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Better late than never! My thoughts on the Inflation Reduction Act

Ever since August 16th, when President Biden signed the biggest climate bill in U.S. history into law, I’ve been considering what to say. So let me start with this: I’m amazed, grateful, and relieved. Why did it take me so long to post this? I was so stunned by this bill’s unlikely passage, and by how much major climate policy is contained in it, that it took me some time to digest this turn of events. I’ve spent ten years working for the passage of a national climate law of this scope and scale. I needed a moment to absorb this success, however imperfect. Then there’s the challenge of trying to summarize this bill–all 273 pages of it. How do I write something that does this moment justice?

You may know that I had given up. I wrote on this blog in January that “the odds of major climate policy being enacted by Congress in 2022 appear minuscule.” It feels like a miracle that the climate policies in this law somehow came back from the dead, like Wesley in the Princess Bride. (The climate provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), crafted through years of collaboration, planning, persuasion, and compromise, were declared dead earlier this summer when Senator Manchin said he would not support them.)

Much has been written about how this bill was resurrected, and the concessions that were made. The fact remains that the IRA contains the largest and most consequential measures–by far–to reduce U.S. climate pollution in our country’s history. I am grateful to every person who worked for climate action, went to meetings, lobbied, protested, contacted their elected officials; each of us contributed to the passage of this law. I believe it marks the beginning of serious climate action by the U.S. government.

I’m guessing you may not realize the size of this win for the climate. I think we in the climate movement are so inexperienced with success that we don’t know how to respond when we make real progress. I know some climate activists are disappointed or angry at the concessions that were made, and I understand. But if you’re alarmed about the climate crisis, I suggest you take a moment to savor the potentially transformative impacts of this law.

Robinson Meyer writing for The Atlantic put it this way:
“On Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law. It is no exaggeration to say that his signature immediately severed the history of climate change in America into two eras. Before the IRA, climate campaigners spent decades trying and failing to get a climate bill through the Senate. After it, the federal government will spend $374 billion on clean energy and climate resilience over the next 10 years. The bill is estimated to reduce the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions by about 40 percent below their all-time high, getting the country two-thirds of the way to meeting its 2030 goal under the Paris Agreement.”

I won’t try to provide all the details of the law–there are just too many. A few of the highest impact climate incentives in the law include:
Extension of production and investment tax credits for clean electricity projects for 10 years
Tax credits and incentives for EV purchases, including used EVs
Tax credits for installing heat pumps, rebates for home retrofits, and financing for electrification of buildings

Other provisions include a fee for methane leakage, tax credits for carbon sequestration, and funding for environmental justice for disadvantaged communities, a green bank, climate-friendly agriculture, forestry, and conservation programs.

If you want to dig deeper into all that the IRA does, I have several suggested sources. Energy expert Dana Nuccitelli summarizes how the law’s provisions are expected to produce emissions reductions in Yale Climate Connections. The New York Times provides a good overview of the law’s provisions and impacts as well. If you prefer videos, Hank Green does a great job summarizing what the law does in this 22 minute YouTube “The Biggest Climate Bill of Your Life – But What Does it DO!?

Climate experts agree this law will matter, but the size of it’s impact will depend on how it’s enacted, and how people and businesses respond. I’m excited to say that I’ve created a page on our website and have begun gathering resources and information there on how the IRA can be leveraged to decarbonize your home, car, community, and state. The page will continue to expand for you to use and share.

Meanwhile, I hope you are taking a moment to celebrate, as I am. Next I’ll begin exploring what provisions in the law can help you contribute to a healthier, safer, more just and livable future.

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