I grew up in a blue-collar, working-class family outside of Cleveland. My grandfather worked in the steel mills, and my father was a patternmaker in a foundry — both of them worked hard in challenging jobs in order to support their families. This taught me from an early age to respect the workers all over the country who helped build our infrastructure, through roads, bridges, and other projects that employed millions of people.
However, those same jobs in infrastructure that employed members of my family and millions of other Americans dwindled during the COVID-19 crisis, resulting in pockets of unemployment and cycles of poverty that have continued in communities all around the country. In many places, it is not possible to support a family with the jobs that are available. This is a spiritual issue; one that the American Jobs Plan has the opportunity to address by creating new jobs that will renew people’s hope as well as the life of our planet.
What we need today is a visionary investment in new, sustainable, and equitable infrastructure that prioritizes clean energy jobs and renewable energy. This work can provide the foundation needed to lift communities out of poverty and create family-sustaining jobs while transitioning us away from our fossil fuel dependency.
Investing in renewable energy infrastructure is essential if we are going to revitalize communities across this county. Fossil fuel infrastructure is a death sentence for too many, as it is a major contributor to air pollution that causes the deaths of almost 200,000 Americans every year. It is destroying our most pristine natural areas through pollution from drilling, fracking, and pipelines. And it is destabilizing our global climate and our common home with the massive release of heat-trapping carbon pollution. That is why infrastructure must include renewable energy investments and a clean energy standard that puts us on track to achieve electricity that is 100 percent free from climate pollution by 2035.
The American Jobs Plan proposed by the Biden administration is a bold infrastructure plan that does all of the above. President Joe Biden's plan would invest in rebuilding our economy, creates millions of good-paying jobs, helps workers transition out of the fossil fuel industry, and protects our health, land, air, water, and global climate.
It also centers justice by seeking to “make our infrastructure more resilient.” The American Jobs Plan proposes replacing 100 percent of the lead pipes that endanger our children’s health and development. It also ensures all of our communities are prepared for “extreme weather and climate-related” disruptions. One final example of how the plan centers justice is by suggesting that 40 percent of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure be allocated for communities hurt the most by our current fossil fuel economy which are oftentimes Black, brown, and Indigenous communities.
With this plan, we have an opportunity to invest in the future we envision for a safer climate, an equitable and inclusive economy, and modern clean energy infrastructure that improves the lives of all Americans. These investments — and the opportunities they bring — make passing the American Jobs Plan a moral imperative.
Transitioning away from fossil fuel infrastructure will be a daunting endeavor for many communities. And incumbent energy interests are already leveraging this apprehension to falsely claim that clean energy jobs cannot replace fossil fuel jobs. But that simply isn’t the case. The Washington Post has predicted that Biden’s plan could help create nearly 2.7 million jobs over a ten-year period, including jobs within the clean energy sector. In fact, clean energy jobs and economic gains will dwarf the losses from fossil fuel’s contraction. Before the pandemic, the clean energy sector was one of the fastest-growing job creators in the U.S. economy.
The American Jobs Plan includes training for workers to transition to clean energy jobs and will help bring good-paying jobs to small towns and rural areas that have historically been dependent on fossil fuel infrastructure. Moving to wind and solar power will create jobs for electricians, welders, engineers, pipefitters, and laborers. Retrofitting and modernizing factories will revitalize our manufacturing sector and lead to a resurgence in manufacturing jobs.
As people of faith and conscience, we are called to build a more just world — one that is in line with our values of caring for our most vulnerable siblings and being faithful stewards of the earth. We are called to bring hope to what may feel like a hopeless situation, shining a light on injustice and acting with and for those who have been marginalized in our communities and our world.
Our spiritual values call us to a more just, hopeful, and mutually supportive future. One in which we speak out for the dignity and inherent worth of each individual. We need our political representatives to invest significantly in this vision so that our children, our communities, and God’s creation can thrive.