After more than a year of infighting, President Joe Biden’s climate agenda has cleared a significant hurdle. On Sunday, Senate Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 in a 51-50 decision that went along party lines and saw Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote, reports The Washington Post.
If passed by the House, the 755-page bill would authorize the single largest expenditure to combat climate change in the nation’s history. In all, the legislation calls for $370 billion in spending to reduce US greenhouse emissions by approximately 40 percent by the end of this decade.
Among the climate change provisions most likely to affect consumers is a reworked federal EV tax credit. The Inflation Reduction Act would provide up to $7,500 in subsidies for electric SUVs, trucks and vans that cost less than $80,000 and cars under $55,000. It would also allow people to claim up to $4,000 when buying a used EV. In both cases, an income ceiling would prevent those who make more than the average American from taking advantage of the legislation.
On top of EV subsidies, the $370 billion in investments set aside by the bill would incentivize the building of wind, solar and other renewable power sources. The act also calls for the creation of a $1.5 billion program that would pay companies that reduce their methane output.
With Sunday’s vote, the Inflation Reduction Act now moves to the House, which will return from its summer recess on Friday. For much of 2021 and the first half of 2022, President Biden’s Build Back Better plan looked doomed to go nowhere due to opposition from Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. In late July, however, Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced they had come to a compromise.
The act contains tax provisions which will have major companies, earning more than a billion dollars a year in profits, will pay a minimum tax of 15%. There is a 1% special tax on corporations who buy back their stock rather than invest in new business expansion. The Internal Revenue Service will gain additional staff to pursue taxpayers who are not paying their fair share of taxes.
In exchange for Manchin’s support, the Inflation Reduction Act includes a provision that would see the federal government reinstate canceled oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook Inlet. While that concession upset environmentalists, it’s not expected to undo the good the Inflation Reduction Act is poised to do for the environment. According to one estimate by Princeton University’s Zero Lab, the bill could reduce US greenhouse emissions by about 6.3 billion tons through 2032.