Sen. Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin agreed on a surprise $369 billion climate package on July 27.
The bill could cut energy bills, make electric cars affordable, create 1.5 million jobs and save lives with cleaner air.
Senate Democrats could pass the most important climate change legislation in US history this week, paving the way for cheaper energy and a more livable planet.
The surprise agreement between Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia would allocate about $369 billion to climate programs as part of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. It aims to expand renewable energy such as solar, wind and cleaner fuels. , while making it cheaper to buy electric vehicles and white goods.
If Congress approves the bill, it would put the United States on track to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 44% from 2005 levels by the end of the decade, according to several estimates. Experts say the bill also promises savings, health benefits and a higher quality of life for ordinary people across the United States.
“This is not about the sky or the polar bears,” Jonathan Foley, executive director of Project Drawdown, a climate nonprofit, told Insider, adding: “This is about you and your wallet, your jobs, the air your kids breathe. the city you live in, our national security.”
Here are five ways the new climate package can make your life better:
Lower energy bills
The new climate proposal includes about $30 billion in loans and grants to states and electric companies to adopt more renewable energy, plus more than $60 billion in tax credits for manufacturers of solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicle batteries, energy storage and other technologies , according to a summary from Senate Democrats.
Solar and wind already generated cheaper electricity than fossil fuels, even before oil and gas prices rose sharply this year. Yet they still only account for about 20% of US energy use. The Schumer-Manchin deal could accelerate a shift away from fossil fuels and also make it more affordable to hook up your home to electricity.
A total of $9 billion in home energy rebates will help Americans insulate their homes and replace furnaces, ovens, water heaters and other appliances with electric alternatives. Homeowners can deduct up to 30% of the installation costs from tax. A similar deduction for solar energy will be guaranteed for homeowners and extended to battery storage in homes.
“This is really about delivering lower energy bills for ordinary Americans,” Leah Stokes, a professor of environmental and energy policy at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said in a news conference Thursday. She noted that high oil and gas prices are a major driver of inflation that ripples across all industries, from transportation to manufacturing to agriculture.
“When fossil fuels increase, other goods and services increase,” Stokes said.
The average household could save $1,800 on its energy bill each year by installing a modern electric heat pump and rooftop solar and buying an electric vehicle, according to an analysis by Rewiring America, a think tank that promotes electrification.
Cheaper electric cars
The bill would expand an existing tax credit of $7,500 for new EVs – offered as a rebate at the point of sale – and offer up to $4,000 for used EVs and plug-in hybrids.
It would also lift the cap on the number of tax breaks automakers can offer, benefiting companies like Tesla, General Motors and Toyota that have already reached the limit, as long as the vehicle is assembled in the United States.
“When people own an electric car, they’re going to laugh every time they drive by a gas station, when they see $5 a gallon,” Foley said, adding, “I think this will help us reach a tipping point, where five 10 years from now you won’t see gas cars sold anymore, or very few.”
There are some caveats, such as your income, the vehicle’s price tag and where the parts are made.
If you earn $150,000 or more a year, or $300,000 in joint family income, you will not qualify for the new car tax credit. There is also a limit for the price of the car. Larger vehicles, such as SUVs and pickup trucks, must cost less than $80,000, and smaller cars less than $55,000, to qualify for the credit.
For used cars, the income limit is $75,000 for single taxpayers and $150,000 for joint filers. Sticker price must be $25,000 or less.
The bill also requires vehicle batteries to be made with 40% of minerals mined or processed in countries the US has a free trade agreement with, or recycled in North America. But supply chains for those minerals don’t yet exist, E&E News reported. The majority of lithium, cobalt, nickel and other minerals used in EV batteries come from China, Russia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, though analysts told E&E News they hope the mandate spurs an American-made market.
Cleaner air to breathe
With fewer gas-guzzling cars on the road, and fewer industrial areas powered by fossil fuels, the air would be cleaner and safer to breathe.
“Such climate action could also reduce particulate matter or ozone smog, as a kind of side benefit that would immediately improve health,” Scot Miller, assistant professor of environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins, told Insider.
This drop in air pollution could prevent up to 3,900 premature deaths and 100,000 asthma attacks by 2030, according to an analysis by policy research firm Energy Innovation LLC.
The American Lung Association pointed to these clean air and health benefits in a statement Thursday, urging Congress to “move quickly” and “without delay” to pass the new bill.
The bill also includes provisions to fund cleanup of hazardous pollution sites, which are disproportionately concentrated in low-income communities of color.
The investment is “probably not enough, but it’s more than we’ve ever spent before,” Foley said.
Works, works, works
By investing about $60 billion in manufacturing — everything from heat pumps to wind turbines — this climate plan will help keep U.S. energy companies clean, and ensure “good-paying, and hopefully, union jobs,” Stokes said.
It’s not just production. Renewable energy infrastructure must be installed and maintained. The bill would fund new electricity transmission lines, offshore wind projects, housing conversions, rural renewable energy projects, and the reuse or replacement of decommissioned energy infrastructure.
All that work requires workers. The bill would create up to 1.5 million jobs by 2030, according to the Energy Innovation analysis.
The bill also focuses on communities historically linked to oil, gas and coal extraction, by providing a tax incentive for companies that create renewable energy jobs in those places.
Protection against extreme weather
Climate change is making droughts, floods, forest fires and heat waves more severe and more frequent. These weather events cause severe damage to human property and infrastructure and cost lives.
The bill would provide funds to communities to mitigate the health effects of extreme heat, to prevent and respond to wildfires, and to prepare for coastal climate impacts such as severe hurricanes and flooding from sea level rise. It also gives the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) a funding boost for forecasting and research.
While the new funds will help communities adapt to extreme events, the bill could also help prevent weather from becoming even more extreme. If the world cuts emissions enough to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, it could prevent a significant acceleration in the severity and extent of extreme weather.
“I think everyone I work with in the emissions community is kind of holding their breath and hoping that this [bill] going through,” Miller said.
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