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Biden’s green energy plans raise questions for union allies

Rebecca Rainey and Eric Wolff write at Politico about concerns from one of President Biden’s traditional allies.

President Joe Biden touted his $2 trillion infrastructure plan as a “once-in-a-generation” effort to tackle climate change while creating millions of “good paying jobs.” Some unions warn that it may ultimately cost a lot of jobs, too.

Labor groups, echoed by Republicans in Congress, are cautioning that Biden’s plan to hitch the jobs recovery to massive green energy investment could backfire because of the quality of employment it will create and the economic devastation it could cause on rural communities.

The president’s push to decarbonize the economy will mean eliminating the kind of steady, fixed-location jobs that come with coal mines or fossil fuel power plants. The Biden plan would require the construction of vast numbers of solar, wind and battery projects, along with potentially new pipelines for carbon dioxide and hydrogen. But construction jobs are temporary and require mobility, and once those projects are complete, they’ll need few workers to maintain them and keep them operating.

“The jobs that he talked about yesterday were construction jobs,” said Phil Smith, a spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America, a day after the Biden speech. “We’re not seeing anything concrete that our members can look at and say, ‘OK, that’s where I’m gonna fit in.'”

The complaints underscore the difficulty Biden will have in pursuing his two most ambitious goals: reviving the labor market by generating millions of jobs for unions — which traditionally thrive in old-line industries — and transforming the U.S. into a clean economy where electric vehicles and battery storage replace coal, natural gas and oil as energy sources.

Environmentalists defend the plan as a necessary move away from old technologies to battle climate change. And others say Biden’s plan does include tax incentives for manufacturing. …

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...