Senate Democrats appear poised to pass landmark legislation to accelerate a nationwide transition to clean energy, cut energy costs, create tens of thousands of union jobs and fight environmental injustice.
The surprise deal, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), was brokered by Sens. Joe Manchin, W.Va, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, NY The 50 Democratic senators, including Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema, must back the IRA to pass. Every Republican, Fossil Fuel Driller, and Big Business violently oppose it.
Environmental, labor and social justice organizations, climate scientists, policymakers and federal, state and local Democratic lawmakers hailed the deal. They called for a quick move despite loopholes and concessions to the fossil fuel industry.
The turn of events came after Manchin torpedoed Build Back Better (BBB) legislation as a record-breaking heat wave scorched much of the planet, sparking wildfires and causing flash floods. in Kentucky. The most supposed climate legislation was dead for the rest of this Congress.
The result was a bitter backlash against Manchin, protests, a sit-in by congressional staff and calls for Biden to declare a national climate emergency. Guarantees for fossil leasing, expanding funding for the Black Lung Trust Fund, separately speeding up the permitting process for the Mountain Valley Pipeline through West Virginia, and Manchin’s belief that the bill would reduce inflation may have convinced him to accept.
The IRA marks the largest clean energy investment in US history and is the result of decades of movement building and battles to pass transformative climate legislation against entrenched opposition. “We’re going to look back 50 years and say that was the start of a great transition,” said Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo.
“Rhodium Group modeling shows the IRA can absolutely cut carbon pollution by 40% by 2030. With further executive and state action, we could be back on track. to meet President Biden’s critical goal of a 50% reduction this decade,” Dr. Leah said. Stokes, leader of Evergreen Action and climate policy officer involved in the development of BBB legislation.
Climate scientists say the world must reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2050 to avoid exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius and triggering far more catastrophic changes.
The bill removes from the BBB certain provisions such as the child tax credit. However, it retains most of the essential programs from the original bill, albeit at lower funding levels. They include $369 billion in funding and tax credits to accelerate the transition to clean energy technologies, reduced methane emissions and investments in agriculture, rural economic development and restoration.
It establishes environmental, labor and equity standards in public investments. It directs approximately $60 billion in funding to historically discriminated against and vulnerable communities who suffer the worst consequences of climate change.
One of these mechanisms is a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund make community investments in renewable energy. The climate bank would lend $28 billion for “low-interest loans across the country. A small town in Ohio might say it wants to completely redo its public housing stock. OK, come to the climate bank. Or a community that wants to install solar panels on its municipal landfill. Alright, we’re going to help fund it,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.
The law project contains consumer tax credits for the purchase of new and used electric vehicles and partially funds the conversion of the USPS truck fleet to electric vehicles. It offers tax credits to companies to produce solar and offshore wind farms, geothermal infrastructure, batteries and green technology production facilities.
The bill makes it easier for working-class households to winterize their homes and buy electric heat pumps and induction cookers. Studies show that the more renewable energy, electric vehicles and other products are manufactured, the cheaper they become, which is not the case with power generation from fossil fuels.
The bill too allocate $64 billion to extend Affordable Care Act grants through 2024 and allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs with Big Pharma.
Lawmakers argue that switching to renewable energy would also reduce energy costs and address Manchin’s stated concern about inflation. “Fossil fuels have driven 41% of inflation,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. “So when we talk about investments in clean energy, that’s one of the main elements of the price increases that consumers are facing. Households go to register on average about $1,800 per year in energy bills.
Lawmakers drafted the bill to circumvent Republican filibuster through the budget reconciliation process. He needs all Democrats on board, and with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote, only 51 votes are required instead of the 60 votes required by the Senate filibuster rule.
Sinema has remained silent about her support and is under enormous pressure from giant corporations to kill the bill. His concerns appear to revolve around taxes on the wealthy and corporations, which generate $739 billion in revenue to cover the costs of the bill. The IRA does not raise taxes on workers earning less than $400,000 per year.
Sinema has repeatedly expressed opposition to the “deferred interest charge,” a tax on profits that hedge fund managers make that Manchin insists on. The biggest issue is corporate opposition to a 15% minimum tax on corporate profits over $1 billion. Sinema has previously backed the tax, but the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable, which is covering it with contributions, wants it rejected.
“If Sinema, a former Green Party activist, derailed the most important federal climate bill of all time as Arizona faces growing impacts from climate to change would be an incredible repudiation of everything she stood for all her life,” he tweeted. Atlantic columnist Ronald Brownstein. Markey also indicated that the senators would work with Sinema and close the deal one way or another.
The IRA comes with tough compromises to win Manchin’s vote. The bill makes both onshore and offshore lease sales mandatory, but they are to be more restricted and attract higher royalties. Ultimately, falling renewable energy production costs will make oil drilling unnecessary.
In addition, the total impact of the new lease on the climate could be minimal, according to a study. “For every ton of increased emissions generated by [the bill’s] provisions relating to oil and gas, at least 24 tonnes of emissions are avoided by the other provisions”, concludes Energy Innovation.
Environmental activists have vowed to continue fighting the new leases regardless. “We can’t stop there and throw these communities (which would be impacted by oil extraction) under the bus,” Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., of the Hip Hop Caucus said on an Evergreen call. Zoom action. “That doesn’t mean we won’t continue to fight these projects.”
If the bill passes, it could still energize Democratic and pro-climate voters in the 2022 midterm elections. Most pundits still assume the outcome will be a “red wave,” given the low rating of Biden’s popularity and the high number of people who think the country is on the wrong track. Traditionally, the president’s party takes a midterm beating after the presidential election.
But mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, NY; ongoing armed violence; GOP-dominated Supreme Court rulings on abortion rights, the EPA, and guns; the House Select Committee hearings on the January 6 insurrection and ugly Republican candidates woke up the anti-MAGA majority. Suppose voters show up to elect a Democratic, pro-climate, anti-filibuster majority. In this case, the passage of even more comprehensive climate legislation could be possible in 2023 to bring the country to net zero emissions in time.
“We need to elect two more Democrats so we can get rid of the Jim Crow filibuster so we can have a simple majority and pass transformative climate, child care and housing legislation. The original BBB had $150 billion to invest in housing. We are not giving up on any of this,” Jayapal said. “I hope people are motivated and ready to go because we need bigger majorities. We have to protect democracy to protect the environment.