America’s Opportunity — And Peril — A Year After the Inflation Reduction Act

Members of the Colchester Technical Rescue team respond to a call to evacuate two adults and an infant from their downtown Montpelier, Vermont, apartment on July 11, 2023, after heavy rains caused flooding across the state.
Members of the Colchester Technical Rescue team respond to a call to evacuate two adults and an infant from their downtown Montpelier, Vermont, apartment on July 11, 2023, after heavy rains caused flooding across the state.

Members of the Colchester Technical Rescue team respond to a call to evacuate two adults and an infant from their downtown Montpelier, Vermont, apartment on July 11, 2023, after heavy rains caused flooding across the state.

On Aug. 16, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law, enacting the most powerful response to climate change in human history. As we observe the first anniversary of this landmark achievement, cascading climate catastrophes are bearing down on us: the hottest summer in recorded history, with states like Arizona suffering through a month of 110-degree days, deadly wildfires in Maui, freakish flooding and destruction in Vermont. 

Just last month, in ominous contrast to the Biden administration’s comprehensive focus on climate action, the Republican Party’s premier think tank released a plan for a GOP administration to restore the rule of the carbon barons, dramatically expand the use of coal, oil and gas, and nullify renewable energy policies and environmental regulations.

The Heritage Foundation’s so-called Project 2025 — what its architects describe as a “battle plan” against the administrative state— unveils a chilling agenda for dismantling vital agencies that protect our air, our water and a sustainable future. Armed with lessons from the chaos of the Trump presidency, the climate-denying right wing, which has already cost us precious time in the fight against climate change, is ready to destroy all the progress we are making.

Democrats in Congress and President Biden passed the historic legislation — the IRA and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law — to cut greenhouse gas emissions 42% by 2030 to stave off the worst consequences of climate change. The Biden administration has floored the (electric) accelerator in rolling out the IRA’s clean energy benefits.

In the first year after its enactment, the IRA has created an estimated 170,000+ clean energy jobs, sparked more than $110 billion in private sector clean energy manufacturing investments, spurred $122 billion in new clean energy projects ranging from wind power to solar projects, and saved millions of Americans an average of $800 on their health care premiums.

In addition to industry-wide transformations, the IRA is also helping individuals and families purchase cost-efficient electric vehicles and energy-efficient electric appliances.

Compare that with the billionaire-funded Heritage Foundation’s blueprint for apocalypse now and the GOP’s recent determination to drive the world economy off a cliff unless President Biden defunded the Inflation Reduction Act. In the struggle for sustainability versus climate cataclysm, only one party is committed to sustainability.

A fallen saguaro cactus decays in the Sonoran Desert on Aug. 2, 2023, near Apache Junction, Arizona. The cacti are threatened by a number of issues linked to climate change and are under increased stress from extreme heat during Arizona’s brutal summer heat wave. Three saguaro cacti have lost an arm or fallen over in the past week at Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden. The saguaro is the largest cactus in the nation, living as long as 150-200 years and reaching heights of over 50 feet.
A fallen saguaro cactus decays in the Sonoran Desert on Aug. 2, 2023, near Apache Junction, Arizona. The cacti are threatened by a number of issues linked to climate change and are under increased stress from extreme heat during Arizona’s brutal summer heat wave. Three saguaro cacti have lost an arm or fallen over in the past week at Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden. The saguaro is the largest cactus in the nation, living as long as 150-200 years and reaching heights of over 50 feet.

A fallen saguaro cactus decays in the Sonoran Desert on Aug. 2, 2023, near Apache Junction, Arizona. The cacti are threatened by a number of issues linked to climate change and are under increased stress from extreme heat during Arizona’s brutal summer heat wave. Three saguaro cacti have lost an arm or fallen over in the past week at Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden. The saguaro is the largest cactus in the nation, living as long as 150-200 years and reaching heights of over 50 feet.

Biden and congressional Democrats’ accomplishments for our country depend upon our precious democracy’s power to resist right-wing extremist sabotage. Though the vast majority of Americans understand the problem — more than two-thirds of Americans want their government to prioritize renewable energy— the carbon kings and their allies continue to use their influence to choke off progress for our collective survival. We passed the IRA because a coalition of Americans from all backgrounds — particularly young people — demanded that we focus on stopping the impending eco-calamity.

Donald Trump and friends are itching to dismantle the IRA, but the fight is more sweeping than even that. Though Republican Party leaders are targeting the IRA and the federal environmental safety infrastructure, their ultimate project is to dismantle the “deep state,” in Steve Bannon’s ideological fever dream, to hollow out the corps of civil servants who enforce the law and keep our government running and replace them with a praetorian guard of right-wing political lackeys and operatives.

The war on the regulatory state targets not only the regulators who keep corporations from dumping toxic sludge into our water or venting the super-pollutant methane into our air. It targets also the Department of Justice attorneys who guard our voting rights, the inspectors who enforce workplace safety standards and the financial watchdogs who prevent greedy bank executives from betting Americans’ retirement savings on get-rich-quick rip-offs. 

One year into the IRA, the Biden administration has implemented so much climate progress that we can truly celebrate. Meantime, the fossil fuel industry, backed by the kleptocrat Donald Trump and the plutocrats and theocrats of his party, offers us a stark choice between a climate-resilient future and a planet up for final and irrevocable sale to the carbon kings.