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‘We need business voices to speak up,’ DOE’s Granholm says of Biden’s budget and infrastructure bills

September 28, 2021, 11:30 PM UTC

As the heat turns up this week on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation plan, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm says business leaders who believe in the value of sustainability efforts need to speak up in support of both pieces of legislation. 

“Make your voice heard, please. Social media, letters, whatever it is. We very much want to have the business community to be linked with us,” Granholm told participants of Fortune’s Global Sustainability Forum on Tuesday. 

The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill would provide the necessary “hard infrastructure” funding that aims to build up the resilience to the U.S. energy grid, which is critical as climate change spurs increased severe weather events, Granholm said. The package would also build out the current grid’s reliability and capacity, which can help get more renewable energy into the system.

“We’ve just simply got to act,” Granholm said, adding that the cost of not doing so is devastating long-term. Extreme weather events alone are creating huge financial burdens because the U.S. hasn’t shored up its energy grid. In the 1980s, the U.S. spent about $18 billion annually to clean up from extreme weather events. Ten years later, it cost about $27 billion a year. Last year, the U.S. spent $121 billion dollars cleaning up after severe weather events.  

But the infrastructure bill alone isn’t enough. The $3.5 trillion proposed budget reconciliation package, which has proven far less palatable for the business community, is just as essential, Granholm said. In fact, it’s “hugely important” to achieving the Biden administration’s goal of reaching carbon free electricity by 2035, Granholm said. 

The package includes a clean electricity performance program, which incentivizes utilities for building out clean energy by 4% per year over the course of 10 years. “Collectively, that will get us to 80% clean electricity by 2030, and that’s really important,” Granholm said. The plan also extends and enhances tax and credits for clean energy

“That is a game changer, both on the supply and demand side of clean energy. Those two pieces of legislation are very, very important,” Granholm said. 

Yet while the components of the infrastructure bill are relatively stable at this point, negotiations over what exactly will end up in the reconciliation plan are ongoing, with many anticipating that the $3.5 trillion price tag will be cut. 

And Granholm can’t rule out that the sustainability measures could be on the chopping block. “There is no doubt that almost every piece of it is subject to negotiation,” Granholm said. “But the vast majority of senators and members of Congress, on the Democratic side anyway, care deeply about taking action with respect to climate.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Monday she planned move ahead with a vote on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill this week, even as negotiations over the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation continue. 

For those within the business community who believe in sustainability, Granholm says this is the time to make their support known so that these aspects of the budget are preserved. “On the infrastructure side, people have spoken up, we’re really grateful for that. On the reconciliation side, we need more voices to speak up,” Granholm said. 

“It is an investment in the nation for the future and the bones of this country so we can compete globally,” she added.

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