Former vice president and Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden is promoting a “new generation” of low-carbon trucking, shipping and aviation technologies through a plan to invest $400 billion over 10 years in a federal clean energy research program.
The proposal is part of a 10-year, $3 trillion infrastructure plan announced today (Nov. 14) that he says his administration would roll out if he’s elected president in 2020.
“Long-haul trucking, oceanic shipping and global aviation also contribute heavily to transit emissions,” Biden stresses in the plan. The clean energy program would therefore focus on reducing the cost of biofuels and developing more efficient engines “that can power long-haul trucks, planes and ships, to keep global commerce moving while reaching net-zero emissions by 2050,” a goal similar to that of Democratic rival Bernie Sanders, who announced his infrastructure plan earlier this year.
Biden said he would also “speed the transition to electric cars and trucks” by easing concerns about price, range, and access to charging stations.
“As president, he will restore the full electric-vehicle tax credit to encourage American families to buy electric cars for their personal use – and to incentivize American businesses to build or shift their existing fleets to electric vehicles,” the plan states. The U.S. Department of Energy would be directed to invest $5 billion over five years in battery and energy storage technology “to spur breakthroughs that can boost the range and slash the price of electric cars,” while enacting policies to promote domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles.
Biden, the current front-runner for the Democrat nomination according to Real Clear Politics, said that if elected he would spend $50 billion to repair existing highways and bridges in the first year of his administration. His plan calls for finding new revenues to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund, and for expediting the permitting process to more quickly break ground on infrastructure projects.
Biden also proposes to double competitive grant programs designed specifically for freight projects – including the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development and Infrastructure for Rebuilding America – from roughly $1.8 billion to $3.5 billion per year.
“Biden will also work closely with American manufacturers to prioritize investments that will improve supply chains and distribution, reduce shipping costs and boost U.S. exports,” according to the plan. It will increase funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by $2.5 billion per year for “infrastructure projects to keep goods moving quickly through our ports and waterways.”
Biden said he will make sure that all fees collected for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund will be used for that purpose, a proposal that has recently gained momentum on Capitol Hill. “And he’ll work with U.S. ports and labor unions to ensure that cargo bound for the U.S. is offloaded in the U.S., and not in Canadian ports to avoid harbor taxes,” he notes in his press statement.
In addition to working with Amtrak and the major freight railroads to further electrify the rail system, Biden’s administration would support freight rail projects, such as Chicago’s $4.6 billion Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (“CREATE”) project, by tapping into existing federal grant and loan programs and streamlining the loan process. “Biden’s rail revolution will reduce pollution, connect workers to good jobs, slash commute times, and spur investment in communities that will now be better linked to major metropolitan areas,” the plan states.
Missing from the trillion-dollar plan are specifics on how it would be paid for, which has been a barrier to both President Donald Trump’s $2 trillion infrastructure package and reauthorizing a long-term surface transportation bill.