After years and years of cranking ingredients into the political sausage maker by lobbying our Members of Congress, sending endless emails, texts, posts, and tweets, and attending many long, tedious meetings, a bell has rung at the bottom of the grinder to herald that (some of) the legislation we have been asking for is coming out. You can imagine our delighted amazement when the Senate crafted a bill – the Inflation Reduction Act – that despite its title has excellent climate provisions similar to the ones we have been asking for, with a reasonable possibility of passage.
Viva democracy! Environmental activists did jigs around our furniture and banged pots out of our windows before settling down to one more slog of lobbying for the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (which includes Health and Tax reform), the biggest climate action ever taken by Congress.
It all began last Thursday morning (July 28, 2022) when we woke to the news that there might be enough Senators (all 50 Democratic Senators, a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Kamala Harris, against blanket opposition from 50 Republicans) to vote through legislation that includes $369 billion dollars in energy investments and climate mitigation.
Though it falls short of Biden’s Paris pledge that the U.S. will achieve net-zero emissions by 2030, it is an important signal of America’s return to responsible earth stewardship after four years of climate denial during the Trump Administration.
Predictions are for a 40%-44% reduction below 2005 emissions in 2030, in contrast to currently enacted policies which only achieve a 24% reduction.
Just as importantly for many people, the Inflation Reduction Act justifies its name in providing a modest degree of deficit and inflation reduction.
The bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says, “Ultimately, we expect the IRA to very modestly reduce inflationary pressures in the near term while lowering the risk of persistent inflation over time and thus make it easier for the Federal Reserve to reduce inflation without causing a recession.”
Economists agree that it will reduce the pressures that are driving prices upwards: “ I think on economic growth and efficiency grounds,” writes Lawrence H. Summers (Treasury Secretary in the Obama Administration), “it promotes investment by reducing budget deficits.It promotes efficient resources allocation by leveling the corporate tax playing field, and it promotes investment with clean energy incentives” while “it makes health care more affordable.”
Although it is the climate provisions in the bill that have our heels clicking, I am pleased that economists agree about its impact on inflation. It is encouraging to learn from knowledgeable economic figures like former Treasury Secretaries Tim Geithner, Jack Lew, Hank Paulson, Robert Rubin as well as Larry Summers that the act will increase American competitiveness, fight climate change, and reduce inflation all at once.
NEW STATEMENT from former Treasury Secretaries Tim Geithner, Jack Lew, Hank Paulson, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, in support of the Inflation Reduction Act: pic.twitter.com/jypFTgZmSh
— David Gura (@davidgura) August 3, 2022
Paul Krugman, in an article titled “Can Inflation Reduction Save the Planet,” argues that “the Democrats’ bill might catalyze a crucial energy transition” by providing incentives for clean energy developments that have proven themselves economically and technologically feasible.
In other words, now that “transitioning to clean energy [can] be considered an opportunity rather than a burden,” stimulating its development can have environmentally beneficial results.
“The Inflation Reduction Act won’t deliver everything climate activists want,” concludes Krugman, “But if it happens, it will be a major step toward saving the planet.”
Let’s take a look at these climate provisions.
The Inflation Reduction Act’s climate provisions: Span from clean energy incentives to income compensation for vulnerable groups
The bill includes tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles, incentives for clean energy projects and sustainable agricultural practices, as well as compensation to low-income communities suffering the worst effects of pollution.
Here is how the spending increases work out:
- Energy and climate to increase by $385 billion
- Clean Electricity Grants and Loans to increase by $30 billion
- Energy and climate tax credits and spending to increase by $235 billion
- Clean Energy Technology to increase by $30 billion
- Clean Agricultural funding to increase by $30 billion
- Clean vehicle manufacturing to increase by $20 billion
The climate advocacy group that I work with, the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, has the goal of instituting a Climate Fee and Dividend method by which fees are collected from industrial sources of pollution and returned directly to American households.
Though the Inflation Reduction Act only addresses methane admissions, in structure and intent it is close to what we would like to see enacted for carbon emissions. With all of the other emission mitigations in the bill, we are (very) enthusiastic supporters.
In addition to its climate provisions, the Inflation Reduction Act lowers the cost of prescription drugs and health insurance. Best of all, it will be paid for by closing tax loopholes and ending tax provisions that principally benefit the rich.
Democracy Diary: Chewed Fingernails, Pacing, and Agitation
Friday, July 29. The Citizens’ Climate Lobby sends our talking points and calls to action. I summarize the bill in an email and send it to my contact lists, asking everybody to make three phone calls to their Senators and Representatives. Just 10 minutes, and to save the planet!
Here’s our script:
“I’m a constituent and a voter. I’m calling to urge you to support and vote for the Inflation Reduction Act that — when enacted — will make historic investments in clean energy and will finally put America on the path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with America’s Paris commitment”
Sunday, July 31. The Environmental Justice Chairwoman at my (Unitarian) church prints up my summary with a call to action and passes it around so the congregation can pitch into the phoning effort.
Monday, August 1. I call my own two Senators. There are four wavering Democratic Senators (not mine); the Majority Leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, is meeting with them behind closed doors. I bite my nails.
Tuesday, August 2. We vote in our Michigan Primary. The Democratic nominee who wins is the incumbent Representative whom we Detroit Metro North CCLers have lobbied for three years. I call her about supporting the Inflation Reduction Act if/when it passes the Senate and moves to the House of Representatives. I learn that CCL has made 4,800 congressional calls already, to which should be added thousands of similar contacts that organizations like the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society, not to mention outdoor clubs and nature conservancies all over the country, are busily making. Feeling useful.
Wednesday, August 3. We learn that the Inflation Reduction Act had gone to the Senate Parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, who is the official advisor on the interpretation of standing rules and parliamentary procedures in the U.S. Senate. It is up to her to determine that every element of the bill fits within the Budget Reconciliation Procedure, which requires only 50 rather than the usual 60 votes to pass. These rules are very strict and detailed for each provision. More nail biting, pacing, and all-over stewing.
Thursday, August 4. We hear that four Democratic Senators have Covid and a 5th has broken his hip. I fantasize about the emergence of a group called FAB Republicans (Republicans For a Better Planet) six or so of whom are persuaded by their grandchildren to vote for the bill. Very agitated pacing.
Friday, August 5. Holy Moly, Senator Schumer has persuaded the last holdout Democrat to vote for the Inflation Reduction Bill. Bravo! I hear over the radio that the Senate will convene tomorrow to push it forward, debating over the weekend if necessary. Cautious hope that it is happening at last. Fingers crossed.
However, the Senate Parliamentarian is still trying to determine the economic significance of each provision. More nail biting.
Saturday, August 6:
8 AM: The Republicans have vowed to make getting the bill passed a living hell for the democrats with “‘a 48-hour gauntlet of ‘poison pill’ amendments.” Robert Hubbell asks in Today’s Edition newsletter:
“How, exactly, do Republicans plan to put Democrats through ‘hell’? Answer: By making them vote on proposed amendments to the Inflation Reduction Act. Hmm . . . voting on the Senate floor on proposed legislation. That doesn’t sound like ‘hell’—that sounds like “doing your job.”
Pleased feeling that Democracy is in motion.
12 Noon: The parliamentarian gives a green light on most issues. Significant jig in living room
11 PM: Republican amendments begin. I check the radio at various times of the night and they are still at it.
Sunday, August 7:
11 AM: The Republicans have been putting forth amendments and the Democrats voting them down for 12 hours straight. My Senator (Debbie Stabenow) comes on TV to say she is very tired.
The session has now lasted 27 hours!
I am reminded that although, to impatient people like me, the wearying tedium of Democracy grinds very slow (as opposed to the efficiencies of Fascism, the very system Republicans are presently promulgating), Joy Cometh in the Morning – or, when we finally win something, it is madly exciting precisely because we all did it together, each making our own choices, rather than letting some power-mad dictator tell us what to do.
3:45 PM: Bill Passes the Senate! Total and absolute jubilation!
U.S. Senate passes major $430 billion bill to fight climate change, cut drug costs:
WASHINGTON, Aug 7 (Reuters article by Richard Cowan, David Morgan, and Rose Horowitch) – The U.S. Senate on Sunday passed a sweeping $430 billion bill intended to fight climate change, lower drug prices, and raise some corporate taxes, a major victory for President Joe Biden that Democrats hope will aid their chances of keeping control of Congress in this year’s elections.
The Inflation Reduction Act has arrived: Pots and Pans Time! Dancing Around the House! Joyful Texts to friends and family and fellow activists! All together (though there’s just me here) singing:
Oh Frabjous Day! Taroo, Tarray! Dear Mother Earth has won the day! Republicans yakked the whole night But, nonetheless, we won the fight. Oh Frabjous day! Taroo Tarray! The bill has passed: it’s on the way To pass the House where we are strong, Then Biden signs it, before long!
The House of Representatives will return from summer break to vote on Friday, August 12: mild crossing of fingers amid profoundly heightened hope for the planet.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com In the Featured Image: Aerial view of solar panels in Koko Head, Oahu, Hawaii, August 3, 2021 Featured Photo Credit: Jeremy Bezanger.