President Joe Biden speaks at a Mack Trucks assembly plant in Lower Macungie Twp., Pa., on Wednesday, 7/28/21 (Screen Capture)
By Paige Cognetti
In 1886, Scranton made history and earned the nickname “Electric City” when we introduced the first-ever electric street car. Now, nearly a century and a half later, electrification of our transportation system is one of the best tools that we can use to combat climate change, but we’re going to have to move quickly.
We are trying what we can at the local level to make owning an electric vehicle more attractive by installing chargers at locations downtown and assessing the design of our streets to make room for more. But in order for there to be enough electric vehicles on the roads for us to be able to turn back the clock on climate change, the federal government is going to have to make a significant investment in our electrified future.
The good news is that electric vehicles are finally getting the kind of consideration by policy makers in Washington that will be necessary for us to succeed. The bipartisan infrastructure package that recently passed the Senate contains a lot of important items, many of which will be helpful in fighting climate change, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.
We need more than just charging stations for personal electric vehicles, we need to electrify all of our vehicles. President Biden’s plan calls for electric school buses, and he recently visited a Mack Trucks facility in the Lehigh Valley that produces all-electric garbage trucks. Converting to electrified transportation won’t only help fight climate change and make the air we all breathe cleaner, it will also provide opportunities for new family-sustaining union jobs manufacturing the equipment we will need.
Yet to make these dreams a reality, we need the federal government’s help to pay for new municipal fleets, as well as the charging infrastructure to power them.
President Biden’s Build Back Better Act is the kind of historic investment that we need to prevent the worst effects of climate change, and also to establish America as a global leader in clean technology and build the foundation of our future economic prosperity. And we can’t afford to wait.
A newly-released report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that we are on the verge of being unable to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, and that we need to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030. Widespread adoption of electric vehicle technology will be critical to helping us achieve this goal, and the legislation currently under consideration is likely our final chance to make the kinds of investments we need to secure a cleaner future before it is too late.
We in Scranton have a proud history of transportation innovation, and we stand ready to do our part, but we can’t do it alone. If we are to succeed, every city must become an “Electric City.”
At the same time, as Hurricane Ida recently showed us how aging cities like Scranton are uniquely vulnerable to increased flooding caused by climate change. We need federal help to invest in sustainable solutions, like rain gardens and green roofs, to reduce the impact of severe storms. We need to repair aging stormwater infrastructure that has been neglected. And we need to curb emissions to prevent the problem from getting worse.
Congress is set to vote on this critical legislation later this week. Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation will play a key role in shaping what ultimately ends up on the president’s desk.
Any final bill must meet the moment by providing us with enough resources to face the threat of climate change by investing in new, well-paying union jobs in cities like Scranton.
I am calling on all our elected officials in Washington to get President Biden’s Build Back Better Act passed as quickly as possible so that we can get to work building a cleaner, better future for our children, before it’s too late.
A Democrat, Paige Cognetti is the mayor of Scranton, Pa.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.