This past week the media announced an historic climate legislation deal was struck in the Senate. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, ( a misleading title because the Act will do nothing to tame inflation) will allocate $370 billion in spending toward a “Green Energy” future.
Where is the money going?
According to the Wall Street Journal it would subsidize “wind, solar, critical minerals, biofuels, hydrogen, carbon capture, nuclear, ‘sustainable’ aviation fuel, lithium-ion batteries, electric-vehicle charging stations and more.” Additionally there will be $80 billion in rebates for home improvements and electric vehicles, $20 billion in inexpensive federal loans to build “clean vehicle” factories among other allocations.
The money we carry around in our wallets, purses and that resides in our bank accounts is used to buy goods and services. Money is and represents a medium of exchange for minerals, metals, biomass and energy.
$370 billion from this Act will be deployed in the economy to extract, manufacture, fabricate and deliver those materials with the intent to shift us from an energy source that emits carbon.
The International Energy Agency states that an electric car takes six times more mineral inputs than a combustion car to build. And according to the Manhattan Institute, building wind turbines and solar panels requires ten times more materials compared to machines that burn fossil energy.
And many of the minerals and chemicals used in the processing of solar panels such as phosphine, arsenic, lead, chromium, trichloroethane, stannic chloride, and others are highly toxic to humans.
The overwhelmingly enormous amount of mining and future wastes will create unprecedented long term pollution and destruction of tens of millions of acres of habitat and fresh waterways, endangering human and planetary health.
Additionally if this Act makes buying energy and materials cheaper for the average American what will Americans do with those savings? If $80 billion is allocated to home improvements to reduce energy use, Americans who qualify for these rebates and their efficiencies will likely use less energy and see their energy bills lessen. Both good direct consequences for them and the environment, BUT what do Americans do with those savings? Will they buy other goods and services made from materials and energy (much of it fossil based) offsetting any real reduction in overall consumption and pollution?
I read the bill's authors state the Act will reduce CO2 emissions 40% by 2030. It is hard to crystal ball and it wasn't elaborated where they came up with that figure.
I hope we achieve that reduction. However, the prevailing currents of capitalist growth, US population growth, and a society addicted to the inexpensive comfortable life that incredibly powerful, portable and scalable fossil energy affords us, my bet is we won’t reduce our overall emissions by even one percentage by 2030. In fact, in order to get the “deal” done in the Senate the Act has a provision that mandates new oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska. Hmmm.
If we miraculously make this shift to a less carbon polluted future, our air may not be as polluted, and warm as quickly, but that shift will unequivocally wreak unquantifiable havoc and destruction of our lands and waterways. Is this trade off worth it?
On a bright note and for this author, an achievable and positive aspect of the “Climate Act” is an anticipated reduction of $300 billion of the US debt.