BACKGROUND: In this annotation, the Environmental History Action Collaborative — a group of environmental historians and scholars — furnishes context and provides fact checking to allow for a more critical assessment of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s July 14, 2020 speech on his plans for addressing environmental justice, economic growth, and climate change. Historians contributing to these annotations include Scout Blum, Finis Dunaway, Jason Heppler, Emily Pawley, Keith Pluymers, Ryan Driskell Tate, Jay Turner, and Conevery Bolton Valencius.
HOW TO SEE THE ANNOTATIONS: Click on the text that is highlighted in yellow below in Biden’s speech; the relevant annotations will then appear on the right side of the browser window.
Transcript sourced from https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/joe-biden-clean-energy-plan-speech-transcript-july-14
Joe Biden: (00:46)
Good afternoon. I’m here today to talk about infrastructure, and jobs, and our clean energy future. But I have to start by speaking about what millions of Americans know when they wake up every morning with worry, anxiety and fear. We’re still a country in crisis. The pandemic has affected more than three million Americans. It has cost more than 135,000 lives and climbing. And it shows no signs of slowing down. In just the last few days, 19 states, 19 states reported record cases, including Florida, which saw more than 15,000 new cases in a single day. Hospitalizations and deaths, two of the most concerning indicators of Trump’s failed response, are already unacceptably high. And they are rising.
Joe Biden: (01:47)
It’s gotten bad enough that even Donald Trump finally decided to wear a mask in public. I’m glad he made the shift. But, Mr. President, it’s not enough. We won’t be able to turn the corner and get American people back to work safely without presidential leadership. Mr. President, open everything now isn’t a strategy for success. It’s barely a slogan. Quit pushing the false choice between protecting our health and protecting our economy. All it does is endanger our recovery on both fronts.
Joe Biden: (02:30)
Mr. President, please listen to your public health experts instead of denigrating them. Do your job, Mr. President. Because, if we can’t deal with the public health crisis, we can’t deal with the economic crisis or deal with almost 18 million Americans who are out of work and the incredible pain inflicted on small businesses and communities of color. We can’t deal with the climate crisis that could cast us into an even darker and more permanent shadow that would loom over the country in the world for a long time. We won’t be able to do what Americans have always done, come back stronger than ever before with the grit, toughness, and resilience that characterizes who we are. That’s what I want to talk about today.
Joe Biden: (03:28)
Last week I shared the outlines in my plan to build back better, a bold plan to build an economy of the future, not an economy of the past. And the first plank of that plan rejects the defeatist view that automation and globalization mean we can’t ensure our future is made in America with American, good paying union jobs, here at home, making it in America. We clearly can.
Joe Biden: (04:04)
Today, I’m here at Wilmington to talk about a second plank, how we could create millions of high paying union jobs by building a modern infrastructure and a clean energy future. These are the most critical investments we can make for the long-term health and vitality of both the American economy and the physical health and safety of the American people. Even if we weren’t facing a pandemic and an economic crisis, we should be making these investments anyway. One in five miles of our highways are still in “poor condition” according to the American Engineers. Ten thousands… actually, tens of thousands of bridges are in disrepair, and some on the verge of collapse, presenting a clear and present danger to people’s lives. Tens of millions of Americans lack access to high speed broadband. To get our people to work and our kids at school safely, to get our kids to market swiftly, to power clean energy revolution in this country, we need to modernize America’s infrastructure.
Joe Biden: (05:16)
Despite this overwhelming need, this president and the Republican Congress has simply failed to act. There’s no other way of saying it, to continue to break the promises they’ve made to the American people. Donald Trump promised a big infrastructure bill when he ran in 2016. He promised it again in 2017, and then in 2018, and again in 2019. And now, he’s promising one again. It seems like every few weeks, when he needs a distraction from the latest charges of corruption in his staff or the conviction of high ranking members of his administration and political apparatus, the White House announces “it’s infrastructure week.” How many times you’ve heard him say that? But he’s never delivered. He’s never really even tried.
Joe Biden: (06:18)
Well, I know how to get it done. In 2009, President Obama and I inherited an economy in free fall. And we prevented another great depression. We enact the largest infrastructure plan since President Eisenhower’s interstate highway system, not only creating good paying jobs, but improving the safety and security of people on our roads. We made the largest investment in clean energy in the history of the United States of America, 90 billion dollars. And it put us on a path toward a thriving, clean energy economy, powering new economic growth and reducing energy costs. Here we are now with an economy in crisis, but with an incredible opportunity, not just to build back to where we were before, but better, stronger, more resilient, and more prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.
Joe Biden: (07:22)
And there’s no more consequential challenge that we must meet in the next decade than the onrushing climate crisis. Left unchecked, it is literally an existential threat to the health of our planet and to our very survival. That’s not up for dispute, Mr. President.
Joe Biden: (07:44)
When Donald Trump thinks about climate change, the only word he can muster is hoax. When I think about climate change, the word I think of is jobs, good paying union jobs that will put Americans to work, making the air cleaner for our kids to breathe, restoring our crumbling roads, and bridges, and ports, making it faster, cheaper, and cleaner to transport American made goods all across the country and around the world. Jobs. Jobs to build and install a network of 500,000 charging stations along our existing and new highways we built across this country. Which, not only will it help America and the American automobile industry, leading the world of manufacturing with electric vehicles, it will also save Americans billions of dollars over time in the cost of gasoline for their vehicles. Jobs that lay the lines for the second great railroad revolution, which will not only slash pollution, will slash commute times and open up investment in areas connected to metropolitan centers for the first time.
Joe Biden: (09:01)
When Donald Trump thinks about renewable energy, he sees windmills somehow causing cancer. When I think about these windmills, I see American manufacturing, American workers racing to dominate the global market. I see the steel that will be needed for those windmill platforms, towers, and ladders that can be made in small manufacturers like the McGregor Industries. I was up in Scranton last week. I see the union train and certified men and women who will manufacture and install it all. I see the ports that will come back to life, the longshoreman, the shipbuilders, the communities they support. When Donald Trump talks about improving efficiency by retrofitting lighting systems with LED bulbs, you remember what he said? He said he doesn’t like LED because, “the light is no good. I always look orange.” The lights no good. I always look orange.
Joe Biden: (10:10)
When I think about energy retrofitting for lighting, I see the incredible projects, like the one right here in the Chase Center. I see small businesses like Preferred Electric that design and install award-winning energy conservation measures, reduce consumption of electricity, and save businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs per year. I see master electricians and union workers who work through union apprenticeships who start off with good wages and quality benefits that only grow from there. These investments are a win, win, win for this country, creating jobs, cutting energy costs, protecting our climate.
Joe Biden: (10:53)
That’s why today I’m releasing my plan to mobilize millions of jobs by building sustainable infrastructure and an equitable clean energy future. In my first four years, we’re going to give four million buildings all across this country the same energy makeover that you get here at Chase, the Chase Center. It’s going to create at least one million jobs in construction, engineering, and manufacturing in order to get it done. It’s going to make places, the places where we work, we live, we learn healthier, improving indoor air quality and water quality. That’s going to save tens of billions of dollars in energy costs over time. That’s all real.
Joe Biden: (11:44)
We’re not just going to focus on commercial spaces though. We’re going to give direct support to help families do the same thing for their homes. We’re going to offer cash rebates and low cost financing to upgrade energy inefficient appliances and windows, improvements that will cut their monthly energy bills and, over time, save them thousands of dollars a year. We’re going to make a major investment to build 1.5 million new energy efficient homes. And public housing units will benefit from all the communities three times over by alleviating the affordable housing crisis, by increasing energy efficiency, and by reducing the racial wealth gap linked to home ownership.
Joe Biden: (12:32)
Last week, I talked about using the purchasing power of the federal government to reinvigorate domestic manufacturing. That’s what we’re going to do with the American automobile industry as well. The United States owns and maintains an enormous fleet of vehicles. And we’re going to convert these government fleets to electric vehicles made and sourced right here in the United States of America with the government providing the demand and the grants to retool factories that are struggling to compete. The U.S. auto industry and its deep banks of suppliers will step up, expanding capacity so the United States, not China, leads the world in clean vehicle production.
Joe Biden: (13:25)
We’re going to make it easier for American consumers to switch to electric vehicles as well, not only by building 500,000 charging stations, but by offering rebates and incentives to swap older fuel efficient vehicles for new clean made in America vehicles, saving hundreds of millions of barrels of oil on an annual basis. Together, this will mean one million new good paying jobs in the automobile industry and supply chain and the associated infrastructure needed to get it done.
Joe Biden: (14:05)
We also know that transforming the American electrical sector to produce power without producing carbon pollution and electrifying an increased share of our economy will be the greatest spurring of job creation and economic competitiveness in the 21st century. That’s why we’re going to achieve a carbon pollution free electric sector by the year 2035. We need to get to work on it right away. We’ll need the scientists at the National Labs, the land-grant universities, HBCUs to improve and innovate technologies needed to generate, store, and transmit this clean energy. We need the engineers to design them, the workers to manufacturer. We need ironworkers and welders to install them. We’ll become the world’s largest exporter of these technologies, creating even more jobs.
Joe Biden: (15:01)
We know how to do this. Our administration rescued the auto industry and helped it retool, made solar energy the same cost as traditional energy, weatherized more than a million homes. And we’ll do it again, but this time bigger, and faster, and smarter.
Joe Biden: (15:20)
And, as we do this work, we need to be mindful of the historical wrongs and the damage that American industries have done in the 20th century, inflicting environmental harm on the poor and vulnerable communities, so often black, and brown, and Native American communities. Polluted air, polluted water, toxins raining down from communities that bore the environmental and health burdens but shared none of the profits. Growing up breathing that in everyday, it’s poison. And it’s partly why there’s such incredible rates of childhood asthma in black and brown communities, why black Americans are almost three times more likely to die of asthma related causes than white Americans. It’s cancer alley in St. James Parish of Louisiana. It’s the cancer causing clusters along Route 9 right here in Delaware. And that’s why today I’m also releasing a State of the Environment justice policies that build on my existing plan.
Joe Biden: (16:30)
This is an area of incredible opportunity for economic growth for our country. But we have to make sure that the first people who benefit from this are the people who were most basically hurt by it historically in the last century by the structural disparities that exist. I’m setting a goal to make sure that these frontline and fence line communities, whether they’re in rural places or in center cities, receive 40% of the benefit from the investments we’re making in housing, and pollution reduction, in workforce development, in transportation across the board.
Joe Biden: (17:10)
We’re also going to create jobs for people by cleaning up the environmental hazards that have now been abandoned. You saw the front page of the Times two days ago. All these places that are going bankrupt, except for the benefit that’s going, millions and millions of dollars, to the CEO’s. More than a quarter million jobs right away to do things like plugging millions of abandoned oil and gas wells that exist all across the country, posing daily threats to the health and safety of our communities. We’re going to hold accountable those CEO’s and corporations that benefit from decades of subsidies, then just walked away from their responsibilities to these communities, leaving the wells to leak, pollutants to continue to spew, greenhouse gases flowing into the air and the water. We’re not only going to repeal those subsidies. We’re going to go after those golden parachutes the CEO’s gave themselves before declaring bankruptcy to make sure that workers receive the benefits and retirement they were promised.
Joe Biden: (18:22)
Let’s create new markets for our family farmers and our ranchers, a new modern day civilian climate corp to heal our public lands, to make us less vulnerable to wildfires and floods. Look, these aren’t pie in the sky dreams. These are actionable policies that we can get to work on right away. We can live up to our responsibilities, meet the challenges of a world at risk of a climate catastrophe, build more climate resilient communities, put millions of skilled workers on the job, and make life markedly better and safer for the American people all at once and benefit the world in the process.
Joe Biden: (19:09)
The alternative, continue to ignore the facts, deny reality, focus only on technology of the last century instead of inventing the technology that will define this century. It’s just plain un-American not to. This is all that Donald Trump and the Republicans offer, backward looking policies that will harm the environment, make communities less healthy, hold back economic promise, while other countries race ahead. It’s a mindset that doesn’t have any faith in the capacity of the American people to compete, to innovate, and to win. It’s never been a good bet to bet against the American people. And, when you do, it will exact a deadly cost.
Joe Biden: (20:01)
I know better. I know you do as well. I know what the American people are capable of. I know what American workers can accomplish when given the room to run. I know that climate change is a challenge that’s going to define our American future. I know meeting the challenge will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to jolt new life into our economy, strengthen our global leadership, protect our planet for future generations. And, if I have the honor of being elected president, we’re not just going to tinker around the edges. We’re going to make historic investments that will seize the opportunity and meet this moment in history. We’re going to get to work delivering results right away on day one. We’re going to reverse Trump’s roll backs of 100 public health and environmental rules, and then forge a path to greater ambition. We’re going to get back into the Paris Agreement, back into the business of leading the world.
Joe Biden: (21:06)
We’re going to lock in progress that no future president can roll back or under cut to take us backward again. Science requires a timetable for measuring progress on climate that isn’t three decades or even two. Science tells us we have nine years before the damage is irreversible. So, my time table for results is my first four years as president, the jobs that we’ll create, the investments we’ll make, and the irreversible steps we’ll take to mitigate and adapt to the climate change and put our nation on the road to net zero emissions no later than 2050. So, let’s not waste any more time. Let’s get to work now, now. Thank you.