Decarbonize: The Clean Energy Podcast

What's up with the Inflation Reduction Act?

August 17, 2022 Fresh Energy Season 3 Episode 17
What's up with the Inflation Reduction Act?
Decarbonize: The Clean Energy Podcast
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Decarbonize: The Clean Energy Podcast
What's up with the Inflation Reduction Act?
Aug 17, 2022 Season 3 Episode 17
Fresh Energy

What is the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and how did it get to where it is today? Sit down with Fresh Energy's Michael Noble, Anjali Bains, and Jo Olson to learn about the good and bad elements of the bill and its implications for equity and justice, as well as how Fresh Energy and advocates across the country are continuing to plug in to drive bold progress toward our carbon-free future.

The IRA is the largest investment ever in climate action in the U.S. Send a thank-you note to your members of Minnesota's federal delegation who voted in favor of the IRA! 

Additional resources: 

Show Notes Transcript

What is the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and how did it get to where it is today? Sit down with Fresh Energy's Michael Noble, Anjali Bains, and Jo Olson to learn about the good and bad elements of the bill and its implications for equity and justice, as well as how Fresh Energy and advocates across the country are continuing to plug in to drive bold progress toward our carbon-free future.

The IRA is the largest investment ever in climate action in the U.S. Send a thank-you note to your members of Minnesota's federal delegation who voted in favor of the IRA! 

Additional resources: 

Jo Olson: [00:00:03] Hi, everyone. Welcome. Thank you for joining us today for our webinar that we pulled together in less than 24 hours. So those of you on the line today are responsive and quick, and we're grateful you had time at 10:00 AM Central today to join us. I'm going to just give, oh, probably like ten, 15 seconds more for folks to filter into the Zoom room. And in the meantime, I have the chat turned on. So all of our guests in the Zoom room I would invite to use the chat, introduce yourself, share your pronouns, say where you're joining us from today. All right. I see we're at quite a few people in the Zoom room, and I am cognizant that this could be, you know, kind of a hefty conversation. So let's get started. I don't want to waste any time.


Jo Olson: [00:00:58] Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us. Welcome to today's extremely informal webinar. My name is Jo Olson and my pronouns are she her? I'm the communications director at Fresh Energy. And if you're joining us for the first time and you haven't heard of us, Fresh Energy is a Minnesota based nonprofit working toward a vision of a just prosperous and prosperous and resilient future, powered by a shared commitment to a carbon-neutral economy.


Jo Olson: [00:01:26] So when I initially pitched this webinar to Michael and Anjali and Justin Fay, our public affairs director, I was thinking we would just do an episode of Decarbonize: the Clean Energy Podcast, but there was so much excitement around the Inflation Reduction Act that I thought, Hey, let's do kind of a live webinar recording of the podcast. We'll try something new. So that's why this event is happening today, less than 24 hours notice, less than 24 hours after the bill was signed into law. And I think this is going to be a lot of fun. So thank you, everyone, for joining us in real-time. And if it's not already obvious, the team at Fresh Energy is pretty excited about the Inflation Reduction Act and what it will mean for nationwide decarbonization. So I'm joined today by two of my colleagues, Michael Noble and Anjali Bains. So let's go around the horn and do quick introductions with them. But first, folks, joining us in the Zoom room, please use that chat to introduce yourselves, share your pronouns, and where you're logging in from. Okay, Michael, kick us off.


Michael Noble: [00:02:34] So I'm Michael Noble and I'm the executive director at Fresh Energy. And why am I excited to be here? I'm excited to be here because this bill became law yesterday. It's not a bill anymore. It's a law.


Jo Olson: [00:02:49] Okay. Anjali.


Anjali Bains: [00:02:51] Hi, all. Great to be here. My name is Anjali Banes. She. Her pronouns and I lead the Energy Access and Equity team here at Fresh Energy, and I'm excited to be here to mark the passing with you, all of this incredible piece of legislation that, while by no means perfect, is a huge step forward by the U.S. Congress on climate change, as well as health care and taxes.


Jo Olson: [00:03:13] Thanks, Anjali. So now let's get to why you're both here, and everyone in the Zoom room is here. The U.S. Congress and President Biden made climate history by passing the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 into law. In response to President Biden signing the bill yesterday, I wanted to sit down and talk about how we got here and the implications for Minnesota and all the states in our country for the bill. So full disclosure to folks joining us today. We will not be unpacking the bill line-by-line today. There's plenty of time for that later. But first, let's just talk numbers. How much money is behind this bill and what will it do for emissions, Anjali?


Anjali Bains: [00:03:54] Yeah. Great. So this law is ultimately a $369 billion climate and tax package that constitutes the largest investment in climate action ever in U.S. history and about 60 billion that is meant to flow to and support communities overburdened by pollution and other environmental injustices. So it's well known at this point as we've been going through the law, that the IRA will impact many facets of America's energy, housing and transportation systems and give a lot more invested investments to clean energy.


Jo Olson: [00:04:28] Thanks. And Michael. Let's talk emissions.


Michael Noble: [00:04:30] Yeah. So there's three different estimates from three different sources, but they all center around the idea that it cuts emissions more and more and more each year. But by the year 2030, this decade, it'll cut approximately 1 billion metric tons annually. So more and more and more carbon reductions every year. But by 2030, we'll reach 1 billion metric tons annually, which is most of the way to the president's goal of cutting U.S. emissions in half.


Jo Olson: [00:05:12] Thanks, Michael and Angela, those numbers are really significant. So let's talk about how the Inflation Reduction Act or the IRA, as I'm just going to call it, to simplify things from here on out. Let's talk about how the IRA came to be and its journey through Congress to the president's desk. And also today, we're going to discuss some of the major decarbonization elements of the bill as well and what the bill does and does not do in terms of equity and justice. So, Michael, at Fresh Energy, we've been calling the IRA a game changer. But just a few weeks ago, climate and energy advocates across the country, you be all of us were in total despair. Congressional staffers were holding sit-ins and Speaker Schumer's office. So how did we get here?


Michael Noble: [00:05:57] Well, this would be a longer conversation. People are welcome to listen to Dave Roberts' podcast, who talks for an hour about how we got here. But, you know, what I'd like to say is that, first of all, the American climate movement, including businesses, labor unions and environmental groups, environmental justice groups, we got our act together about five years ago, and we prioritized standards and investment and environmental justice instead of limiting emissions, controlling emissions, cutting carbon by regulation and taxing carbon and pricing carbon. It was just a pivot on strategy. And this strategy worked because every part of the Democratic coalition embraced the strategy, and in the end, every Democrat voted for the bill.


Michael Noble: [00:06:47] You know, I just have to shout out to Senator Schumer, the majority leader in the Senate, and, you know, God love him. Senator Manchin, they put this bill together kind of after everybody thought it had crashed and burned and was over and the Internet was cursing Senator Manchin, the two of them just rolled up their sleeves and kept at it. But I also have to call out United States Senator Tina Smith and her fabulous staffer, Pete Wyckoff. The Washington Post wrote that Pete and Tina started the "Never Give Up Coalition," and they got Senator Hickenlooper and Senator Wyden and a few other senators just to keep badgering and badgering and badgering Senator Manchin and Senator Schumer to make a damn deal. And they did. So I'd like to send my appreciation to dozens and dozens of congressional staffers who work thousands and thousands of hours around the clock, but especially to our United States senator. Tina Smith again, the three the three things, the three-legged stool were standards, investment, and environmental justice. And the budget reconciliation caused the standards piece to get thrown overboard. So this bill is essentially investment and environmental justice.


Jo Olson: [00:08:06] Thank you, Michael. So I'm going to jump in here really quick with a quick plug for our action alert. Fresh Energy has an action alert up on our website for folks to send a thank you note to members of the Minnesota delegation who voted in favor of the IRA getting it through Congress. So for those of you keeping track at home, that's Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar and Representatives Angie Craig, Betty McCollum, Dean Phillips, and Ilhan Omar. So I'm going to copy the link into the chat right now so you all can do this as you have time. But now to get back to the question of how did we get here, Anjali, anything to add?


Anjali Bains: [00:08:45] Yeah. Just to echo what Michael said, this was really the result of persistent pressure from grassroots organizations, youth movements, nonprofits, businesses, labor, and many other people. And this was not written over a mere few weeks. It was it's really been built up over the immense advocacy and effort of many leaders and organizations from the Build Back Better Days and earlier, as Michael mentioned, back in 2017. So it's quite an achievement and really shows what comes of dedicated pressure and passion. And I'm also sure that many of the people on this call today, all also sent a letter to President Biden or their electeds via the Fresh Energy Action Alert system that Joe just referenced. And that kind of outreach and advocacy was hugely magnified across the country and again, really underscore the passion and urgency of getting something done.


Jo Olson: [00:09:34] Thanks, Anjali. And let's pause here for a quick moment of clarification. So in late 2021, Congress passed and the president signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. So that bill also made strong strides for clean energy and energy-related economic development, focused on things like jobs, economic development and tax updates, clean power buildings and energy efficiency, transportation, and more. But that bill is totally different from the IRA, both in how the money is invested and how it is administered. Michael, can you give this group just like a quick one on one about how they're different? I just want to clear that up before we move forward.


Michael Noble: [00:10:16] Okay. The very simple thing is the IIJA is like a bonding bill. It's an infrastructure bill. It's a capital investment bill and infrastructure. And the most important thing is, is that the Inflation Reduction Act is ten times more carbon reduction, maybe more than ten times. It's vastly more of a climate bill than an infrastructure bill, although there were a lot of good infrastructure things in the infrastructure bill like high speed car charging on the freeways. And we actually have a long blog post that you can find our website of all the cool infrastructure that's climate-related, but it was not a climate bill. This bill is is a tax and spending bill, you know, taxing corporations that were underpaying and spending on climate and health care. But, you know, climate is the big, big, big winner here because.


Michael Noble: [00:11:25] Well, I like to point out that when they started talking about budget reconciliation, you know, Senator Sanders, the chairman of the Budget Committee, wanted a six and a half trillion dollar bill. And the president said, no, no, no, no, no, we're not going to do six and a half trillion. Maybe we could do 3 trillion, Bernie. And then Joe Manchin said, nope, nope, we're not going to do 3 trillion.Maybe we could do one and a half trillion. But this bill is $700 million, $700 million in taxes and $400 billion in spending. So Senator Manchin was able to say that it's reducing the deficit. So this is less than 1/10 of the spending that Bernie Sanders originally wanted. It's almost 1/10 of the spending that President Biden wanted.


Michael Noble: [00:12:04] But the climate provisions are mostly intact. That's what's amazing here, is that of all the coalitions and all the constituencies and all the spending that aspired to be in the build back better agenda, the climate provisions are the only one that crossed the finish line, along with the health care and the prescription drugs deal. But the health care deal is much, much, much smaller than the climate deal. So I just like to point out that, you know, 30 years of organizing made the Democrats realize they couldn't go home and face the voters without a climate bill. And that's ultimately what happened here. We're a nonpartisan organization. We're not here rooting for Democrats. But essentially, the constituency of America who cared about climate made the legislature passed this bill. Made the Congress passed this bill.


Jo Olson: [00:13:03] Thank you, Michael and I did pop the link to that blog post about IIJA or "ee-ja." Do I just am I the only person who called the idea in my head? I put that in the chat. So if people want to catch up on exactly what that entails.


Michael Noble: [00:13:17] Most people just call it. Call it the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, because that was the bill that was voted for by both of the political parties. And this is the bill that was only voted for by all the Democrats and was opposed by all the Republicans.


Jo Olson: [00:13:30] Perfect. Well, let's thank you, Michael. Let's get back to the IRA. So as of yesterday at I don't know,3:30, 2:30  Central, it was signed into law by President Biden. So let's talk about two of the big decarbonization MVPs in the bill, which are first tax credits for clean energy and second, the clean vehicle credits. So, Michael, you're on a roll. Tell us about the clean energy tax credits.


Michael Noble: [00:13:53] So, you know, tax credits are basically government spending. If the government decides, you know, going to give Jo Olson a tax credit for putting a heat pump in her home, it's the federal government reducing Joe Olsen's taxes or giving her a credit on her taxes. But it's what's called a tax expenditure. It's the same as government spending. So the government is giving money to Jo Olson because Jo Olson bought a heat pump. Actually, Jo Olson is buying a heat pump and she will get the tax credit.


Michael Noble: [00:14:25] But these tax credits are all over every single clean energy technology. Imagine, you know, there's a couple that got left out I was cheering for. There's no tax credits for e-bikes that was thrown overboard by Senator Manchin. But there's tax credits for wind power, solar power batteries, electric vehicles, existing nuclear power plants. New nuclear power plants, heat pumps. Insulation. Low-income families who switch out their appliances for electric appliances. Upgrading your electric panel, which is very interesting to me, since we had a bill in the Minnesota Legislature to provide grants and assistance for families to upgrade their electric panel.


Michael Noble: [00:15:16] Essentially think of everything that utilities might want to buy, everything that small businesses might want to buy, and everything that households might want to buy in the way of clean energy and climate solutions. A whole bunch of it now has a tax credit in the tax code. So that's what the bill mostly is, is tax credits for stuff that doesn't produce carbon. And some of it is down in the weeds and people might object to it, like tax credits for fossil fuels that capture carbon emissions and put carbon emissions down in a hole in the ground forever.


Michael Noble: [00:15:55] Some people might say, I wish they didn't give tax credits to that, but that was the price of getting Senator Manchin on board is that we were basically going to give credits to everything that helped reduce carbon and see what shakes out. And the other amazing thing is these credits are, you know, tax credits for clean energy. Wind power and solar power aren't new. We've had tax credits since as long as I've been working on this stuff. But the hilarious thing and the terrible thing and the ridiculous thing is that the tax credits expire either every year or every other year or every three years or every four years.


Michael Noble: [00:16:30] I had one business leader once tell me, he says, Imagine you ran a business making wind turbine towers in the Red River Valley, and the federal tax credit had completely expired three times in ten years. And you laid off all your workers three times in ten years. Would you be really driving down your costs because of the federal tax credit, or would you barely be breaking even like, oh my God, the damn federal government and their tax credits? So these tax credits are now in place through 2032. For all the things I mentioned, they have tax credits for ten years. This is putting the energy transition on steroids. The stuff was happening and now it's going to happen a lot faster than it otherwise would because the tax credits are 30% often of the entire cost of the technology, 30% tax credits for many of these tax credits. You know,


Michael Noble: [00:17:27] I do want to just mention that the tax credit for EVs is a bit of a mishmash. Senator Manchin didn't want it at all and Senator Schumer managed to keep it in. And I'm just going to have to reserve judgment on how it all shakes out. What they prioritized is cars that will be made in America with special minerals and metals that are mined in North America. I'm going to have to reserve judgment on how that will shake out. But this is going to be great for rural communities. A billion dollars in rural, renewable energy loans for rural electric cooperatives that would use the exact same clean energy benefits as private companies would use. New tax credits, clean energy tax credits, direct funding for Tribal energy innovations, Native communities to help everyone benefit from clean energy. Investments in modernizing energy generation, investments and modernizing energy transmission, building a modern grid of the future here in Minnesota, Midwest, across the country. One analysis says this is going to save $50 million for households in 2030. $50 million for households? No, no. Is it $50 billion? What is it, 50 million? $50 million in households savings, energy savings, cost savings on their electric bill. So all these things in place for ten years, all these things driving the energy innovation, all these things driving down costs.


Michael Noble: [00:19:08] The overarching strategic idea behind the bill is to make the clean stuff cheap instead of making the dirty stuff expensive. That is the big kind of ideological pivot. You know, after 30 years of trying to figure out how to make fossil fuels more expensive, they decided to make the clean stuff cheap. That is the big intellectual pivot on public policy that made this bill passed into law.


Jo Olson: [00:19:38] Michael, I can tell you're passionate about this. And and tax credits for clean energy is indeed the MVP of the bill. So, Anjali, as Michael implied, there's a lot of speculation, kind of some gray areas floating around online about which vehicles will qualify for that clean vehicle credit. But let's set that aside for now. We're not going to speculate, but can you tell us what exactly that clean vehicle credit element of the IRA is?


Anjali Bains: [00:20:07] Sure. Definitely. So clean vehicle credit, as it's being called, is a major revamp of the existing $7,500 new electric vehicle federal tax credit that exists. Major improvements include making the incentive available at the point of sale, which is a really, really big, big change, rather than only kicking in during tax time, as is currently does. And this is really important to help actually relieve the cost of buying an EV upfront instead of having to have someone pay the full cost and then file their taxes however many months later in order to actually get the full amount of the value.


Anjali Bains: [00:20:44] It also places an income cap on who can use the credit with individuals making up to $150,000 households, up to $300,000 eligible. So again, trying to narrow exactly who in the U.S. can participate in this credit and making it a bit more tailored towards those who are not ultra-wealthy. A price cap on the EVs is also in place with SUVs, vans, and pickups, up to 80,000 allowed and all other types of vehicles, up to $55,000 allowed as well. And as Michael mentioned, this tax credit was designed to incentivize North American-made EVs and is split into two parts, with buyers receiving the first half of the incentive. If the vehicle is made with a battery that was manufactured or assembled in North America and buyers receiving the other half of the incentive, if the battery was constructed with critical minerals extracted in the US or a country the U.S. has a free trade agreement with or is recycled in North America.


Anjali Bains: [00:21:43] This whole vehicle tax credit will run through 2032. So again, as Michael said, there is a very long runway for this tax credit, as with all the other clean energy tax credit. Now, as Jo mentioned, there has been quite a bit of analysis put out there on what is eligible or not under this new tax credit scheme. So you won't get into that here, but it is a big change and it will require a lot of effort to set up these new processes domestically to meet these goals and won't necessarily solve the near-term supply crunch we've been seeing with new EVs and other passenger vehicles. That being said, a very exciting new development for these tax credits is the inclusion of a used Clean Vehicle Tax Credit called the previously owned Clean Vehicle Credit, which is $4,000 and eligible for folks making up to $75,000 by themselves or $150,000 in a household. And this is completely new. This has not existed at the federal level before.


Anjali Bains: [00:22:43] So it was very much a response to the advocacy of a lot of different folks. This use vehicle tax credit can be used for a purchase price up to $25,000. And it is especially exciting to have this used vehicle tax credit because most Americans do not actually purchase a brand new car or truck when they need one. In fact, a proportionate spread of Americans across income brackets purchased a used vehicle for their driving needs. So the impact of the $4,000 credit will be really interesting to see.


Jo Olson: [00:23:15] Thanks, Anjali. There's just a lot there, so thanks for the overview. So now I do want to focus on some provisions of the IRA that are an issue, starting with the new rules for energy leases, for oil and gas exploration and production on federal lands and offshore waters in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. Michael, can you fill us in here?


Michael Noble: [00:23:37] Yeah. So this is a horrible provision. Essentially, if we're going to continue to use public land to develop renewable energy, we have to continue to offer leases to oil and gas industry to drill on public land or in public waters. It's a horrible provision. It's perverse. It's directly linking renewable energy production with fossil fuel production. You know, it's a very bad provision and Fresh Energy is opposed to it. And we stand with the groups who have working tirelessly all their lives to oppose oil and gas drilling on public land and public waters and offshore.


Michael Noble: [00:24:26] I have read several analyses about how bad is the bad and without offering too much. I've seen analyses that, if the overall theory of the bill is to make clean energy cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, we're tending to drive down the demand for fossil fuels. And many, many of these leases that are offered now don't even get taken up by the oil industry because they don't want them. They don't have the demand. They don't have the need. So, you know, I'm betting on less fossil fuel consumption, not more. I'm betting that the bad provisions won't be as bad as the bad provisions look. And the good provisions are going to be better than the good provisions look. But I do want to acknowledge that groups have put their whole lives and souls on the line to fight offshore drilling and drilling on public lands.


Michael Noble: [00:25:22] And we oppose further exploration and drilling for fossil fuels on public land. There's also a so-called side deal that Senators Schumer and Manchin announced in their memo when they announced the deal. And a side deal means that they agreed to it in principle, but it's not part of the bill. And the side deal is basically reform of federal permitting and environmental review. Now, this is a double-edged sword because we absolutely will fight against and all the national organizations, all the expert organizations, all the land organizations, all the legal organizations will fight against any change in the public process that would enable fossil fuel infrastructure to be built more easily. But ironically, we actually need reform of public siting and public review and public permitting for wind farm solar farms and transmission. We need reform on that. So when I call it a double-edged sword, we don't want any easing or smoothing of the pathways for fossil fuel infrastructure, but we do want easing and smoothing of the pathways for renewable energy infrastructure. So this is going to be fought out in Congress. This is when they say it's a side deal. Basically, Senator Schumer said he would vote for it. Nobody else promised to vote for it.


Jo Olson: [00:26:55] Thanks, Michael. And do you want to speak at all to how advocates are approaching these not-so-good elements of the bill?


Michael Noble: [00:27:04] Well, you know, some front-line communities and justice communities are focusing on these provisions. You know, I saw one analysis that for every tonne of carbon dioxide that could conceivably be increased by oil and gas leases, there's 25 tons of carbon dioxide decreased in the bill. So 25 tons of good stuff and one ton of bad stuff. That's why I'm balanced. We support the bill. But again, if your primary issue is that you are fighting mountaintop removal in Appalachia and this bill makes better opportunities for removing mountaintops in Appalachia, that's no consolation to you. Or if you've put your life on the line and your organizing efforts and your treasure fighting a pipeline, and this eases the permitting of a pipeline. That's no consolation. So I acknowledge that the front line communities and the justice communities are ambivalent about the bill. But again, for every tonne of carbon increased in the modeling, there's 25 tons of carbon decreased in the modeling and I think the modeling is quite conservative and the good will be better than the good looks and the bad will be less bad than the bad looks.


Jo Olson: [00:28:28] Thanks, Michael. And Anjali, let's turn to the equity and environmental justice side of the bill. So some advocates are contesting that the bill doesn't do enough. Kind of, as Michael was saying there. Can you share your thoughts with us on that?


Anjali Bains: [00:28:44] Sure. Yeah. And there has been a really robust discussion with different groups taking different positions depending on where they're working on or what they're working on, as Michael mentioned. So I just wanted to share that is dynamic and is by no means a monolith when we're talking about all these different organizations with different priorities. But the IRA is a great step. It's by no means perfect as we're starting to see while falls in the spirit of the Biden administration's Justice40 Initiative in that equity and environmental justice are woven throughout many of the provisions. Thanks in many ways to persistent advocacy of environmental and climate justice leaders. It actually falls short right now of ensuring that 40% of its climate investments are going to go towards what are called disadvantaged communities. In other words, the communities most harmed, harmed by our existing power, industrial, and transportation systems who are living right next to polluting facilities and who are bearing the worst impacts from our changing climate, and who are least resourced to mitigate and adapt to it. That can include rural communities, Black, Indigenous and people of color communities, and what we call under-resourced communities.


Anjali Bains: [00:29:51] So this. This bill is doing a lot, but it's not quite getting to that 40%. As I mentioned earlier, about $60 billion of the almost $370 billion of the IRA is meant to go towards these communities, but that's actually only 16% of the entire investment so far below what the Build Back Better legislation would have given, which would have been about $160 billion and also below what the Justice40 initiative would have committed, which is that 40%.


Anjali Bains: [00:30:21] And as Michael mentioned, the risk of permitting reform makes it easier to could make it easier to site or continue to site polluting industries in these communities. And that is a real risk and one we all need to fight against with as much passion as we put into celebrating the IRA on that front. The prominent New York City-based Environmental Justice Organization We Act is hosting a webinar tomorrow to talk about the risk of permitting reform, and you can sign up for that chat in the link, which I will top in the chat.


Jo Olson: [00:30:55] I can do it, Anjali.


Anjali Bains: [00:30:56] Oh, great, awesome. It gives me a little bit less multitasking. So again, that is a webinar put on by We Act, which is a northern Manhattan based environmental justice organization. Finally, as some folks online have pointed out, this is a legislation of incentives, as Michael even mentioned, which is to say a lot of carrots and no regulatory sticks or other form of stricter standards. So standards and regulations are important policy tools that would enforce consistently and widely can protect us all, and especially the communities most hurt by pollution. So they'll need to continue to be some advocacy on permitting reform and making sure that more of the IRA investments are being sent to the communities in most, and that those communities are able to participate in these federal processes, and that that is always made easier so that there's more and more input given by the communities most impacted by our climate pollution. We'll also need to keep pushing for more protections and regulations that reduce and prevent harm as much as the IRA incentivizes clean action.


Jo Olson: [00:32:07] Well put. Thank you, Anjali. Okay, now. Well, since I have you both, I want to ask about some other elements of the bill that you yourselves are especially excited about. As Michael implied, I will be bringing heat pumps into my home, so that's what I'm excited about. But there are some other really cool, familiar things in the IRA that are cribbed from original language of the Build Back Better Act. So for our listeners, I'm going to post again this blog of like the 17 things that the Fresh Energy team was excited about. But now I want each of you to share your personal faves and you can just pick a few. Michael, why don't you start?


Michael Noble: [00:32:47] So when we wrote that blog 17 favorite fhings on the Fresh Energy Staff, I joke it's like going to the bookstore and where the employees get to put the tag on the book. These are my favorite books, but you know, to actually figure out what your favorite books are, you have to read all the books maybe. And there's 750 pages in this bill and every day I learn something new in the bill. I mean, that I didn't know when that blog went out. So, for example, the Green Bank, you know, $1,000,000 is $1,000,000 a lot of money or is it not very much money? There's 27,000 million dollar commitments for a green bank, most of it focused on equity and justice communities. So that's pretty amazing to me. 27,000 million investments of $1,000,000 or 27,000 investments of $1,000,000 in climate justice and energy. Justice in communities. There's going to be a whole new industry of green banking in America. That's remarkable. And that idea made it to the finish line.


Michael Noble: [00:34:00] You know, one of the friends of Fresh Energy, keynote speaker at one of our Benefit Breakfasts was Jigar Shah. I think most people who are the insiders, they know that he now works for the United States Department of Energy and the loan guarantee program. He got a massive new authorization of spending. Now, the funny thing is an authorization is not the same as an appropriation. You have to get the Congress to come back and appropriate the money after the Congress has authorized it. But he would. He's basically making loan guarantees for massive game-changing problem projects and technologies, guaranteeing loans so that private banks and private investors don't have to take the risk on state-of-the-art new stuff that we definitely are going to need. He got an enormous expansion of his budget authority. Now the Congress has to come back and appropriate the money. But this is something that actually Republicans and Democrats like is the idea of guaranteeing against the risk of failure. Even though they had that terrible. PR nightmare when they lent money to Solyndra. They had that incredible PR success when they loan money to a little company that had a little sports car called Tesla that the Tesla Corporation wouldn't exist without the federal loan guarantee program. So those are the two things in the bill that I did not know about. When our 17 favorite things went out, the Green Bank provision and the enormous expansion of funding authorization for the United States Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program under Jigar Shah.


Jo Olson: [00:35:45] All right, pop quiz for both of you. In two sentences, define green banking. We've got a question in the chat. And actually, I could use a two-sentence quick.


Michael Noble: [00:35:55] Angela, you want to try? Do you want to try?


Anjali Bains: [00:35:58] Sure. And Michael, please, I think you've done some reading on this. So a Green Bank, is this concept of basically creating a fund to finance a number of clean energy projects. It could be something like solar panels or a more efficient energy efficiency systems and things like that. And then it'll be financed from this Green Bank and the person who's benefiting from the loan is basically is going to pay it back to a loan provider. So the Green Bank in this case, and it's meant to be cheaper than getting a commercial loan because a lot of banks unnecessarily have the expertise to do clean energy financing in this way. And it generally has like a more steady rate of return and then success, because those loans can then be, once they're paid back, can be put towards more clean energy financing projects. So it's a really great way to keep passing the buck forward and building clean energy change. Michael. Did I get it?


Michael Noble: [00:36:55] I think that's perfect. I couldn't do better.


Jo Olson: [00:36:57] Not two sentences, but perfect. And like a perfect explainer. I feel like maybe we have to do a blog post about that in the future. All right. So, Anjali, your favorite things. Go.


Anjali Bains: [00:37:09] Yeah. So as we were talking about earlier, there are a few gaps and shortfalls in the legislation, but there are also the establishment of entirely new funds that are meant to address past environmental injustices, two main ones being the Environmental and Climate Justice Block Grant Program and the Neighborhood Access and Equity Grant Program, which are both funded at $3 billion each. The latter program, in particular the Neighborhood Access and Equity Grant, is meant to fund efforts to reconnect communities harmed by transportation facilities like highways, and to support community engagement in transportation planning. So again, trying to shore up the public input process of these major transportation decisions.


Anjali Bains: [00:37:52] This is especially timely in a place like the Twin Cities, when our Minnesota Department of Transportation is undergoing a once-in-a-lifetime process to rebuild I-94, which our friends, Our Streets Minneapolis, have been engaging heavily in alongside communities along the highway in order to propose an alternative that would decrease climate and air pollution and reconnect the neighborhoods that were torn apart by the highways build 50 years ago. And this is really critical because not only is a once in a lifetime opportunity to change how we move around the Twin Cities and decentralize the use of our personal vehicles, it is probably the only option to be able to get before those climate cliffs that we know so well coming in the middle of the century. So it's a great, great initiative. And you can check out more about the Twin Cities Boulevard project, as it's being called on the website, which I think Jo will put into the chat.


Anjali Bains: [00:38:45] And finally, in a in a bit of a twist, as we're talking about permitting reform, one of the issues that is a barrier to quicker and more timely permitting processing for things like large renewables as well is lack of funding in, say, agency to actually process and go through all the applications. So the IRA actually puts more funding towards better implementing our bedrock national permit legislation and is giving $750 million to help implement the National Environmental Protection Act or NEPA, as it's called. And then a really fun fact that I really enjoy and is often overlooked when we talk about the IRA, is that the IRA is also giving $3 billion to the U.S. Postal Service to go electric, which will be really fun to see and was really necessary to help keep pushing them towards electrification.


Jo Olson: [00:39:36] Thanks, Anjali. So the bill signing was an incredible accomplishment for all of those who worked on this inside Congress and outside and accomplishment for the planet, for the youth climate movement, and all of us who have been demanding this day for a really long time now. So just we should pause and stress that the IRA is not a silver bullet. Michael, can you talk about how groups like Fresh Energy and then how Minnesotans and everyone around the country can continue pushing for further meaningful, impactful climate action?


Michael Noble: [00:40:08] Okay. So again, going back to the big picture, the president of the United States went to Glasgow, the United Nations, IPCC gathering, and he said America's commitment, America's contribution to the deal here is we'll cut our emissions more than half this decade by 50% to 52% by 2030. And I already told you, this bill gets us most of the way there. There's uncertainty. Does it get us 70% of the way there or does it get us 75% of the way there to get 80? Who knows? There's uncertainty. But, getting our emissions cut in half is actually not the goal. The goal is getting our emissions to zero and we got a couple three decades to do it. Everybody says by mid-century. My number is by 2040 that there are no more human emissions. It's zero, it's net zero, it's eliminated no emissions. So of course, this bill isn't enough. Of course, this bill isn't the end game. This bill gives us a chance.


Michael Noble: [00:41:13] And how are we going to get America's emissions cut in half by this decade? Well, invest in Fresh Energy's work. Invest in other non-profits who are allied with, continue to build the movement, continue to work on the state legislature, continue to work at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, continue to work with City Hall, continue to work with the county board, continue to work with the private corporations that are making initiatives, continue to persuade the management and the board of directors of Minnesota's fabulous utilities, our investor-owned utilities or cooperative utilities or municipal utilities, they can all go beyond.


Michael Noble: [00:41:54] Remember, there's no there's no sticks. It's just carrots. They can eat as many carrots as they want. So in urge everybody to go faster, have Minnesota be the place that puts this transition on steroids. What could the president do? The president could declare a national emergency. He could declare a national climate emergency. We've already called on him to do that. A national climate emergency. I think it's an emergency. It's an emergency. We're an emergency situation. It unlocks new administrative power and regulatory tools that the president has under current law so he could declare a national emergency. There are going to be a lot of political pressure on him not to, because you can say, "well, we did that bill, remember we did that bill." But, we could also have the president, without declaring a national emergency, use all his procurement strategy. The federal government buys a lot of stuff. They could buy a lot of stuff that's carbon-free. They could just announce we're going to only buy carbon-free steel in all the vehicles we buy in 2026. There will be no vehicles the federal government will ever buy unless the steel comes from carbon-free sources. That would be good for the carbon-free steel industry. That would be very good for the carbon-free steel industry. He doesn't need any congressional action to declare that he could just declare that.


Michael Noble: [00:43:16] You know, how do we get to zero emissions in every aspect of human society? You know, some people were complaining about a provision in the bill for sustainable aviation fuels. Do you ever fly on an airplane? Do you ever wonder, are you going to be able to fly on an airplane that has no carbon emissions? We have to invent airplanes that don't have any carbon emissions. So there's provisions in the bill to get started on aviation fuels that don't have carbon. That's going to require some compromises with people who don't like biofuels. You know, maybe the next generation of biofuels is going to be Delta Airlines is going to be an important customer. I don't know how it works out. I don't have the answers. But what I know is that this bill signed into law by President Biden yesterday, it's humanity's best chance to solve the problem. I know that.


Jo Olson: [00:44:15] Thank you, Michael. I think that's a really powerful note to close out the webinar. But before we do that, I always like to open up the floor to my guests, our panelists, and say, is there anything that either of you would like to add before we sign off? Anything burning? I mean, initially with the fuel thing, I thought, oh, you know, Taylor Swift in her airplanes, but that's not the type of thing we're looking for here. What did you not get to bring up today that you want to close with before we sign off and nothing is okay, too? We've talked about a lot. What did we miss?


Anjali Bains: [00:44:49] I will. I think just to kind of build off Michael's passion and in how much this bill accomplishes. I've seen equal passion from those on the front lines talking about everything that was missed. And I think, as we're talking about this change and bringing down emissions. As we all know, this is also the really big opportunity for us to actually change the systems of how we consume power and move and build our homes so that we're also righting a lot of injustices that happened due to past decision-making. And I think that just knowledge and acknowledgement that everything is interrelated and we can do more and should be doing more to help right those wrongs is really crucial as well as we're aiming to get to those net zero emissions by mid-century.


Jo Olson: [00:45:37] Thanks, Anjali. Michael.


Michael Noble: [00:45:40] So, you know, I, there's so many people to thank and acknowledge, you know, the legislators themselves. We already shouted out Tina Smith, who was really one of the top five United States senators who was a climate hero, and her staff guy, Pete Wyckoff, who was you know, I didn't put him on speed dial because I want to bother him, but I texted him a bunch. There's so many people to thank, you know, organizers, activists, the lobbyists, the private companies, the labor unions.


Michael Noble: [00:46:14] But the three people I think, get most credit are these three. All the youth climate activists worldwide who made this the burning issue, starting with that little girl sitting in front of the damn school in Sweden. And a guy who ran for president and put up 200 pages of climate policy, the governor of Washington state, Jay Inslee, made every single Democrat who wanted to be president have a fantastic climate policy because they were trying to keep up with Jay Inslee. And a lady from. Atlanta, Georgia. Stacey Abrams, who sent two Democratic senators that gave 50 votes and put Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer in a damn cage match for almost two years to figure out what could they both agree on. You know, Joe Manchin representing the fossil fuel industry and the coal industry and Chuck Schumer representing the other 49 senators or 48 of them anyway. And they made a deal and the president signed it. So as broken as our democracy is, this worked. We pass this bill. This worked.


Jo Olson: [00:47:34] Thank you both so much, you guys. You're absolute pros. Thank you for being here, doing this on such short notice. Sharing your knowledge with myself and the group. And I also want to acknowledge that everyone on the webinar today, just like even being here and engaging this in it and learning about the IRA and how we got here and the IIJA before it. And, you know, all that support over weeks, months, years has gone a really long way.


Jo Olson: [00:48:01] So thank you, everyone, for joining us. We're really grateful to have you with us today. You can learn more about Fresh Energy and find other ways to get involved with us. From Action Alerts to events to donating. Newsletter, we have one monthly learn more at and I will be sending an email probably today, maybe tomorrow morning to all of you and everyone who registered with a link to both the audio and video versions of this webinar, if you'd like to watch it again or share it with friends. And with that, I think we are going to sign off. Thank you all so much for being here.