, this will mean one million good new jobs in the American auto industry, its supply chains, and the associated infrastructure.
We also know that transforming the American electricity sector to produce power without also producing carbon pollution — and electrifying an increasing share of our economy — will be the greatest spur to job creation and economic competitiveness in the 21st century.
That's why we are going to achieve a carbon-pollution free electricity sector by 2035.
And we need to get to work right away.
We'll need scientists at national labs and land-grant universities and HBCUs to improve and innovate the technologies needed to generate, store, and transmit this clean electricity.
We'll need engineers to design them and workers to manufacture them.
We'll need iron workers and welders to install them.
And we'll become the world's largest exporter of these technologies, creating even more jobs.
We know how to do this. Our administration rescued the auto industry and helped them retool, made solar energy the same cost as traditional energy, weatherized more than a million homes — and we will do it again — bigger and faster and smarter.
And, as we do this work, we need to be mindful of the historic wrongs and the damage that America's industrial rise in the 20th century inflicted on the environment in poor and vulnerable communities – so often Black, Brown, and Native American communities.
Polluted air. Polluted water. Toxins raining down on communities that bore the environmental and health burdens, but shared none of the profits. Growing up, breathing that in every day — it's poison.
That's partly why there are such incredible rates of childhood asthma in Black and Brown communities. Why Black Americans are almost three times more likely to die of asthma-related causes than white Americans.
It's "Cancer Alley" in St. James Parish in Louisiana. And it's the cancer clusters along Route 9 here in Delaware.
And that's why, today, I'm also releasing a slate of environmental justice policies that build on my existing plan.
This is an area of incredible opportunity for economic growth for our country — but we have to make sure that the first people to benefit are those who have been hurt the most by centuries of structural disparities.
I'm setting a goal of making sure that these frontline and fenceline communities, whether in rural places or in city centers, receive 40 percent of the benefits from the investments we're making — in housing, in pollution reduction, in workforce development, in transportation — across the board.
And we're also going to create jobs for people by cleaning up the environmental hazards that have now been abandoned.
More than a quarter million jobs — right away — to do things like plug the millions of abandoned oil and gas wells that exist all across this country, posing a daily threat to the health and safety of our communities.
And we're going to hold accountable those CEOs and corporations that benefited from decades of subsidies — then just walked away from their responsibilities to these communities-- leaving wells to leak dangerous pollutants and greenhouse gasses into the air and water.
And we're not only going to repeal those subsidies, we're going to go after those golden parachutes the CEOs gave themselves before declaring bankruptcy, and make sure workers receive the benefits and retirements they were promised.
Let's create new markets for our family farmers and ranchers — and a new, modern day Civilian Climate Corps to heal our public lands and make us less vulnerable to wildfires and floods.
These aren't pie-in-the-sky dreams. They're actionable policies that we can get to work on right away.
We can live up to our responsibilities, meet the challenges of a world at risk of a climate catastrophe, build more climate-resilient communities, put millions of skilled workers on the job, and make life markedly better and safer for the American people all at once.
The alternative — to ignore the facts, to deny reality, to focus only on the technology of the last century, instead of inventing the technologies that will define this century — it's just plain un-American.
That is all that Donald Trump and the Republicans offer:
Backward-looking politics that will harm the environment, make communities less healthy, and hold back economic progress while other countries race ahead.
It's a mindset that doesn't have any faith in the capacity of the American people to compete, to innovate, and to win.
And it will extract a deadly cost.
I know better. And I know you do, as well.
I know what the American people are capable of.
I know what American workers can accomplish when given the room to run.
I know that climate change is the challenge that's going to define our American future — and I know meeting this challenge will be a once-in-a-century opportunity to jolt new life into our economy, strengthen our global leadership, and protect our planet for future generations.
And, if I have the honor of being elected President, we're not just going to tinker around the edges.
We're going to make historic investments that will seize this opportunity and meet this moment in history.
We're going to get to work delivering results right away — on day one.
We're going to reverse Trump's roll backs of 100 public health and environmental rules – and then forge a path to greater ambition.
We're going to get back into the Paris Agreement – and back into the business of leading the world.
And we're going to lock-in progress that no future president can roll back or undercut to take us backwards again.
Science requires a timeline for measurable progress on climate that isn't three decades or even two.
Science tells us we will only have nine years to act before the damage is irreversible.
So my timeline for results is my first four years as president — the jobs we'll create, the investments we'll make, and the irreversible steps we'll take to mitigate and adapt to climate change and to put our nation on the road to net-zero emissions by no later than 2050.
So let's not waste any more time. Let's get to work.
Joseph R. Biden, "Build Back Better" Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden on Our Clean Energy Future in Wilmington, Delaware Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/345135