In 2020, President Biden ran on a campaign to “build back better,” and through the combined effect of the infrastructure bill, CHIPS Act, and the newly-passed Inflation Reduction Act, he may be able to do just that.
These pieces of legislation are not only Biden’s attempt to follow through on his campaign promise, but also a grand slam for the climate, which is in crisis.
Let’s talk about what each of these acts do separately and together for sustainable development. This will also explain what this climate legislation means for Americans’ everyday lives.
Biden’s Infrastructure Bill
Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law on November 15, 2021. President Biden signed it into law ten days later. This bill devotes $550 billion to road, rail, and broadband (fast data transmission) funding in the U.S.
Energy and Transportation
This comprehensive law touches on a wide scope of American life. In terms of energy, the law promises reliable, high-speed internet for all Americans. It invests heavily in public transport (more than ever before) so Americans can travel in a more ecologically-sound manner, and work together to stop the transportation sector from being the largest source of greenhouse emissions in the U.S.
The changes to infrastructure also include investing heavily in our rail system so Americans have better access to this energy-efficient and climate-friendly option. The law takes a swing at greenifying private, personal transportation in the U.S., too. Travel by electric vehicle across long distances will become more feasible with a new, nationwide nexus of EV chargers. The law allows the U.S. to invest more than ever in a clean energy grid. This also allows for the funding of the implementation of other various clean energy technologies across the country. Lastly, through the repair of outdated roads and bridges, existing transportation methods are revitalized and their safety improved.
For the climate, all of this means reduced emissions and the consequent improved air quality all across the nation. For American citizens, it means energy-efficient and affordable transportation, increased productivity, as well as the opportunity to engage in one of the many new “green jobs” necessitated by these new programs. This law isn’t called the Green New Deal, but certainly echoes FDR’s New Deal in its emphasis on putting Americans to work.
Human Health and Environmental Racism Addressed
Reduced emissions and a more efficient lifestyle in general clearly have a positive impact on human health. The infrastructure law aims to directly build human bodily health and resiliency. It also seeks to protect our society against the negative impacts of a changing climate. This overhaul of American industry comes with addressing the threat of decaying old industrial sites and outdated lead pipe systems. Clean drinking water is promised to all, as well as a massive nationwide cleanup of dormant, toxic industrial sites often positioned near historically “redlined” communities of color. This means a direct solution against environmental racism.
American Economic Life and National Security
The law also invests in hardy protections against natural disasters and increasingly severe weather due to climate change. Again, positioned on the front lines are often marginalized groups. National security and climate change are inherently linked.
Yet another component of this law includes protections for Americans and American companies against cyber attacks, which are increasingly likely as the climate destabilizes. This could be another layer of protection for national security.
Through a revamp of air and sea ports, goods can travel faster. This efficiency will cause less environmental damage to American communities. Additionally, an improved supply chain may assist the American economy in outrunning inflation.
What is the Inflation Reduction Act?
The Inflation Reduction Act, passed by the Senate under the budget reconciliation process on August 7, 2022. According to the Washington Post, The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) “secures the largest-ever investment to tackle climate change, with roughly $370 billion dedicated to curbing harmful emissions and promoting green technology.”
How Will the Inflation Reduction Act Help the Climate?
Like the Infrastructure Bill, the IRA includes tax credits for investment in green energy solutions. Through the combined effect of these two legal directives, the U.S. could see a technology renaissance. Think: direct air capture machines, carbon capture rail cars, super hot rock energy, carbon-free building blocks, green hydrogen, small nuclear reactors, and Fusion energy. Green technologists may have the green light from investors to enact their most ambitious experiments for clean energy solutions.
The Positive Effect of the IRA on Lay American Citizens
This act also seeks to affect the everyday lives of Americans in the immediate by focusing on reducing household power bills and on lowering prescription drug costs.
The IRA enacts taxes on some billion-dollar corporations. This means funding the clean energy provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Bill. Combined with a reduction of the federal deficit, these components of the IRA aim to make sound fiscal sense of the government’s large investment in clean energy future.
The CHIPS Act
The last element of this perfect storm of climate action is the CHIPS and Science Act. This act was signed into law August 9, 2022. The act will relocate the manufacturing of semiconductor chips found in a lot of technology (like cell phones).
What’s the deal with semiconductor chips?
This technology, primarily produced in Taiwan, powers Americans’ work and leisure by powering our electronic devices, from computers to to Playstations.
Being self-sufficient as a country in manufacturing these chips is quite significant, as many of our livelihoods depend upon chip-powered technology. These chips also power much of our green energy now and in the future. By making the chips on U.S. soil, the U.S. may protect itself from the tenuous relationship between China and Taiwan. This may ensure its society will function no matter the political situation. It will also ensure the green energy powered by these chips will not be harmed by political instability.
The Green Revolution in America Has the Green Light
In 2022, the House of Representatives passed the biggest climate bill in United States history with the Inflation Reduction Act. With the Inflation Reduction Act riding on the coattails of the recent Infrastructure Bill and CHIPS Act, the U.S. begins to make moves to better human life by bettering the environment. Addressing and fixing decades of environmental racism, increasing the creation of green and clean jobs, and how an energy-efficient nation will improve Americans’ physical and financial health all contribute to these improvements.
Many environmentalists are hoping for a deluge of sustainable development on American soil. These legislations are just the first of many victories for the climate.