The Inflation Reduction Act: Fossil Fuels Become Law


WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 21: Sen. Joe Manchin(D-WV) faces reporters as he arrives at a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee at the Dirksen S.O.B. at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The so-called Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 promises much, but better read the fine print in this massive 700 page proposal.

A patchwork compromise with coal baron Senator Joe Manchin, its motivation is the Democratic Party leadership’s desperate need for a legislative victory in addressing escalating inflation, the primary concern of American voters, as the mid-term elections loom. Thus the bill’s name. (The previous version was called Build Back Better).

With close analysis, you’ll discover it isn’t up to the hype. While an unprecedented $369bn is dedicated to mitigating climate change, it locks in reliance on fossil fuel expansion by hamstringing the Interior Department: no renewable energy development on public lands unless drilling leases are also offered to oil and gas entities.

As such, this bill is pure political charade. Fossil fuels cause climate change, yet they’re locked into the bill’s provisions. There is no mechanism to phase them out.

What we get is the loosening of regulations regarding environmental review and, horribly, mandated drilling leases in Alaska’s Cook Inlet and the Gulf of Mexico. The result? More pipelines, oil leaks, methane leaks, wilderness lost, species endangered, and continuing temperature rise. In 2016, the U.S. averaged one crude oil spill every other day (undark.org).

There are no caps on carbon admissions!

While the legislation features tax credits for carbon capture and sequestration, the fallout is that this could extend the life of polluting coal plants, exposing the public to toxic fumes, and making it difficult to achieve clean power goals.

Not talked about is an ominous separate agreement to move a bill in September that could potentially weaken protections under the Environmental Policy Act, which grants communities a say in what happens to their local environment. This is subterfuge, pure and simple.

You’re told the legislation will reduce greenhouse gas admissions 40% by 2030 (Rhodium Group, rpg.com). Considering the pressing problems we have with securing energy resources, it’s dangerously possible that fossil fuels will gain the upper hand over renewables, upsetting any trajectory of even-handedness. As is, the Biden administration in early July held its first onshore lease auction, releasing a proposed plan for off shore drilling, despite Biden’s campaign pledge to cease new oil and gas development on federal lands and waters (insideclimatenews.org).

In short, the Inflation Reduction Act takes back what it gives out, a Faustian wager that forfeits the future for a short-sighted political shell game in the present.

I’m not saying there aren’t good things in the bill. And, yes, there are groups like Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, and Earth Justice, urging speedy passage of the legislation. They may be willing to drink the Kool-Aid, but not me, nor should you.

I go by the late E. O. Wilson, “Darwin’s heir,” my icon in environmental matters, who repeatedly denounced such organizations for their compromises, perpetuating environmental demise. They’ve thrown in the towel, their credo, Nature is already gone. We live in the Anthropocene. Wilderness must serve human needs (Wilson, HalfEarth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life).

This is a climate suicide pact,” comments Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). “It’s self-defeating to handcuff renewable energy development to massive new oil and gas extraction.”

–rj

Author: RJ

Retired English prof (Ph. D., UNC), who likes to garden, blog, pursue languages (especially Spanish) and to share in serious discussion on vital issues such as global warming, the role of government, energy alternatives, etc. Am a vegan and, yes, a tree hugger enthusiastically. If you write me, I'll answer.

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