April 14, 2022
Senior Vice President, Policy, U.S. Chamber Global Energy Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Outreach, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
In November 2021, Congress passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act), which the White House has described as “a once-in-a-generation investment in our nation’s infrastructure and competitiveness.”
The goal of this investment is to develop advancements and advantages for America, including repairing and rebuilding roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, delivering clean drinking water to all of the U.S., and ensuring every American has access to high-speed internet and transportation options.
Rick Wade, senior vice president of strategic alliances and outreach at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, sat down with Christopher Guith, the senior vice president of policy for the Global Energy Institute at the U.S. Chamber, to discuss this new legislation’s focus on energy innovation and future technology, and how it will improve equity across the country.
The U.S. Energy Supply May Benefit From Technological Innovations
The supply of energy in America is not currently keeping up with the demand, and issues like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and energy security are exacerbating that challenge.
“This focus with the Bipartisan Infrastructure [Deal] is on developing the technologies of tomorrow that we don't have,” said Guith. “We know from the United Nations itself that roughly 50 percent of the technologies we'll need to decarbonize the global economy just don't exist yet.”
According to Guith, that's why this bill is so important. He also mentioned The Energy Act, which was passed at the end of 2020 and created a bipartisan consensus around developing technologies needed in the future.
“This legislation really refocuses the Department of Energy and its national labs on developing key technologies necessary to reduce — and ultimately eliminate — greenhouse gas emissions while preserving economic growth,” Guith explained.
A portion of the new legislation focuses on the importance of building the resilience of American infrastructure against disruptive events like cybersecurity threats.
“Having the state of technology we do today is really a double-edged sword,” said Guith. “It brings us the most amazing technologies that mankind has ever been able to experience … [but] the downside is that there are potential vulnerabilities for bad actors to disrupt that.”
Guith cited last year’s Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack as an example. However, he argued that the electricity sector remains the most advanced sector in the entire economy as far as recognizing this threat decades ago and putting in place defenses in order to prevent disruptions.
Infrastructure Efforts Will Improve Local Communities
From economic stimulation to more charging stations across the country to opportunities for involvement for minority-owned businesses, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal is set to provide options for local communities.
“The [new legislation] invests about three-and-a-half billion dollars in [a] weatherization assistance program, which is really focused on reducing energy costs for more than 700,000 households,” Guith stated. “It devotes $7.5 billion dollars to the Department of Transportation to build out charging stations across the country … and [provides] an opportunity to potentially deliver thousands of electric school buses across the country … [prioritizing] rural and low-income communities.”
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Seeks to Sustain Long-Term Investments
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal’s $1.2 trillion price tag comes with complex coordination as well. However, Guith gave insight into the acceleration of programs put forth by the legislation.
“We looked at some very strong managers at these agencies, starting with the secretaries or the administrators, who [have] the trust of the American people and [are] working with the business community,” Guith explained. “We're trying to make sure that they have all the best information in real-time, in the real world, so they can use those monies as efficiently as possible.”
Guith also mentioned the inefficiencies of permitting and cited that this law is attempting to make strides in streamlining the permitting process.
“This law has definitely been designed to improve energy and environmental justice for communities across the country,” Guith added. “It's going to improve public health, reduce pollution and frankly, deliver economic input and a stimulus to communities that often haven’t adequately been included in the signing process for energy systems.”
From the Series