- - Wednesday, March 17, 2021

It is restless dissatisfaction with the status quo that drives the quest for something newer and better. Individuals with requisite skills innovate to fashion clever ideas into tangible improvements. Those without know-how but plenty of malcontentment enter government and become public-policy lifers. Joe Biden, who boasts the expertise to “build back better,” has made a career of spending other people’s money. As he prepares to revamp the nation’s infrastructure, Americans may blanch at the emphasis on “green” projects that put them deeper into the red.

In his first major act of leadership, President Biden successfully oversaw the passage last week of a $1.9 trillion package that is meant to restore a coronavirus-ravaged nation to health. That more than 90% of the spending is unrelated to the pandemic exemplifies how problem-solving without clear focus leads to government waste.

The president’s attention has now shifted to upgrading U.S. infrastructure with a focus on renewable energy. “We are so far behind the curve,” Mr. Biden said last month as a prelude to his reconstruction proposal. “We rank something like 38th in the world in terms of our infrastructure — everything from canals to highways to airports.”

Recognizing the need for capital improvements is no stroke of genius. President Trump similarly sought congressional support for infrastructure, but his enemies preferred to erect barriers to his agenda. With Democrats in full control of government, an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink approach is estimated to cost somewhere between $2 trillion and $4 trillion.

With climate change an overarching focus of the Biden era, renewable energy is expected to color the spending. “It is going to be green and it is going to be big,” Rep. Peter DeFazio, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, told the Associated Press Sunday.

Indeed, Mr. Biden campaigned on achieving U.S. carbon-emissions neutrality by 2050. The envisioned infrastructure package is expected to support his goals that include installing 500 million solar panels, constructing 60,000 wind turbines, installing a half-million electric vehicle recharging stations, upgrading 4 million buildings and weatherizing 2 million homes.

When Barack Obama placed his vice president in charge of fighting recession with the $800 billion 2009 Recovery Act, he said, “As part of his duty, Joe will keep an eye on how precious tax dollars are being spent. To you, he’s Mr. Vice President, but around the White House, we call him ‘the sheriff.’ ”

“The sheriff” evidently let some dollars disappear. The Heritage Foundation compiled a list of 19 “green” energy projects that received $2.6 billion in taxpayer money, then unceremoniously collapsed. Among the squandered funds were $790.3 million for Abound Solar, $570 million for Solyndra and $377.1 million for A123 Systems. Oops.

With a budget expected to top multiples of his previous “green” foray, taxpayers can only hope Mr. Biden’s new initiatives do not waste greenbacks in similar proportions. Doing so would only build a climate of despair.

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