Thinking big: what else could Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure budget buy?

The US president's proposed eight-year spending plan could prove transformative

US President Joe Biden wants to spend $2.3tn on roads, rail, electric transport and a host of green energy projects. AFP
US President Joe Biden wants to spend $2.3tn on roads, rail, electric transport and a host of green energy projects. AFP

US President Joe Biden's $6 trillion budget proposal includes some of the most ambitious infrastructure spending plans in recent history.

It features plans to allocate $2.3tn for roads, rail, electric transport and a host of green energy projects over the next eight years.

To one of his most prominent opponents, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, the plan is "insanely expensive", but Mr Biden clearly believes the spending boost will create US jobs and save money in the long term by creating a fairer and greener economy.

“The best way to grow our economy is not from the top down, but from the bottom up and the middle out,” Mr Biden said in his budget message.

“Our prosperity comes from the people who get up every day, work hard, raise their family, pay their taxes, serve their nation, and volunteer in their communities.”

Here are some ballpark figures to give a sense of the sheer scale and ambition of the president’s plans to supercharge the US economy.

What could the US government do with the $2.3tn Mr Biden wants to spend on infrastructure?

23 California High Speed Rail lines

Thirteen years behind schedule and up to $70 billion over budget, according to one estimate, the California High Speed Rail (CHSR) project aims to connect San Francisco with southern California. Its total cost is now projected to be about $100bn on completion.

Mr Biden’s plans raise fears of more mega projects with seemingly open-ended budgets.

Last month, Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg said CHSR could get a boost with some of Mr Biden’s infrastructure spending plans. That is good news for those who believe California’s economy, already the world’s fifth largest, would benefit from more low-carbon connectivity.

But sceptics will be hoping any new projects on the scale of CHSR can stick to their original budget estimates.

2,300 of the largest US solar power plant

Last year, the US federal government approved a $1bn solar power project outside Las Vegas, Nevada. The Gemini project will cover 28 square kilometres when it is completed in 2023, making it the largest solar power project in the US, capable of generating 650 megawatts – enough power for at least half a million homes.

Mr Biden’s plans to supercharge green energy research and development budgets could see far more green mega projects on this scale, permanently transforming the US energy landscape and paving the way for further energy innovations.

15 International Space Stations

The US Department of Energy has 17 federal-funded science labs, but only Nasa has one in space, albeit a shared facility.

At a cost of $87bn to the US government, the International Space Station is the world's most expensive science lab, with annual operating costs of around $4bn, most of which comes from the US.

With a total cost of $150bn, the ISS is a majestic feat of engineering roughly 109 metres long and 73 metres wide, travelling in orbit at more than 27,000 kilometres an hour.

Capable of sustaining life for seven astronauts, the ISS is one of the most ambitious projects even undertaken in space. Former President Donald Trump wanted to cut funding for the ISS but its fate is in safer hands with Mr Biden proposing Nasa's largest-ever budget of $24bn.

President Joe Biden's proposed US infrastructure budget would cover the cost of 15 International Space Stations. Nasa via AP
President Joe Biden's proposed US infrastructure budget would cover the cost of 15 International Space Stations. Nasa via AP

180 'Gerald Ford-class' aircraft carriers

Since the Iraq war, US defence budgets have consistently topped $500bn, reaching a staggering $721bn last year. A substantial portion of this has gone towards ensuring the US military has the ability to quickly deploy air and naval power almost anywhere in the world at short notice. The US Navy’s gigantic, 100,000-tonne nuclear-powered aircraft carriers play a key role here.

The most recent addition to the US carrier fleet is the Gerald R Ford-class carrier, costing $12.8bn per vessel. Each ship can carry more than 75 aircraft. While two have been completed, the US Navy wants to have 10 in its fleet.

Updated: May 30, 2021 09:54 PM


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