Democratic Candidates Pitch Green Infrastructure in Las Vegas Forum

Photo Montage: L.E. Baskow, Las Vegas Review-Journal

The non-profit group United For Infrastructure co-hosted with the Wall Street Journal a forum on how four of the leading Democratic candidates plan to truly make America great again by improving our country’s aging infrastructure, and the candidates’ proposals, for the most part, skewed green and sustainable.  Most importantly, according to The Journal, the four candidates — Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Steyer — all put climate change at the center of their infrastructure proposals.

Why This Matters:  The forum was originally planned as a hat tip to labor unions, which are big in Nevada, but it ended up being a sustainability forum as well.  It was difficult during our climate forum last September to delve into infrastructure issues given the breadth of topics under the rubric of climate change.  This is a sweet spot for the Democrats because it is a clear win-win in that rebuilding America creates jobs and solves some of the most difficult climate challenges, as well as highlights an area in which President Trump has utterly and completely failed.  However, differentiating among the Democrats is also important — they are not identical on these issues.  Hopefully, the moderators of tomorrow’s debate, including Vanessa Huac, a climate journalist from Telemundo, will follow up with more questions for the TV audience.  Fingers crossed.

What Did Each Candidate Promise?

Here are the highlights of what each said.

Joe Biden:  Biden focused on transportation — he touted his time as rail commuter to pledge, “I’m a big rail guy, especially high-speed rail,” Biden said. “You have to change the transportation structure, the network. … I just think we have to think of it in a different way.”  The Journal described Biden’s proposed a $1.3 trillion plan to rebuild roads, bridges, and highways and to promote a high-speed rail system.  One of his proposals includes adding 500,000 charging stations for electric vehicles.  Biden argued that the country could simultaneously fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure while ensuring it was improved to become more resilient to climate change. “I think you do both,” he said. One of his proposals includes adding 500,000 charging stations for electric vehicles. Biden said he would not favor a gas tax to pay for these programs, but instead would reverse Trump’s corporate tax cuts.

Pete Buttigieg:  Buttigieg focused on what he knows from personal experience — wastewater treatment and how to work with mayors and governors to make progress, not just walk away from them.  According to The Journal, Buttigiegis calling for “a program to put $1 trillion into infrastructure in partnership with states and cities, a plan that he says would create 6 million jobs.”  Buttigieg said, “We do need more federal funding, and yes, that’s something that’s going to require federal leadership,” he said. “You can’t expect local governments to do all of this on their own.”

Amy Klobuchar:  Klobuchar focused on drinking water, mentioning Flint and saying the infrastructure planners should not neglect projects such as aging water pipes in Flint, Michigan, where residents are still drinking bottled water to avoid lead contamination from their tap water.  Klobuchar also went directly at the President’s failure on infrastructure, saying “While Congress has kept the funding going in some of the areas, we have not seen the big infrastructure investment that he promised—not one that keeps our country competitive.”

Tom Steyer:  Steyer wrapped his entire infrastructure plan around the axle of climate change.  He reiterated his promise to declare a climate emergency on his first day in office and said that infrastructure spending would work in tandem with his climate-change agenda, according to The Journal. “Everything we’re going to do we’re going to do from the standpoint of climate,” he said.

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