If we lived in a sane world, the White House wouldn’t need a sales pitch – much less months of negotiations – for the Build Back Better Act.
After all, we’re talking about a bill literally designed to create millions of jobs and make life better for millions of working Americans. All while tackling the twin existential dangers of rising temperatures and rising inequality that together threaten to tear the country apart today and steal the future we give our children.
And somehow people are arguing about this? Really?
But of course, we don’t live in a sane world and so people are somehow arguing about this instead of working together to go as big and as fast as possible.
That’s where the sales pitch comes in. Because – to be fair – there are some big numbers involved and unless your side hustle involves space exploration, once figures get into the billions and trillions, it starts feeling like Monopoly money that won’t actually do anything for you.
But here’s the thing. Put aside the (very, very real and very, very important) climate benefits of the bill for minute. For millions of working people and families, the Build Back Better Act (we’re shortening to BBBA going forward) opens the door to a better life in all kinds of real-world, everyday ways that are getting lost in the Congressional back and forth and cable news coverage.
To show you what we mean, we’ve laid out the benefits for different communities and constituencies below. Because when we say the BBBA will make life better for a lot of working people and families, we mean it.
Say You’re Living Close to a Highway or Power Plant
If you live close to the highway, or a shipping port, or any combination of coal-fired power plant, urban oil well, or gas line, chances are you don’t need a New York Times piece to point out that people of color in the US overwhelmingly breathe more polluted air than their white counterparts, thanks to fossil fuels.
This poisonous inequity isn’t new – people like Dr. Robert Bullard have been screaming it from the rooftops for decades. But what recent research has shown is just how deadly it is, with one study showing that fossil fuel air pollution caused a staggering one-in-five premature deaths worldwide in 2018.
At a time when – somehow in the world’s richest nation – the air you breathe and all the dangers that come with pollution can effectively come down to the color of your skin, accelerating the transition to clean energy isn’t just about the planet. It’s about basic morality and the fundamental right of all Americans to breathe clean air and drink clean water.
The BBBA takes aim at this injustice from a number of angles, working both to speed the society-wide transition to clean energy and cut pollution at the biggest sources. The bill does it by:
- Converting over 60,000 school buses from dirty diesel motors to electric alternatives so kids and families breathe cleaner air.
- Providing grants to help frontline communities clean up pollution and breathe easier.
- Providing billions to help ports reduce toxic pollution and replace loud, dirty engines with electric alternatives that don’t pollute nearby neighborhoods.
- Helping get more tailpipes off the road by cutting the price of an electric vehicles byup to $12,500.
- Providing millions to reduce emissions from super-polluting diesel trucks choking communities right by roads and highways.
- Bringing the clean energy revolution to frontline and Indigenous communities by covering 40–50% of the cost of wind and solar projects, making clean energy more accessible and cutting down dangerous toxins from power plants.
- Going beyond air pollution by helping replace more than 5 million lead pipe service lines and ensuring families have clean and safe water at their fingertips.
Say You’re a Middle-Income Homeowner
At some basic level, Americans like the idea of clean energy. In a country that prides itself on ideals of liberty and self-sufficiency, there’s something just plain cool about the idea of using solar, for example, from your own roof to power your life.
The numbers bear this sentiment out, with one recent poll showing eight in 10 support expanding solar farms to increase our use of renewables over fossil fuels. Plus, renewables are going more and more mainstream, with solar popping up everywhere from Home Depot to Costco.
But if you’re like a lot of homeowners, solar sounds really cool – both for the greater independence and to reduce your carbon footprint – but it feels like a big step.
Then, if you keep going down the reduce-your-footprint rabbit hole, you start learning about electric heat pumps and appliances that can replace the gas-fired boilers, water heaters, and ovens most of use every day and contribute to homes and offices producing about 13% of the annual US emissions driving climate change. But that too can feel like a big step.
If this is your boat, the BBBA is going to make installing solar and electrifying your home a whole lot more affordable up front and help you save money over the long term.
- Cutting up to $10,000 on the cost of replacing old gas-fired heating and cooling systems with electric heat and water pumps that not only prevent emissions, but save on energy costs.
- Making it about $7,000 cheaper on average to install solar panels on your roof, making clean energy at home accessible to many more families.
- Providing up to $8,000 to weatherize your home to cut energy use, which means you’ll saving money on utility bills at the same time.
- As mentioned before, cut the cost of an electric vehicle up to $12,500 to make it easier to take your foot off the gas forever. (And seriously, if you have the means, electric cars don’t just mean Teslas and luxury cars as more and more models continue to arrive. Plus, as anyone who’s driven an electric car will tell you, they’re just more fun to drive.)
Plus, if taking the clean energy revolution home and saving money doesn’t do it for you, there’s also the growing body of research suggesting that gas-fired ovens, among other appliances, can create distinctly unhealthy levels of particulate pollution in the home. (And yeah, we’ve almost all been using these stoves for a long time, but that’s no reason we have to keep doing it, right?)
Say You’re an Energy or Factory Worker
One of the fossil fuel industry’s greatest plays is to turn energy transition into an us-vs-them culture clash that gets at people’s deepest fears, with lines like, “They want to take your job and put you out of work.”
News flash: Absolutely nobody wants that. Nobody.
What we actually want is a transition to an energy system that doesn’t trade the health of poor families and people of color – and, well our entire planet – for the bottom line of some of the richest companies in the world.
What the Fox News crowd doesn’t really want to acknowledge is that people on our side of the clean energy movement recognize that fossil fuel workers and their families have given their lives to keep the lights on and cars running for all of us. And that fear of losing that paycheck (thanks, Fox News!), that’s real.
The International Energy Agency projects that the clean energy transition that’s already underway and attracted over $500 billion in investment last year alone could potentially create a $1.2 trillion annual market opportunity by 2050. And that’s just for manufacturers of wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, electrolyzers, and fuel cells. Which means a potential $1.2 trillion annual market on top of potential expected exponential growth in electric vehicles and all the other components of the clean energy economy
As the Department of Energy’s Jigar Shah puts it, “This is the largest wealth creation opportunity of our lifetimes. There will be nothing else that will produce more wealth, more jobs, more work.”
What we actually want – part two – is to ensure this transition is actually an equitable one. To make sure that people working in fossil fuels now or trying to hold onto manufacturing jobs or living in communities of color so often left out finally get their fair share of all the incredible wealth-building opportunities of energy transition.
So how does the Build Back Better Act help?
- By accelerating the shift to clean energy, the BBBA is going to create huge demand for electric vehicles, solar panels, wind turbines, and more. We’re going to need workers to build them and the bill helps develop and retool factories to manufacture batteries, turbine blades, and more. That means jobs, jobs, jobs in places that need them.
- The bill specifically looks out for fossil fuel workers, with $5 billion to help fossil fuel communities retrain workers for the clean energy economy, clean up their environment, and build their economies for the future.
- The bill aims to start building out a national charging network to power the exploding number of electric vehicles on the road. We’re going to need people to build it, so again, more jobs and jobs and jobs.
- The bill also provides $360 million to help nonprofits train workers in the emerging energy efficiency sector, giving them the skills and know-how to seize this moment.
The bottom line is that the world is moving to a clean energy economy. We can build it here, put Americans to work, and give people across the country a real stake in the economy of the future. Or we can watch other nations seize the opportunity and kick ourselves down the line. With the BBBA, we go with option one.
Say You’re a Business Owner
It’s not just solar companies and wind turbine manufacturers that are going to benefit under the BBBA (though they definitely will). Many other professions and trades like electricians, steel workers, HVAC technicians, and more are going to be in high demand as the US and the world electrifies more and more of our lives and needs the infrastructure to support it.
If you’re a business owner or a potential business owner in these or related fields, this is good news. Sure, it’s hard to predict too much about the industries of the future, but one thing we can be confident of is that people will always need energy and with the winds of change blowing in one direction, being in the business of supporting the global energy transition is never going to be a bad call.
Remember what DOE’s Jigar Shah said about energy transition? “This will be the largest wealth creation opportunity of our lifetimes.”
Especially for business owners of color who never got a fair shot in the old fossil fuel economy, getting into clean energy and climate solutions as the sector is still forming offers a chance to seize real opportunities to build generational wealth – and growing numbers of entrepreneurs of color already are.
After all, you don’t need an MBA to know the same incentives creating demand for electric vehicles and renewable infrastructure creating jobs for workers will also create extraordinary opportunities for business owners. And that’s a win-win-win.
Let’s Get the BBBA Passed
It comes down to this: We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to pass the kind of bill that will fight climate change and make this country a fairer place for just about everyone outside the Davos set.
And yes, we’re tired of the process too. But we’re so close to the finish line and we’re not about to give up now.
The bill has already passed the House of Representatives but now sits in the Senate, where fossil fuel interests are lobbying hard to cut the critical climate components that will clean up our communities, help stop global warming, and open the door wide to a future of opportunity for all.
We’ve got to get this done. It’s our one shot for a big, bold climate, jobs, and justice bill, and with an election year fast approaching, we won’t get another.
Take action today and tell your senators: Pass the strong Build Back Better Act we need to stop rising temperatures and create a future of opportunity for all Americans.
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