Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act will channel $1 TRILLION into clean energy

  • Published on January 31st, 2024

Except for during World War II, the United States has never had anything that could fairly be called an industrial policy. And unlike all the other developed nations and a few of the developing ones, it still doesn’t. However, the Biden administration has gone about as far in that direction as can be accomplished unless and until a bunch of congressional Republicans are replaced with Democrats.

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(Photo from CleanEnergy.Gov via twitter)

By Meteor Blades

As many of us have urged ever since the Inflation Reduction Act was signed 17 months ago, the White House and numerous congressional Democrats have been wisely bragging about this accomplishment, showing up at groundbreakings of projects funded by the IRA to praise their positive effects on jobs and the climate crisis and reminding everyone who made it happen. And two or three times a week, there’s news of another example to crow about, such as this headline on Friday: Biden administration awards nearly half a billion dollars for Northern California offshore wind project.

This isn’t just campaign blather. Although the anticipated impacts of IRA funding have just gotten underway, they are already appreciable. According to ongoing tracking by the nonpartisan trade group Environmental Entrepreneurs, since the IRA’s passage, 274 major clean energy projects have been announced in 41 states, bringing in $110 billion in private investment announcements and the creation of nearly 96,000 jobs.

Since last February and more frequently of late, Vice President Kamala Harris has lauded the administration’s environmental and climate accomplishments, noting that this will mean a government investment of $1 trillion over 10 years.

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For instance, at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai last month, she mentioned that number twice in speeches: “Two years ago, President Joe Biden stood onstage at COP26 and made a declaration of ambition: The United States of America will once again be a global leader in the fight against the climate crisis. Since then, the United States has turned ambition into action. President Biden and I made the largest climate investment in the history of our country and, some have said, the world: roughly $1 trillion over the next 10 years.”

Timothy Cama at E&E News reports that this figure “doesn’t align” with the $369 billion that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would be the cost of the energy and climate provisions of the IRA over a decade. The administration provided the rationale:

“When the VP references the roughly $1T historic climate investment, she is referencing all of the clean energy, resilience, environmental justice, and innovation funding that is part of our historic effort to address the climate crisis, increase resilience, advance environmental justice, and build a clean energy economy,” a White House spokesperson told E&E News.

Specifically, in addition to the IRA, the number includes: $54 billion from the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 that went toward manufacturing, research and development; more than $530 billion of new spending in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act; and funding increases the administration secured at EPA and the departments of Energy, Transportation and Commerce.

That’s not fudging. The quasi-industrial policy provided by this amalgamation is overall a Democratic effort. Although no Republicans voted for the IRA, a few said “aye” for the IIJA, CHIPS, and spending increases in those departments. But most Republicans, like the oligarchs at Goldman-Sachs, et al., bellyache about the IRA being too expensive, and even worse in their view is the whole array of green funding lauded by Harris.

A trillion dollars is a whole lot of money. But over a decade, it averages out to $100 billion a year. What the Pentagon will get in 2024 added to what the Veterans Administration will get totals $1.2 trillion. For one year. So defense against the climate emergency gets 8% of traditional national defense and critics call it too expensive.

Inflation Reduction Act summary graphic from the White HouseOn the presidential campaign trail in 2019, Kamala Harris proposed a $10 trillion, 10-year blueprint to address the climate crisis. She wasn’t alone. Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro also proposed a $10 trillion clean energy plan, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee proposed a 10-year, $9 trillion green investment plan, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker called for a $3 trillion plan. Sen. Elizabeth Warren called for a $2 trillion plan. And Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed a $16.3 trillion plan. All more in keeping with what is truly needed to speed the green transformation along in time for it to make a difference.

League of Conservation vice president in charge of federal policy Matthew Davis told Cama, “The Biden-Harris administration has delivered so much more than $1 trillion in investments. It’s hard to capture what all of those add up to, and it’s hard to encapsulate the entirety of the work that they have done to help communities around the country.”

A good point. Money isn’t everything. But that doesn’t obviate the need for more climate- and environment-related funding. And getting from the $1 trillion Harris lauds to those additional trillions will require—as with so many other issues—a solid November turnout not just for Biden-Harris but also for congressional races and all those state legislatures where much important energy (and other) policy is being made.

The vice president’s taking repeated note of the impact of that trillion dollars is both smart and good politics. Will it be enough to lure votes from youth (and other Americans) who are tempted to vote for a third party or nobody at all because they are disappointed about some of Biden’s environmental actions and angry about his actions on Israel’s war on Gaza?

It’s hard to determine how much talking about the administration’s positive accomplishments on climate will affect the voting decisions of people who are appalled by how Israel has prosecuted the war and by how the U.S. has supported it. As for how those environmental disappointments, Cama writes:

“The Biden administration has definitely pushed the ball forward on climate in ways that previous presidents haven’t done. However, they need to finish the job,” said Stevie O’Hanlon, spokesperson for the Sunrise Movement, a youth activist group.

“While they have made big strides forward with the IRA, with the American Climate Corps, we still are on track as a country to produce more fossil fuels than ever before by 2030,” they said, pointing to Biden’s approval of the Willow Project in Alaska and uncertainty over its ongoing consideration of CP2, a proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal in Louisiana.

“And if they want to be taken seriously by young people, the administration can’t be half in and half out on climate,” O’Hanlon said.

Getting out of that half-and-half mode means ensuring the reelection of the leaders who—however reluctant many of them can sometimes be—have delivered on that first half in the face of considerable opposition. Add to those already in office a lot of less-reluctant leaders and maybe the nation will finally get the full-blown green industrial policy it truly needs.

(Originally appeared at DailyKos)

About the Author

Meteor Blades is a writer and contributing editor at DailyKos. He believes there is something profoundly wrong with our system. - the unchecked accumulation of wealth and power into the hands of a very small group of corporate business interests has contributed to the wholesale corruption of our political system. For an understanding about the level of corruption in our country, he encourages you to view these two PBS documentaries: (1). ,The Untouchables; (2) The United States of ALEC.