'Changed history': Gore, environmentalists react to landmark climate change bill

With (IRA) by the House of Representatives on Friday, the US Congress approved a significant effort to address climate change for the first time in history. President Biden indicated that he would sign the bill into law this week.

For many longtime leaders of the climate movement, it is a watershed moment: a change of direction from inaction and reliance on fossil fuels to a clean energy future. Acknowledging the limitations and shortcomings of the bill (it is expected to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions at best). .

“By crossing this threshold, we have changed history and we will never go back,” former Vice President Al Gore in an interview on Friday. “I am extremely optimistic that this will be a critical turning point in our fight to tackle the climate crisis.”

In 1981, when Gore was a Democratic member of Congress from Tennessee, he co-chaired the first about climate change. His first book on the subject, “Earth in the Balance,” was published in 1992. The energy industry has long had an influence on American politics, and previous proposals on climate change by Democratic presidents have failed to pass in The congress. George W. Bush, who defeated Gore in the 2000 presidential race, was part oilman from Texas. So one might expect Gore to see the obstacles to future climate action as formidable and the risk of backsliding as significant.

Al Gore speaks during the

Al Gore speaks during the “Destination 2030: Making 1.5CA Reality” event on day six of the Cop 26 Summit at the SEC on November 5, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

But instead, pointing to the fact that incentives for wind and solar power production, home energy efficiency upgrades and electric vehicles will save consumers thousands of dollars, Gore predicted that the electorate would demand future legislators to keep moving forward.

“This is a momentum that I think is going to be unstoppable,” Gore said. “The savings for consumers will be so impressive and so massively deflationary that people will not support politicians who want to roll us back. We will not go back again.”

Gore’s views were echoed by leaders of environmental advocacy organizations.

“The tide has turned,” Manish Bapna, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “This is America’s strongest climate action at a time when we need it most. It puts us on the path to a clean energy future. The country will never go backwards and the gains will be profound.”

“This is an impressive achievement,” co-founder of Moms Clean Air Force.

“Many people underestimated our power. … And now, here we are,” he continued. “But sometimes the hard part starts when you get what you want (and work).”

“With this investment, we are off to another start. The beginning of construction of a massive clean energy grid, with all the thorny issues of permitting and siting industrial-scale technologies. The beginning of the review of our transportation system. The beginning of strengthening our Environmental Protection Agency in its mission to protect human health.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and House Democrats with her celebrate after Pelosi signed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 during a bill signing ceremony on Capitol Hill Washington, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. (Susan Walsh/AP)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and House Democrats with her celebrate after Pelosi signed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 during a bill signing ceremony on Capitol Hill Washington, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Democrats in Congress, who approved the measure on a party-line vote, hit similar marks. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, referring to the bill’s frequent collision with hurdles in the Senate, on Friday, “It’s nothing that anybody, three months ago, would have said is a possibility.” On the floor of Congress that day, he called the IRA “the most important climate action in the history of our Congress, of our country.”

Republicans, who uniformly opposed the measure, focused mainly in other provisions, such as increases in corporate taxes and the strengthening of the application of tax laws.

To the extent that they spoke about clean energy subsidies in the bill, it was to criticize government spending and its potential to exacerbate inflation.

“Your pocketbook is your plan to fund more inflationary spending,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. (Democrats contend that because the IRA would increase tax revenue more than spending and help reduce the budget deficit, it will reduce inflation.)

that wind and solar energy receive more favorable treatment than fossil fuels.

“It gives tax credits without liability,” McCarthy said. “But when it comes to natural gas, which heats our homes, cooks our food, it raises taxes.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to reporters at the US Capitol on August 12, 2022 in Washington, DC.  (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to reporters at the US Capitol on August 12, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

There is no natural gas tax as such in the legislation. McCarthy was likely referring to a fee for leaking methane, a potent short-term greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells and pipelines, which is included in the IRA. The American Petroleum Institute (API), the industry trade group for oil and gas companies, refers to the methane tariff as a

The bill’s climate change and energy components were also criticized by both interest groups that support fossil fuel extraction and those that oppose it. API, while welcoming provisions that will require the leasing of oil and gas offshore and on federal lands, criticized the methane tariff.

The group also argues that corporate tax increases will cause oil and gas companies to pass on additional costs to increased consumers in the form of higher energy prices. And he said higher taxes will deter investment in future fossil fuel exploration by reducing the profits made from making high-cost investment in oil and gas drilling infrastructure.

“Although the Reducing Inflation Act takes important steps toward new oil and gas leasing and investments in carbon capture and storage, it falls short of addressing America’s long-term energy needs and further discourages the necessary investment in oil and gas,” said the president and CEO of API. CEO Mike Sommers.

At the other end of the spectrum, groups focused on environmental issues—combating the disproportionate effect of pollution, climate change, and fossil fuel extraction on disadvantaged communities—were dismayed by the inclusion of oil and gas leasing in the bill.

Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, speaks via video link during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing in Washington, DC, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, speaks via video link during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing in Washington, DC, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“To say that this moment is bittersweet is an understatement,” said Jade Begay, director of climate justice at NDN Collective, . “On the one hand, the IRA, which puts us on track to meet national climate goals by 2030 and will provide much-needed support for health care, jobs and infrastructure, was only made possible by the tireless organizing of indigenous and indigenous communities. frontline, youth and climate justice advocates. On the other hand, the IRA discards decades-old foundational demands from indigenous, black, brown and low-income communities to end fossil fuel expansion.”

Large environmental groups, including NRDC and Moms Clean Air Force, acknowledged these criticisms, arguing that the fossil fuel removal provisions were painful compromises worth making to win the support of Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., a vote. moderate and crucial. in the Senate evenly divided. They hope that other measures to reduce the production and consumption of fossil fuels will follow in future legislation.

“We can’t let this be a once-in-a-lifetime moment,” Gore argued. “The path to net zero [emissions] It requires us to move forward and there is much work to be done.”

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