Are the climate elements in the recently-passed “Inflation Reduction Act” a game changer? Or are they just a way to lessen the disastrous impact of the U.S. inaction over the past decade? Did you personally do anything to help us collectively stand in front of that inaction train as it carried the world toward a climatic wreck? Maybe you have been preoccupied. The news outlets probably won’t help your focus too much. Both newspapers I read put the news about the House passing this huge bill last week second to Donald Trump’s predictable, attention-grabbing violation of the law and the Republican defense of it. I suppose our leaders will be calling for war on each other when Mar-a-Lago is under rising seas.
The climate disaster is here. Temperatures soared across Europe, the US and much of the northern hemisphere this year – it’s a new normal. What scientists have predicted for decades is becoming palpable, indisputable. The deniers keep denying and the fossil fuel oligarchs won’t give up until all the oil is out of the ground and sold, but it is hard to argue against climate change when the Po and Colorado Rivers dry up. The new, human-caused climate patterns have far-reaching effects – for the natural world, for global food supplies, for health, for infrastructure and for much more. UN chief António Guterres has likened the crisis to ”collective suicide.”
I hope you already knew all that and are figuring out what more you can do – even though we need massive systemic change, not just individual action. We are all in this together, but it is the systems and the leaders of them who must make the planet-changing alterations. Christians who love their Creator should be their main exhorters. But Christians in the US still generally think climate action is “liberal,” which is another atmosphere that burns me up. They are so individualistic and paranoid they think hunkering down in their bunkers will save their families.
Maybe they will change and care for creation. I know some who woke up long ago. You noticed I said “generally” a couple of sentences ago when I indicted “Christians” because I suspect some of you reading are Jesus followers who voted for Al Gore and still wince when you see Styrofoam. But, unfortunately, Christians are generally not known for being at the forefront of climate action
Celebrate climate action
I’m writing today to add a bit more to our knowledge of the massive budget bill the Congress squeezed by the uniformly-opposed Republicans. “Opposed Republicans” when it comes to environmental protection is a recent change, since some of the first environmental activists in government were Republicans. Richard Nixon organized the EPA! I don’t think the present crew in Congress are all opposed to climate action on principle. They are in a death match for instituting a minority government free of pesky laws (the flouting of which dares the FBI to raid your mansion).
I went looking for what was actually in the unfortunately-named Inflation Reduction Act and it was quite hard to find. The Democrats put out a summary but it doesn’t give many details. The House has another summary with more detail. Why do I think you should care about this?
- Our empathy needs to expand. Overwhelm diminishes our capacity to care. It takes discipline to care about anyone but oneself and one’s own.
- We face shame when we encounter change. It takes a lot of self and other awareness not to get stuck in resistance.
I think the Holy Spirit brings us into connection and expands our ability to love – even in the face of climate inaction.
Let’s look at the amazing and inadequate features
Energy experts assert the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will help the United States cut greenhouse gas emissions about 40% below 2005 levels by the end of this decade. That puts the Biden administration within striking distance of meeting its goal to reduce greenhouse gases by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 under the Paris climate agreement of 2016.
Pray with me, here, as I offer my own summary of the bill Biden will sign this week. The planet’s future is hanging in the balance.
Here are the main elements.
It attempts to lower energy costs
- Home energy rebate programs focused on low income consumers to electrify home appliances and retrofit homes for energy efficiency. ($9 billion)
Just in case you can’t see how rich the U.S. is, if you personally earned $1 million dollars a year, it would take a thousand years to make 1 billion.
- Tax credits to make homes energy-efficient and fueled by clean energy — making heat pumps, rooftop solar, electric HVAC and water heaters more affordable. (Lasts ten years)
You can get an $8,000 tax credit to install a modern electric heat pump that can both heat and cool buildings. You could get $1,600 to insulate and seal your house to make it more energy efficient.
- Tax credits for lower/middle income people to buy used clean vehicles ($4,000), or to buy new clean vehicles ($7500).
I apparently bought my new hybrid too soon.
- Grant programs to make affordable housing more energy efficient. ($1 billion)
It retreats from the global economy and encourages domestic production of climate related products
- Tax credits to accelerate manufacture of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and processing of critical minerals. ($30 billion)
A piece about “critical minerals.”
- Tax credits to build clean technology manufacturing facilities, like facilities that make electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels. (10 billion)
- Money through the Defense Production Act for heat pumps and critical minerals processing. ($500 million)
- Grants to retool existing auto factories to make clean vehicles, ensuring that auto manufacturing jobs stay in the communities that depend on them. ($2 billion)
- Loans to build new clean vehicle manufacturing facilities across the country. ($20 billion)
- Money to fund National Labs to accelerate breakthrough energy research. ($2 billion)
It begins work to decarbonize the economy
- Tax credits for clean sources of electricity and energy storage
- Targeted grant and loan programs for states and electric utilities to accelerate the transition to clean electricity. ($30 billion)
- Tax credits and grants for clean fuels and clean commercial vehicles to reduce emissions from all parts of the transportation sector.
- Grants and tax credits to reduce emissions from industrial manufacturing processes, including almost $6 billion for a new Advanced Industrial Facilities Deployment Program to reduce emissions from the largest industrial emitters like chemical, steel and cement plants.
- Money for Federal procurement of American-made clean technologies to create a stable market for clean products, including $3 billion for the U.S. Postal Service to purchase zero-emission vehicles. ($9 billion)
- Money for a clean energy technology accelerator to support deployment of technologies to reduce emissions, especially in marginalized communities. ($27 billion)
- A Methane Emissions Reduction Program to reduce leaks from the production and distribution of natural gas. The bill forces oil and gas companies to pay fees as high as $1,500 a ton to address excess leaks of methane, and undoes the 10-year moratorium on offshore wind leasing established under Trump.
Here is a little local color that includes methane capture.
It includes a focus on environmental justice
- Environmental and climate justice block grants will invest in community-led projects in marginalized communities (and the agencies poised to use this money) to address disproportionate environmental and public health harms related to pollution and climate change. ($3 billion)
- Neighborhood grants will support equity, safety, and affordable transportation access. The aim is to reconnect communities divided by existing infrastructure barriers, mitigate negative impacts of transportation facilities or construction projects on marginalized communities, and support equitable transportation planning and community engagement activities. ($3 billion)
- Grants to reduce air pollution at ports will support the purchase and installation of zero-emission equipment and technology. ($3 billion)
- Money for clean heavy-duty vehicles, like school and transit buses and garbage trucks. ($1 billion)
It pointedly includes farmers, forestland owners and rural communities
- Money to support climate-smart agriculture practices. ($20 billion)
- Grants to support healthy, fire resilient forests, forest conservation and urban tree planting. ($5 billion)
- Tax credits and grants to support the domestic production of biofuels, and to build the infrastructure needed for sustainable aviation fuel and other biofuels.
This summary of tax implications tells you how complex this all is.
- Grants to conserve and restore coastal habitats and protect communities that depend on those habitats. ($2.6 billion)
It does not neglect the fossil fuel addiction companies
The big oil companies, fresh off their record-breaking pandemic profits, did not make a big push against the bill, which says volumes. The Democrats agreed to a number of fossil fuel and drilling provisions as concessions to Senator Manchin of West Virginia, a holdout from a state that is heavily dependent on coal and gas. The measure assures new oil drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook Inlet. It expands tax credits for carbon capture technology that could allow coal or gas-burning power plants to keep operating with lower emissions. It instructs the Interior Department to also hold auctions for fossil fuel leases if it approves new wind or solar projects on federal lands.
What do you think God thinks about all of this? What does Jesus want you to believe and do about it all? Let’s pray today and hope. We are the salt of this poor planet.