Biden’s climate plan is a jobs plan, but Republicans aren’t buying in
Watch Joe Biden’s “Climate Day” speech last week, and one theme is obvious: It’s all about jobs.
“Today is ‘Climate Day’ at the White House and — which means that today is ‘Jobs Day’ at the White House,” Biden said in his opening remarks. “We’re talking about American innovation, American products, American labor.”
To reinvigorate the economy, Biden plans to use federal policy to create “good-paying union jobs” in the clean energy field. Central to that plan are two of Biden’s recent executive orders: last Monday’s “Buy American” order and Wednesday’s “Tackling the Climate Crisis” order. Combined, these executive orders put jobs at the forefront of America’s recovery, echoing promises of his green-job boosting $2 trillion climate plan.
Given this focus on labor, it’s ironic then that one of Republican’s main criticisms of Biden’s early climate action is that of jobs. After Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, for example, conservative voices immediately labeled the decision a job killer.
As HEATED points out, though, most of these supposed jobs were either hypothetical, as the pipeline has been tied up in legal challenges for years, or temporary, with jobs lasting one to two years. PolitiFact confirms that the exaggerated job loss “could leave the wrong impression without full context.”
Conservatives also attacked Biden’s decision to reenter the Paris Agreement, the international agreement to combat global warming. Notably, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) rolled out a Pittsburgh over Paris campaign, one that makes little sense aside from its convenient alliteration.
“By signing this order, President Biden indicates that he’s more interested in the views of the citizens of Paris than in the jobs of the citizens of Pittsburgh,” said Cruz in a statement, citing manufacturing and energy job loss.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto responded in a tweet, “Fact-check — there are more jobs in the renewable/green industry in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) than oil, gas & coal industries combined.”
Though grounded in relatively baseless claims, attacks of Biden’s recent moves aren’t completely without warrant. Biden is wielding executive power quicker than any president before him, and that dizzying pace will naturally illicit pushback. Change is hard, and rapid change deserves some skepticism.
For many Americans, Biden’s orders are also perceived as an attack on a way of life. Dirty industries like coal and oil run through the veins of American history — Texas oil and West Virginia coal are as representative of the states as cowboys and mountaineers.
Biden has been shrewdly political when shuffling around this last point. He even included a provision in his climate action order to create a coal and power plant working group to “revitalize the economies of coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities.”
“We’re never going to forget the men and women who dug the coal and built the nation,” Biden said on Climate Day. “We’re going to do right by them and make sure they have opportunities to keep building the nation.”
The move serves a double-purpose politically, as Biden also needs the support of moderate Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) to pass much of his climate legislation in the narrowly split Congress. And then there’s the few Republicans he’ll need (especially if he continues to defend the filibuster).
To garner this support, Biden must continue to hammer home the smart economic sense of green jobs, especially in the context of the green recovery, and the practicality and benefits of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.
Biden has appeased the progressive wing of his party in his first two weeks. Can he now reach across the aisle to carry many of these initiatives forward? Republicans are skeptical, but they shouldn’t be unbreakable.