The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, despite a misleading title, is a groundbreaking piece of legislation that is a step in the right direction for the climate fight in the United States. The act stems from President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Plan that was introduced at the start of his presidency. Originally proposed last year, the bill was thought to be too expensive by moderate Senators Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., leading to a pause in the process in the Senate.
After months of meetings between senators, the bill finally passed as a scaled-down version on Aug.12. However, the law, while a great step forward in climate legislation, is not enough. Students should be demanding more climate legislation going forward, especially since the midterm elections will take place soon.
Certain successes of the law include establishing fair labor protections, as it creates good-paying, clean energy union jobs across the country. These jobs will help reduce emissions throughout different sectors of the economy and expand tax and bonus credits to businesses that pay high wages for these registered apprentices.
With talks of an upcoming recession, students should pay attention to this aspect of the law, as it could help some secure higher-wage jobs with labor protections upon graduation in the future. This could provide meaningful opportunities and careers for graduates in the upcoming years.
Tax credits also apply to corporations that support clean energy in their supply chains. Other parts of the law include raising corporate taxes to 15%, eliminating tax loopholes for the wealthy, lowering the cost of prescription drug prices and incentivizing lower and middle-class Americans to make clean energy upgrades in their homes with tax breaks. Overall, the bill is a giant leap forward for climate policy in the United States, but there is more that could be done.
Despite the Inflation Reduction Act’s climate progress, it did also give wins to oil and gas companies. Manchin, a Moderate Democrat who is usually the carrying vote for Democrats in the tied Senate, provided wins for oil companies as well in order to secure his vote on the act. He released some energy provisions he would like to see happen, one including the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a gas pipeline that runs through Manchin’s state of West Virginia, as well as through some of Southwest Virginia. This provision would not only be a win for oil and gas companies, but it would interfere with current climate objectives and have steep environmental impacts in the Appalachian region.
The pipeline requires the use and clearance of forests. There are numerous reasons that deforestation is bad for the planet, but the main one is that trees absorb and store carbon dioxide. If forests are cleared or disturbed, they release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Releasing more greenhouse gases would make parts of the Inflation Reduction Act seem redundant, which is why we must continue to demand that our elected officials put climate first.
About 83 acres of the Jefferson National Forest will be used during the construction phase of the pipeline, and about 42 acres during the operational phase. It also affects wildlife and will displace many animals, some which are of threatened and endangered species. The pipeline covers areas with high susceptibility to landslides, which could damage certain homes near the area. The construction process of the pipeline has also faced certain issues with permits for waterway crossings, causing some of its progress to be halted for two years. These issues prove that, while the Inflation Reduction Act is going to do fantastic things, it still isn’t enough protection for the climate and we need something else.
Politicians continue to take advantage of the democratic process by making decisions that benefit companies, not Americans or the climate. There are many things students and other young people can do to start making change. Staying informed on political events and laws like this one is the first step. Continuing to learn about the climate and understanding what is being done to keep the Earth clean is the best way to then spread the word to others, protest, join organizations and vote for politicians that will protect the climate.
This law shows why it is important for students to care about climate change and legislation regarding green energy. It not only has many aspects that apply to young people's futures, but it has also shown us that we need to continue being active in politics if we want to see more aggressive climate action from the government in the future. If a collective group can come together and understand why this is important, then climate progress can be made, and we can end the war against our planet that corporations and politicians create.
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Luke Lawson (he/him) is a sophomore intending to major in accounting. He enjoys discussing political events, hiking and watching films.