Kate Fraser - Teen Aspect - August 11th, 2022
Following a long-awaited response, environmental experts across the country are reacting to Joe Manchin’s agreement to support a budget reconciliation bill called the Inflation Reduction Act.
The bill is relatively wide in scope, using environmental and social justice perspectives toward curbing the overwhelming inflation that is strangling Americans. Allocating $300 billion in Deficit Reduction, as well as $369 billion in Energy Security and Climate Change programs over the next decade, the legislation hopes to improve domestic energy independence, inflation, Medicare, and carbon emissions. (i)
This is a massive, incredibly influential piece of legislation that could change the poor course of American environmental policy, so the small group of Democrats who proposed the bill was greatly dependent upon Senator Joe Manchin’s support due to the reconciliation approach that protects spending from a filibuster. This approach requires complete unanimous support from Democrats. His announcement of support followed a 10-day effort of his party members, made up of compromise, negotiation, and pleads. (ii) Manchin has notoriously knocked down big climate legislation proposed by fellow Democrats and the Biden Administration, crushing the White House’s chances of reaching the climate goals Biden promised during his bid for the Presidential Election.
As someone who followed Build Back Better very closely, from its time of proposal to its eventual death from Manchin’s misled concerns around inflation and federal spending, the Inflation Reduction Act seems to be the watered-down version of it. Build Back Better was one of the most progressive bills to ever reach the US Congress, so there is no surprise that Democrats aren’t trying everything they can just to escape the common “nay” from Manchin. In other words, environmental advocates within the party are willing to make certain sacrifices with the way Congress is currently organized. This very Congressional term has been so divisive, that every piece of legislation that clears the Senate floor is rather… plain. With Democrats having to strip out the policies of actual influence to please Republicans and moderate party members, each bill that makes it through Congress is plucked to the bone, with only a basic framework to work off.
However, it must also be recognized that this act is grand in scale, easily becoming one of the biggest pieces of environmental legislation in American history. With investments in clean energy, environmental research, coastal and forest restoration, and emission reduction, the bill could, according to its supporters, help the country reduce carbon emissions 40% by the year 2030. (iii)
I was so surprised to see Senator Manchin on board with the bill, I immediately had my doubts about its contents. Covered up by the big projects in energy and research, there is a big part of this bill that has created a divide in the environmental policy community. Because of the enormous amount of compromise the bill required, Senator Manchin will ultimately be a beneficiary. Analysts at the Center for Biological Diversity worry that this requires the country to offer millions of hectares of federal territory for oil and gas leasing. Therefore, this prioritizes nonrenewable energy projects before even considering wind, geothermal, and hydrothermal energy. Bill McKibben, a well-known climate activist, emphasizes this paradox, explaining that the Inflation Reduction Act is “larded with presents for the fossil fuel industry.” (iv)
While this is certainly a much-needed step forward for American environmental policy, we can no longer operate under the impression that what we are doing now is even close to enough. If the United States does not reach a significant reduction in emissions, the world will be hurdled towards a scary future following any temperature increase over 1.5 degrees Celsius.
i Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (2022). bill.
ii Cochrane, E., Tankersley, J., & Friedman, L. (2022, July 27). Manchin, in reversal, agrees to quick action on climate and tax plan. The New York Times. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/27/us/politics/manchin-climate-tax-bill.html
iii Malakoff, D. (2022, July 28). From dazzled to doubtful: New U.S. climate deal draws range of ... Science.org. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.science.org/content/article/dazzled-doubtful-new-u-s-climate-deal-drawsrange-reactions
iv McKibben, B. (2022, July 28). Zeitgeist Matters. BillMckibben.substack.com. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://billmckibben.substack.com/p/zeitgeist-matters