In Colorado, Biden Talks Wildfires, Floods And The Need For Urgent Action On Climate Change

Joe Biden
Evan Vucci/AP Photo
President Joe Biden speaks about infrastructure at the Flatirons campus of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, in Arvada, Colo.

President Joe Biden visited the National Renewable Energy Lab on Tuesday to pitch his “Build Back Better” agenda as a vital step toward fighting and adapting to climate change.

Biden said, “we’re blinking code red” as a nation when it comes to extreme weather and climate-driven disasters. Before arriving in the state, he toured the Caldor fire in California, and he spoke to the smoke and flooding Coloradans have endured in recent months.

“You saw the vicious cycle this summer, when heavy rains combined with the burn scar of the Grizzly Creek fire,” Biden said, noting the lengthy closures of Interstate 70 after flooding on wildfire burn scars trapped more than a hundred motorists and the fact that one in three Americans experienced a ‘weather disaster’ this summer. “The bottom line is: It’s everywhere. It’s everywhere.”

The president noted that extreme weather cost the U.S. $99 billion last year.

“We know what the driver is: climate change. We know what’s causing climate change, human activity. This is no longer up for debate.”

Turning to his policy proposals, Biden underscored an urgent need for increased investment in renewable energy technologies and programs to help ensure communities are more resistant to the damaging effects of climate change.

“Something that is caused by humans can be solved by humans,” he said. “The necessity is there, we don’t have a lot of time. We don’t have much more than ten years, for real.” 

The CEO of Xcel Energy and Gov. Jared Polis also spoke before the event.

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden talks with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, right, and Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock after arriving on Air Force One at Denver International Airport Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

This was Biden’s first visit to Colorado since his election. He handily won the state in 2020 but did not campaign here in person. He said he was glad to get a chance to tour NREL, which he hadn’t visited since 2011. 

“I had a chance to see the state of your wind turbine testing and new battery technologies because of the years of work that have taken place here. And these technologies aren't science fiction, they're ready to be installed and scaled up across the country right now.”

Biden's CO trip part of his effort to get $3.5 trillion reconciliation package through Congress

The brief Colorado stop is part of Biden’s public outreach effort to drum up support for the $3.5 trillion Democratic budget reconciliation package currently making its way through Congress. Democrats cannot afford to lose any votes in the narrowly divided U.S Senate.

The package is a vehicle for a wide range of Democratic priorities, including increased funding for initiatives to combat climate change that have rankled industry groups and proven to be contentious among moderate Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin of coal-state West Virginia. 

“From my perspective, the reconciliation bill to Build Back Better plan is a climate bill. It's a bill to try to meet the moment,” said Democratic Congressman Joe Neguse, noting it includes “everything from the Climate Conservation Corps to the clean energy standard, to electric vehicle infrastructure, to the investment in R-&-D for our federal labs.”

Biden arrived in an NREL facility in Arvada in the early afternoon and took pictures with local Democratic politicians before touring the research lab. In addition to Neguse, two other Colorado members of Congress, Ed Perlmutter and Jason Crow, also attended the event, along with Gov. Jared Polis, former Transportation Secretary Federico Peña and Democratic statehouse leaders. 

Colorado’s U.S. Senators Bennett and Hickenlooper were both in Washington, D.C., working; the Senate reconvened from its August recess on Monday, with the reconciliation package at the top of its agenda

The bill’s passage will largely hinge on what the Senate's most moderate Democratic members are willing to accept. Neguse said he is optimistic that the version he backs will get enough support to pass but said the final sticking points would likely center on the price tag.

“My sense is that there is no irreconcilable dispute in terms of getting this bill across the finish line,” he said. “Will it look exactly as it will look when we pass it next week in the house? Probably not, but I think we'll end up in a good place.”

However, Republicans have criticized the packages’ cost and questioned the need for many of its programs. None of them are expected to vote for the final bill.

"Biden and the Democrats are desperately trying to sell the largest tax hike in decades, trillions in new socialist spending, and a reckless agenda that is leaving Americans behind,” said RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel in a statement.  “Small businesses and workers are struggling across the country, and the latest spike in the price of everything from gas to groceries shows Biden's agenda is failing.”

Ahead of the president’s speech, protesters lined a road near the NREL facility, waving American flags and flags for former president Donald Trump. In its response to Biden’s visit, the Colorado GOP took the opportunity to highlight a variety of policies they believe are leading the country in the wrong direction.

"Rising gas prices, skyrocketing inflation, trillions in unnecessary spending, and abandoning Americans and Allies in Afghanistan — that is the real record of the Biden-Harris Administration,” state GOP chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown said in a statement.