Is Biden's historic climate plan delivering?

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President Biden delivers remarks. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
President Biden delivers remarks. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The White House has made some big investments in clean energy over the past year.

How has the clean energy sector responded?

"I have talked to major corporations who have said that we have been instructed by our CEO to shift 75% of all our investments worldwide to the United States because of the IRA," Jigar Shah says.

And is the bill enough for the U.S. to meet its climate goals?

"As much as it is helpful in getting us to reduce our emissions, it’s not going to get us all the way to achieving our commitment," Emily Potecorvo says.

Today, On Point: Evaluating the U.S. investments designed to fight climate change.


Gina McCarthy, former White House National Climate Advisor from 2021 to 2022, during the lead-up to and passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. Former head of the Environmental Protection Agency under Barack Obama. Managing Co-chair of America Is All In, a climate advocacy group.

Emily Pontecorvo, climate reporter for Heatmap News.

Also Featured

Frank Liebl, executive director of the Newton Development Corporation in Newton, Iowa.

Jigar Shah, head of the Loan Programs Office at the U.S. Department of Energy.


Part I

DEBORAH BECKER: It's described as the largest climate policy ever undertaken in U.S. history.

PRES. BIDEN: The Inflation Reduction Act invests $369 billion to take the most aggressive action ever in confronting the climate crisis.

BECKER: This week marks a year since implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act.

The ultimate goal of the law is to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of this decade. In marking the law's one year anniversary this week, the White House said The Inflation Reduction Act has created 170,000 clean energy jobs so far, and has helped fund hundreds of projects. One of the communities hoping to benefit from one of these projects is Newton, Iowa, which for more than a century was the washing machine capital of the world.

MAYTAG AD: Boy, nobody fills 'em like Maytag. After all these years. It's still a thrill to see the inside of one of these beauties.

BECKER: The Maytag company started building its appliances in Newton, Iowa in 1893. At its peak, it employed more than 3,000 people. But in 2007, the Maytag plant closed the company Whirlpool, bought Maytag and moved all operations out of Newton.

The city's unemployment rate jumped to nearly 10%, according to Frank Liebl, head of the Newton Development Corporation.

FRANK LIEBL: So as a community, we got together, and we went out and tried to recruit different companies to the community. We knew we had the workforce and we knew we had the buildings and the infrastructure.

So that made it a little bit easier to go out and say, "Hey, we already got a workforce and we've got the buildings so it could be, a turnkey operation." And within a year, those efforts appeared to work, a new company set up shop in Newton. TPI Composites. And TPI makes blades for wind turbines.

Liebl says TPI didn't take over the Maytag building, they did bring back some jobs.

LIEBL: They started with about 300 people and didn't take long to ramp up to 500 people. Then once they were in business for a couple years, they actually capped out at about a thousand people, at one time. They paid good wages, and they actually were drawing people from 68 different zip codes to work at this plant.

BECKER: But in 2021, there was more bad news.

NEWS BRIEF: Hundreds of Iowans could lose their jobs during the holidays.

TPI Composites, a wind turbine blade manufacturer is expected to lay off 710 employees by the end of the year.

LIEBL: Due to the uncertainty in their regulatory environment, due to the supply chain, logistics cost, and the uncertainty with the various wind energy tax credits that the federal government had, their customer was General Electric. And GE, they just didn't plan on building more wind farms.

And so as a result, they notified TPI in the fall of 2021, that they would not have any orders for TPI to produce blades. They just said we have no choice but to shut down the plant.

BECKER: No, it wasn't as dramatic as the Maytag shutdown, Liebl says, but the community took a hit until the Inflation Reduction Act.

Here's Liebl again with the Newton Economic Development Corporation.

LIEBL: Just a few months ago, TPI notified us that they were able to sign a long-term contract with General Electric and they will start producing these wind blades again. Probably won't be until the first quarter of 2024.

We're real excited. I think it's gonna take 'em a while to ramp up. They hope that they'll be able to get back up to the 750, 150 number of employees.

BECKER: And Liebl says, without the law, TPI would not have been able to reopen and Newton would've been harmed. So one year since the Inflation Reduction Act became law and allowed projects like the one in Newton, Iowa, we're asking, is the law delivering and is it on track to meet its overarching goals? Joining us to talk about this is Gina McCarthy. She's a former White House National Climate advisor, a post she served in when the Inflation Reduction Act passed.

McCarthy's also a former administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency and she's currently managing co-chair of the Climate Advocacy Group, America Is All In. Welcome to On Point, Gina.

GINA McCARTHY: It's great to be here, Deb. Thanks for having me.

BECKER: So let's talk about, first of all, the Inflation Reduction Act. I read a recent poll that said most people don't even know what it is, even though it's a year old.

And what does it do about inflation and climate? And it can be a little confusing. So if you were to explain it broadly, what would you say to this?

McCARTHY: Like every federal law, it's confusing. And one of the reasons why I joined Mike Bloomberg as one of the sort of advocates for America's All In is to make sense of this for people.

Look, it's very clear, and I think you heard that in the opener, that manufacturing is resparking again. The exciting thing is that this money is really a new renaissance for manufacturing in the U.S. And so the private sector's all in. We are seeing projects in 44 states. We're seeing $278 billion in investments.

But the challenge is that there's also tremendous opportunities for communities and for families. And we have to make that, those opportunities, really easy to grab and understandable. And so we are talking about opportunities for tax credits for consumers. We're talking about opportunities for direct rebates to consumers in low- and middle-income communities. We're talking, so more about production and investment tax credits, but it's more than that for individuals. They just don't know about it. This is new, states are going to start running some of these programs at the beginning of next year.

They'll be money available. What America's All In is all about, making that real for communities at the local and state level, it's about recognizing that change happens from the bottom up. And if people can see that this federal law makes a difference in their lives, that it will lower their costs, that it will grow good paying union jobs for people to take the opportunity to grab, if it will let them understand that in some of these communities that have been inundated with serious air pollution problems, we'll finally get a break with clean energy taking over. These are all benefits that will bring us hope.

BECKER: Again, let's talk about some of the specifics, because those are the big things, right?

The overall goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 in half.

McCARTHY: That's correct.

BECKER: Okay. And the way you're going to do this is providing these incentives in rebates. Tell me some of the big ones with A, for businesses and then also for regular folks and consumers.

McCARTHY: Yeah. The production and investment tax credit is really the biggest opportunity here.

We are talking about big manufacturing being able to afford to actually come back again and some new, we are talking about investments in states like Nevada with Form Energy that's doing battery manufacturing again in the United States. We're talking about Qcells in Georgia.

That's a company that makes solar panels now, which we haven't done for so long. There's Redwood Materials that's looking at recycling and regenerating EV batteries. So this list goes on and on. And it's because these tax credits have done something which failed to do when you were talking about that individual where their companies are going in and out.

This is 10 year certainty of tax credits. Not every year wondering if Congress will pass another year or two. So that's the stability this brings to the table.

BECKER: So once a company gets a tax credit it's good for 10 years.

McCARTHY: No, they, that is absolutely correct. But companies can continue to ask for 10 years during that 10-year period.

So we are really talking about just certainty that the private sector needs, which is why so much money is coming in right now to rebuild that manufacturing. But what it means for local communities is obviously jobs and real opportunity, but what it means for the country is that we are back, we're providing significant leadership.

And for the world, it means that the United States can, once again, not just go to these climate, big climate meetings, the cops. We can be there and walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Yeah. This is more than promises. This is providing real opportunity now.

BECKER: Okay. And then we're going to get into some of the criticisms in a bit here.

And we've got a lot of points that you brought up that we're going to talk about. But I also want to make sure that we did just talk about corporate tax breaks. What about consumers? What can they get directly that might help here?

McCARTHY: Consumers can get a variety of tax credits and all of them are about investing in solar in your home.

BECKER: So electrifying your home.

McCARTHY: That's correct. It's actually shifting away from the need for fossil fuels. Let me step back. All of this is all about making clean energy compete against fossil fuels. Whether you're talking about in people's homes, in communities across the country, this is all about opportunity.

And that's why it's very different. The president didn't design this for sacrifice and say, "You're going to have to suck it up because we have a big problem." He said, "No, we're going to actually invest in clean energy and do it in a way that makes fossil fuels less competitive." Because that way we can take advantage of these opportunities to grow jobs again.

To bring this kind of certainty to our manufacturing sector. And so we're talking about 30% off installations of rooftop solar. We're talking about 30% off installation of heat pumps. We're talking about energy efficiency improvements and doors, windows, insulation that can actually accrue at least $1,200 a year off people's bills, if they move in that direction.

We're talking about rebates for consumers. That's $9 billion to actually design to go to low- and middle-income families that can actually reduce the cost of electric appliances, new appliances that will keep their homes and air quality, nice for their families and safe.

But we're also talking about all of these home improvement upgrades. And these rebates are designed to go to these low- and middle-income communities because it's direct money in their pockets, back from these purchases. It matters. And so these are real big deals for people, but there's also a lot of loans and grants that are going to be put out.

And those loans and grants are everything from EPA is putting out $27 billion in a greenhouse gas reduction fund, that's going to low in middle income and disadvantaged communities so they can compete. So there's a lot going on here, Deb. And I think the challenge for America's All In is to make it clear to people so they can grab it.

Part II

BECKER: We're speaking with former White House National Climate Advisor, Gina McCarthy, and I want to bring into the conversation Emily Pontecorvo. Emily is with Heatmap News, a digital news outlet covering climate change.

Hi Emily. How are you?

EMILY PONTECORVO: Hi Deborah. Thanks so much for having me.

BECKER: Yeah, thanks for being with us. Right before the break we were talking about some of the incentives in this legislation, particularly for corporations and for consumers. And you've written quite a bit about this. I'm wondering, what do we know about folks who have at least taken the initial step to take advantage of some of the incentives that are in this law that are available now?

Because some of them aren't available yet, but the ones that are, can you explain?

PONTECORVO: I think it's hard to know at this point how many people are taking advantage of this, other than anecdotal evidence. Because all of the incentives that are available right now this year are tax credits, so we won't know until people file their taxes how many people have bought an EV and then claimed the tax credit for their electric vehicle.

But beginning next year, there will also be a number of rebates at the state level. It's still a little bit early to know.

BECKER: But one thing I've heard is that it is difficult to understand who might be eligible and for what. Can you outline --

PONTECORVO: Absolutely.

BECKER: Some of the big ones and what folks can do about those.

PONTECORVO: Yeah, absolutely. It's very tough to navigate. I just wrote a whole guide at Heatmap about this.


PONTECORVO: And spent a long time looking through the legislation. But like I just said a second ago, there's tax credits and there's rebates. And for the tax credits, there's kind of two categories of tax credits for things that you can do at home to improve the efficiency of your home.

There's the solar tax credit, where like Gina said earlier, you can get 30% off the cost of solar panels, battery storage systems, so a way to store the energy from the solar system. And then there's a separate tax credit that's all about efficiency. So things that you can do inside your home to save money on your energy bills, get energy efficient windows and a heat pump and a heat pump water heater, things like that.

That's all available now. There's no cap on the solar tax credit, so no matter how much that costs you, you can get 30% off that on your taxes, as long as you owe that amount on your taxes, which is another story. The energy efficiency tax credit is a little bit different. There are kind of individual limits on the different items.

So you can get, I believe it's $500 for windows, $600 for doors, things like that. But they're also available every year. So you can do a little bit each year and do it slowly that way.

BECKER: One of the things that I have heard is that really a lot of the success of the Inflation Reduction Act does depend on people taking advantage of this, of regular Americans taking steps to change the way they're consuming energy.

Gina McCarthy, what do you do to try to make sure that the law can be implemented as it's intended, and enough people do take advantage of those things.

McCARTHY: I think it's great to have Emily doing a guide, because it's important that these kinds of documents be available to help people. But honestly, I've been in government for, I hate to admit it, 44 years. Which, of course, I'm only 35 years old, so it's hard.

But it's just really important, I think, to get activity at the local and state level. Change happens from the bottom up. So it's great that the federal government is offering this, but the importance of the coalition that we are trying to build and have succeeded, in terms of 5,000 people, these are state and local leaders.

These are leaders of big corporations. These are leaders of nonprofits who have said that they're committed to getting to net zero and they're going to work at it at every level of government. Because I think the way we have to do this is from the local up.

We have to inform people, we have to engage them, we have to use the opportunities that states can take, to double down on many of these things. They don't just have to take what the IRA put out, they can do more, and they always have. That's what's exciting about the opportunity that this opens up. This is, it's like the best first chapter in the most exciting book you've ever read. Sorry for being a nerd, but I love this thing.


McCARTHY: But think about the other chapters that can come. We have ... a 5,000-member coalition that we plan to expand enormously, that can be out there talking door to door about people. That can talk about what they've done in their home. We will get to consumers in a way that I think will give them a sense of not just opportunity, but that America's working for them again.

And that's what this is all about.

BECKER: And so you would say one year in, it's working and it's working the way it was supposed to. It's meeting the timeline and the goals that were intended.

McCARTHY: That's correct. Yep.

BECKER: How about you, Emily? Would you say that it's working? How do we know?

PONTECORVO: I think, yes.

When you ask people this question, the first thing they'll say is, this is a 10, this is a decade long bill, these programs will be around for a decade. It's only one year. A lot of the programs in the bill aren't even functioning yet, the Treasury Department is still writing rules for some of these programs.

The money isn't out the door. So, I personally, I think it's just too early to really know outside of looking at those numbers. Like 170,000 jobs, 280 million, billion dollars already being invested in manufacturing.

BECKER: And so I guess what would you look at, or what would folks look at, Gina, to try to make sure it's on track and see if they need to add something to the strategy?

McCARTHY: Yeah, I think that's exactly what states and local governments are going to think about, as well as corporations, is how do we boost this? Clearly Treasury had a huge job. They've done a tremendous amount of work. To put all the guidance out to make it available. They also need to get states up and running with some of these programs that are consumer focused, at the beginning of next year.

But it has the framing of being, over this next 10 years, being really the basis by which, not just the U.S. but by other, that other countries are looking at, to really escalate our commitment to clean energy in a way that really climate demands. Nobody wants to wait much longer for these things to move, especially the scientists and those of us that are that are working in this area.

And so it's a great start. I think it has all the, every reason to believe that over 10 years is going to be tremendously successful. But we've got to get all these collaborators working together, pushing, and we've got to nudge out our reliance on fossil fuels in a big way.

We have to get excited about this competing against fossil fuels. Because we cannot allow the development and production of fossil fuels to continue to escalate or this is not going to work.

BECKER: Those are the two big challenges, you would say.


BECKER: Fossil fuels, collaboration.

McCARTHY: And I think the third thing is just making sure that as we're doing this, we're looking at opportunities to actually provide significant resources to the developing world. That's the third big issue that all the developed countries need to get together and realize that we have overburdened them, under-resourced them. And this is a worldwide challenge. We can't just say, "Oh, we did good in the U.S. We have to do right by the developing world.

And that's very challenging. And will require significant private and public sector investment.

BECKER: Emily, what do you think about the main challenges? Would you agree we've got collaboration fossil fuels? What would you say?

PONTECORVO: I agree that those are all challenges. I think that there are some more immediate challenges for the Inflation Reduction Act.

We talked about earlier about how these program programs are entirely voluntary, so it is really going to rely on individuals and businesses taking advantage of it. That means awareness building, helping states with the capacity to apply for the funding, design programs, all of that.

But I think that there are, there's technical hurdles to get over. Many people might not be aware of this, but we just don't have enough power lines in the U.S. to accept all of the clean energy that we could possibly build with this law. There was a study from Princeton University that found that about 80% of the potential emission cuts from the inflation reduction Act would be lost if we don't figure out how to build power lines faster over the next decade.

And that's another challenge. Is right now, it takes us about 10 years to build a power line. And it's really, there's complicated permitting procedures. There's, it's confusing about who pays for these lines. There's just a lot of challenges to solve to unlock that potential for renewables.

BECKER: Let's talk about that and some of the other criticisms. But first, Gina McCarthy, not enough power lines. What do you say?

McCARTHY: Yeah. That's one of the reasons why President Biden moved forward and signed into law the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Because that's where he started with significant resources in looking at grid development, everybody knows we need to actually have a better and more connected electricity distribution system.

No question about it. So that's an important consideration. Recently, DOE has put out some opportunity to close that gap a bit.

BECKER: Department of Energy.

McCARTHY: That's the Department of Energy. Sorry, I'm a government wonk, forget every once in a while.


McCARTHY: But also, it's very clear that federal change needs to happen for permitting as well as state and local.

We have to make sure to expedite this, or we are not going to be able to grow at the pace that really the IRA allows us to grow or that science would demand. And so Emily is absolutely right that there are issues that are very big, but they are very front and center. Resources are there, but people need to recognize that they have to participate in this process.

Not to slow things down, but to expedite things and to ensure that the fear, to ensure that they're equitable, but they got to go faster.

BECKER: Yeah. So how do you do that to make sure that the law, how do you do it to make sure that the law can go forward and you're telling people, take advantage of this, but we may not have the infrastructure to do this.

McCARTHY: That's the discussion that's on the table now. There's both proposals for expediting the regulations at the federal level. And there's opportunities, I think, at the state and local level to expedite their processes. Because every one of these is everybody has to check the box. I understand why.

But you can do it faster, and there's no way that we are going to succeed without people working together to understand that these are vital for our health, our wellbeing, the economic vitality of this country. And so we have to move together and that's a big deal. People get it, they got to move it.

BECKER: Another question about this, for criticism question, is why is the government subsidizing some of these clean energy technologies if they can't survive in the market already? Should the government be doing this and taking this concerted effort in this, one of the largest investments, right, in history for this, because some of these companies A, may not be able to really survive on their own in the market.

McCARTHY: Yeah, I think that what we're seeing is one of the reasons to have this as a 10-year process is to make sure that there's some stability in the system and some certainty. And we are seeing the private sector grab this and so I don't think that it's a matter of whether or not they can compete.

I think that and we know there's a market out there because they're already showing that, or they wouldn't be making these investments. But the real challenge that people need to get their arms around is, "Do you want to do this, or do you want to seed the world to fossil fuels and keep going down the road we're going?"

Because there is no question that everybody who is looking at the news today can see the extraordinary heat that's happening, the incredible wildfires, and God bless the human beings that lost their lives and families in Maui. We have to have our eyes wide open. This has to be done in order to make our world safe to live in, and to not allow the continued degradation that fossil fuels is wreaking.

In our country and frankly across the world. So we have to look at the checks and balances. None of the work that is being funded here would do anything other than reduce greenhouse gases. It would do nothing other than improve people's lives. Lower their energy costs, grow more jobs, and make us more economically stable.

I know that because I've seen what this can do, but I've also seen that as soon as we put it out, there was a race to the top. We had the EU countries moving forward. France had a new plan. Germany started a new plan. The UK started a new plan. Canada started a new plan. All of them focused on being part of this shift, and that's why I know that we can do this together.

BECKER: One of the things that I want to mention here is one of the mechanisms for funding in all of this. Because I think that it's it's really interesting and we spoke with Jigar Shah, who heads the loan program office for the Department of Energy. And since the law passed, he said his office's ability to lend federal money has grown tenfold.

JIGAR SHAH: The goal of the Loan Programs Office is to help people who need to deploy technology at scale but can't get any respect from private sector banks, you can imagine some of the nation's best entrepreneurs and innovators are good inventors. They're not actually really good at commercializing technology and getting it into the marketplace.

We are now building that ecosystem of support so that we can send people to consultants or other advisors to help them fully realize their dreams.

BECKER: Emily Pontecorvo, who's with Heatmap News. I'm wondering of the projects that you're hearing about that are going after some of this federal funding that's available, what are some that you think are really significant?

PONTECORVO: The DOE loan office, they are funding new solar manufacturing plants, battery plants. The money actually, as far as I understand, it hasn't actually gone out yet. They've made a commitment to these companies. And the companies have to provide more information about their projects before they actually get the loan.

I think it's a little early to say.

BECKER: But are there some that you think are, that are going to be really significant? They may not be certainly on the ground yet, but I'm just wondering, what's interesting to you about how this federal funding is going forward and what the money might go toward?

PONTECORVO: Well, I think one really interesting thing about the money is so much of it already has gone to projects in red states. This is a point that I think has been brought up again and again in the media, but the vast majority of investments are going to places like Georgia, Arizona, Alabama, Oklahoma, and the governors of those states are for the most part really embracing this law and embracing the investments and the jobs that it's creating.

And so I think as we move forward, and especially with the election coming up, that creates kind of an interesting dynamic where you might have these Republican governors defending the law.

Part III

BECKER: Emily, before the break, you were talking about something that you said was interesting to you. And that is the Republican states that are going along with some of the projects in the Inflation Reduction Act.

And I want you to elaborate a little bit on that and why you think that this is significant for this law.

PONTECORVO: Yeah, so like I was saying, states like Georgia and Arizona are getting the vast majority of investments from the Inflation Reduction Act. So far, they're seeing, you are seeing battery, electric vehicle battery plants come to these states, solar manufacturing.

And it's creating jobs, creating economic opportunity, and governors are excited about it. And I think one reason that's significant is, going back, not a single Republican voted for the Inflation Reduction Act in Congress last year. Republicans in the house now have made multiple attempts to overturn it or to repeal parts of the law.

And many of the Republican candidates on the campaign trail for the presidential election have bashed the law. And experts have told me that if a Republican enters the White House in 2025, it's not a question of, will they repeal parts of the law? It's a question of what parts, and I think that a lot of people feel a lot of optimism about, if over the next year this trend continues and the economic opportunities continue to occur in red states, that will build this coalition this sort of opposite equal and opposite force to keep as many of these provisions as possible.

BECKER: Was that part of the strategy? Gina McCarthy?

McCARTHY: The strategy was to make sure that both red and blue states had an opportunity here. So I think it was eyes wide open to make sure that no state would be left behind on this. And it's been very clear that red states are jumping on this, but think about it.

A lot of the red states are the ones that are most in need of re-strengthening their economies, getting some jobs. That a lot of these communities have been left behind. A lot of the manufacturing, as we heard earlier, has shut down.

So there's opportunity here for everyone, and it was absolutely designed to ensure that it would be both opportunities for red and blue states, which is one of the reasons why you see when the president goes out doing a groundbreaking on the bipartisan infrastructure or in the Inflation reduction Act, he's joined by the Republicans there. These are their constituencies. This is real money for real people, and they have to get real about how this is an opportunity for them.

And they have to be sensitive to the politics around it.

BECKER: You said 44 states?

McCARTHY: That's correct.

BECKER: That's so there are some that aren't, some states are saying we're not taking any of these federal dollars.

McCARTHY: There are only initially, out of the gate there were four. So there's projects across 44 states, I'm sure more will come.

But there are less than a handful of states who didn't want to do it. But frankly, I'm not sure that's going to stop anything. Because one, I traveled to North Carolina, I had a great visit with Mayor Vi Lyles there. She had a huge constituency there looking at opportunities.

I'm going to be heading to Ohio, I'm going to be heading to Florida. The more people understand that this is their money, their opportunity, I think the less it's going to be mired in the politics.

BECKER: Some of the debate, some of the political debate about this has come from folks who say that these technologies could benefit countries like China and that I think there's a Wall Street Journal analysis suggesting that 60% of the funding is going to companies affiliated with big corporations or located overseas and not in the U.S.

And I want to play a clip here from Cathy McMorris Rogers, who's a Republican representative from Washington State, and she was speaking at a congressional hearing back in May. Let's listen.

CATHY McMORRIS ROGERS: The threat of losing ground to China grows more intense as President Biden rushes to force America to run on an entirely renewable energy as part of its rush to green agenda.

As a subcommittee on environment manufacturing and critical materials discussed last month, this forced rush transition hands China even greater control of our energy supply chain. According to the recent International Energy Agency report, China dominates every stage of electric vehicle battery production, downstream of mining.

China also possesses 97% of the world's solar wafer capacity.

BECKER: So Gina McCarthy, I wonder, what do you say to those folks who are concerned about some of this money benefiting companies overseas?

McCARTHY: The interesting thing is her statistics are correct, but her thought is incorrect. This is all about producing solar here.

That's what you're seeing is already being invested in, is a remanufacturing. So domestically we can control our own destiny and we can't compete against China and others who might want to grab these markets for themselves. So China has been winning because we lost manufacturing. So we are talking about building solar panels here.

We are talking about building electric vehicles here, building the batteries, building all the components, so that we can control our own market and become the one that controls our ability and our own destiny to move forward economically. This is about our economic competitiveness and our economic security.

This is all about winning here in the United States, but it's not being done in the disadvantage to our allies. They're stepping up, collaboration is happening on electric vehicles and others so that we can really begin to grab the clean energy marketplace. But frankly, just provide the stability we need to tackle climate change.

This is the great destabilization. This is what's happening in the world today, and we need to get a understanding that this is not about who's fighting who. It's about how we work together as a world to fight against climate change and to bring more stability to the world, everywhere. And I think that we are on the road to actually doing this, and having our allies all aligned and moving towards clean energy.

And so if people are worried about China, they should be celebrating the United States manufacturing again.

BECKER: Emily, I'm just wondering what another challenge here. Another question about this that you've written about is workforce. What do you know about the potential workforce that might be able to in the U.S. that might be able to handle some of these investments?

PONTECORVO: Yeah. We know, for example, that there is certainly a shortage of trades workers in the U.S. and that's electricians, HVAC installers, plumbers, people like that. And we can't electrify everything. We can't install enough EV chargers or heat pumps without more people getting interested in those careers.

And so that's one big challenge. I think also related to that is, and this kind of goes back to the sort of public awareness issue, is a lot of the workforce that does exist, the contractors out there, they're still skeptical of these technologies. Every day I feel like I hear stories from readers and others about, they tried to find a contractor to install heat pumps and the contractor just said, "Oh, heat pumps don't work in Massachusetts.

You should install gas." I'm sure your listeners have heard that story. And there's just a lot of misinformation and kind of education work to do to bring everyone up to speed about all the options that are out there.

BECKER: Gina McCarthy, what would you say A) about some of the thinking regarding green technologies in general and also about workforce?

McCARTHY: Yeah, the workforce is a critical piece of this and so there's significant resources on the table and being utilized to actually make sure that this is all about union employees getting jobs.

BECKER: Labor has been critical.

McCARTHY: Oh, labor has also been critical to making this happen.

And so if you saw the Inflation Reduction Act anniversary celebration this week that I was lucky enough to be at, it was filled with union employees there celebrating. Because we don't just want jobs, we want good ones, but it's also about making sure that we are requiring that folks get opportunities on the technical level to get into these careers and move forward.

But the interesting thing is, I love Emily's raising of the issue where there's all this disinformation out there about how it's all got to be about natural gas. If folks have been listening in this region, they'll see that Eversource, just a few weeks ago, announced that they were no longer going to be members of the American Gas Association. Because they're the ones spreading the rumors that it's natural gas or nothing.

They're the ones that are misinterpreting the opportunities today to their own benefit. So we have to be careful of what you hear on the news and everywhere. And actually look for yourself about what's best. And I think when people do that, they'll see that we need to move, not just away from fossil fuels, but we need to jump right now to take advantage of the opportunities of clean energy.

BECKER: I just want to say that there may have been some labor representatives at the one-year anniversary this week at the White House, but I also read that the United Auto Workers President said that the law will create "low road jobs in states that have right to work laws." So should there have been more protections maybe for labor, so you didn't have that criticism, because it is there.

McCARTHY: Yeah. And the UAW was very instrumental in allowing us to really move forward to make the electric vehicle announcements we made and to provide an opportunity for the Inflation Reduction Act to build on those opportunities. And the unions are always going to be in the middle of some kind of negotiations.

I think it's historic how this always happens, but we will see these things. And I think you're hearing it from all the major vehicle manufacturers. That this is going to be a boom for them, that the shift to electric vehicles is actually going to be the road to more jobs and more opportunities.

And I don't think there's any way of going back, Deb. Electric vehicles are here. And they're going to move forward in an expedited way. If you've driven one, you get it. And you're going to see lots of opportunities in the EU and others for collaboration across the board to make sure that the U.S. can capture this market effectively to the benefit of the UAW.

BECKER: Emily, I'm wondering if you can tell me, what in terms of the politics of this, how much do you think that perhaps the law is threatened right now. Obviously, we don't know what's going to happen next year in terms of a presidential election, but politically, do you think it's strong enough that it will be protected?

PONTECORVO: It will certainly be protected, until the next election. I don't think that there's really any --

BECKER: I'm not thinking before the next election. I think we can all agree on that one.


BECKER: Yeah, we can agree that it's okay until then. But what about, I'm just wondering, because of these criticisms, because of things like is this money that's going overseas.

That maybe there aren't strong enough labor protections, not enough people know about it. Can we afford this? Are those really enough to damage this going forward into a new administration?

PONTECORVO: I don't think they're enough to fully repeal this law or take back a lot of the progress that it's already made.

I think that from what I understand, if we have a Republican president in 2025, their tools to repeal this law will be somewhat limited. A lot of these rules are pretty firm, and they can direct the treasury to rewrite the rules for tax credits to make them harder to claim or maybe slow roll some of the funding, but they can't, just by executive order, cancel the Inflation reduction Act.

And I just want to add that on the domestic content front, around jobs going, to all this technology coming from China. What we didn't say earlier is that there are incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act to produce this stuff at home. And that's really what's driving a lot of this investment. So if you build a wind or solar farm and you source the materials for those projects, using domestic content, you get a boost, you get 10% boost on the tax credit. So there's all kinds of aspects to the law that really try to keep the production at home.

BECKER: And I just want to take the end of the show here and give you each time to talk about this, because there have been some questions about whether the overarching goal of the law is really going to be met in the timeframe in which it was outlined. Can it really meet this goal by 2030?

Gina McCarthy?

McCARTHY: First of all I believe that the Inflation Reduction Act will provide us a huge basis for moving forward quickly. There just doesn't seem to be any question about that. I also believe that this law, in addition to EPA regulations will get us to the 2030 goal of between 50% and 52% reduction off of a 2005 baseline.

That's what we promised. If it falls slightly short, it will get there pretty quickly, if this law continues to stay intact and continues to be invested in, which I fully expect it will. Look, the earlier question about will the Republicans dump it, there's too much at stake for them to actually reverse this.

Because it's their communities that are benefiting. It's them that actually will be able to stand up and are already claiming victory when the groundbreakings happen. So I think we'll be able to move it forward. But even if we fall slightly short, even if we don't get to 50, we get to 48 or 45.

We have to celebrate this movement forward, and we have to stop thinking that we can turn the climate problem on a dime. We got to move it forward fast.

This program aired on August 18, 2023.


Daniel Ackerman Floating Producer
Daniel Ackerman is a producer primarily working across WBUR's national shows.


Claire Donnelly Producer, On Point
Claire Donnelly is a producer at On Point.


Deborah Becker Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.



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