The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act is a “Climate Time Bomb”

In November 2021, the U.S. Congress passed what they called “historic legislation” in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal which claims to “rebuild America’s roads, bridges and rails, expand access to clean drinking water, ensure every American has access to high-speed internet, tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice, and invest in communities that have too often been left behind.” It also pledged $1.2 trillion towards that goal. A year and a half later, Transportation for America, a transport policy group, released a report that shows that over half of the funding for that bill has gone towards highway resurfacing and expansion. In contrast, less than one fifth has gone towards improving public transit.

The study calculated that the funded highway expansion projects are set to emit 178 million more tons of greenhouse gases by 2040 due to increased incentive for car use and lack of other alternatives. Corrigan Salerno, a policy associate at Transportation for America, said “Nothing is fundamentally changing in terms of modes of transport. This much money going into highway expansion is, for one, a liability into the future, and two, it just doesn’t work. We’ve been expanding highways for decades on decades, and everyone consistently finds themselves stuck in traffic.”

Meanwhile, the emission offsets from the bill do not even offset the existing level of emissions, let alone that 178 million-ton addition. Much of that funding has gone towards building structures like hydrogen hubs, which produce and store hydrogen, that are touted as being “clean.” However, the hubs being proposed are called “blue” hydrogen hubs, which still require fossil fuels to produce the hydrogen. The extraction practices and the risks to our health and environment remain the same. Many of these hubs are backed by fossil fuel industries as a new market opportunity. As the Food & Water Watch Policy Director Jim Walsh said, “The massive build-out of hydrogen infrastructure is little more than an industry ploy to rebrand fracked gas.”

A U.S. Department of Transportation spokesperson claims that the Biden Administration has taken the “strongest actions of any administration in history to reduce carbon pollution in transportation with the largest investment in public transit in American history, the largest investment in passenger rail since the inception of Amtrak, record levels of funding to support active transportation – like walking and biking – and historic investments in zero-emission buses, electric vehicles, and charging infrastructure.” Well, this is a low bar to pass! When over double that money is simultaneously aimed at worsening the problem, it doesn’t really matter how historic of an investment it is. The bipartisan U.S. government is squarely aligned with business interests of fossil fuel and related industries no matter what they might say to ease our rightfully worried minds. A real historic action would require an actual transformation of our economic system, namely capitalism, which can only come from the workers and every day people who face the brunt of the consequences and have every interest in fighting for the world’s survival.