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Biden To Use Job Creation To Sell His Green Energy Plan

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Tomorrow, President Biden is expected to unveil a multitrillion-dollar proposal aimed at building up the country's clean energy infrastructure and cutting carbon emissions. As NPR's Scott Detrow reports, Biden is betting that he can sell the package to Americans by focusing on something else - jobs.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Biden summed up how he frames and talks about climate change about a week into his presidency.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Today is climate day at the White House and - which means that today is jobs day at the White House.

DETROW: The messaging is not subtle. Here's Biden's national climate adviser, Gina McCarthy, announcing plans Monday for a massive expansion of offshore wind energy.

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GINA MCCARTHY: We're talking about turbines, wind and - I'm sorry - steel and cement that's made right here. We're talking about these special ships that need to install these huge structures that are U.S. flagged and built in U.S. ports.

DETROW: In case that clear message didn't cut through, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm jumped in a few minutes later.

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JENNIFER GRANHOLM: This isn't just about the engineers and the construction workers that are installing these turbines and the technicians that are maintaining them. Think about the miners and the smelters.

DETROW: Granholm went on listing other jobs for another 45 seconds. As the White House prepares to roll out trillions in proposed new infrastructure with a focus on climate, the Biden administration is confident this focus on jobs will grow public support for the plan and blunt the usual criticisms of environmental proposals as expensive job killers.

But beyond that pitch, Democrats already see the political landscape around climate issues changing - and fast. Poll after poll shows that with more extreme weather hitting all across the country, Americans are more eager to confront climate change. And Biden talked about it a lot last year.

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BIDEN: These investments are a win-win-win for this country - creating jobs, cutting energy costs, protecting our climate.

DETROW: During the campaign, Biden called for $2 trillion in spending on climate infrastructure. That includes everything from new wind and solar generation to new grids and transmission lines to transport all that energy. Biden wants to provide incentives for businesses and homeowners to make their buildings more energy-efficient. And climate advocates want to see billions in loans, tax credits and grants to boost the clean energy industry.

John Podesta, who headed climate policy during the Obama administration, sees the country on the verge of a huge shift to renewable energy.

JOHN PODESTA: But that requires a modern grid, a smarter grid. And those kind of investments are ones that I think should be accepted by both Democrats and Republicans. We'll see whether - (laughter).

DETROW: Podesta trailed off and laughed because, so far, Republicans in Congress aren't warming to the idea of a major overhaul of the country's energy infrastructure or the big social spending the president is expected to push along with it. Republicans are also upset Democrats are floating the idea of tax increases.

Sam Graves, the top Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, recently warned that despite how the administration is framing things, Republicans have a different view of top infrastructure needs.

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SAM GRAVES: A transportation bill, I think, needs to be a transportation bill, not a green new deal. It needs to be about roads and bridges.

DETROW: Many climate advocates are like Jamal Raad, the co-founder of Evergreen Action. He thinks the proposal should be pushed through the budget reconciliation process, where it could pass on a party line.

JAMAL RAAD: I believe that there is Republican support for certain investments in infrastructure, certain investments in their communities for jobs, even in clean energy. But I do not think there will be anywhere close to 10 Republican votes for the scale, the scope of the challenge we need to meet.

DETROW: Biden has the narrowest of narrow majorities in both the House and the Senate. Still, he's made it clear he's intent on transforming the country as much as he can in doing much more than the Obama administration got done in 2009 with far more Democrats in Congress.

Scott Detrow, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.