Let’s Acknowledge Inflation Reduction Act’s Significance — And Its Inadequacy

Robert Pollin

The Schumer-Manchin reconciliation bill, called the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), is a massive piece of legislation that aims to boost the economy and fight the climate crisis. It passed the Senate on Sunday, and is expected to quickly pass the House. On the economic front, the bill will reduce the deficit, close critical tax loopholes exploited by big corporations, and create millions of new jobs over a decade through the implementation of numerous energy and climate measures. The IRA is the most important climate bill in U.S. history. Nonetheless, it is also a bill full of defects, and parts of it will actually make the climate crisis worse, says Robert Pollin, one of the world’s leading progressive economists, in this exclusive interview for Truthout. Pollin is distinguished professor of economics and codirector of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He is the author of numerous books, including Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal: The Political Economy of Saving the Planet(coauthored with Noam Chomsky), as well as of scores of green economy transition programs for U.S. states (including California, Maine, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia) and different countries.

C.J. Polychroniou: The IRA is far less ambitious than what was originally envisioned in the Build Back Better Act, but still regarded as a step in the right direction. If it becomes law, it will address some outstanding concerns about climate, health care and corporate taxes. The agreement would raise approximately $739 billion over 10 years and spend $433 billion over a decade, which means it will reduce the deficit. However, the big winners from this deal will be climate and energy as the IRA pledges $369 billion toward energy security and clean energy. The bill’s supporters in Congress state that the climate and environmental measures included in the bill will reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. So, let’s start with the climate details in the act. First, is the sum of $369 billion spent over a decade big enough to address an existential threat like global warming? In fact, will the climate and energy provisions incorporated into the bill, which include the requirement that the Interior Department offers at least 2 million acres a year for offshore oil and gas leases, even achieve the designated emissions-reduction target by 2030?

Robert Pollin: The Inflation Reduction Act is the most significant piece of climate legislation ever enacted by the U.S. government. It is also, in itself, not close to sufficient, to move the U.S., much less the global economy, onto a viable climate stabilization path. We need to be 100 percent clear on both points. This is the only way that we can, at once, take maximum advantage of the major resources the IRA will provide to fight the climate emergency while also recognizing the huge areas where the bill accomplishes little to nothing as well as where it actually contributes to worsening the crisis.

First, on the positive side, it is a big deal for the federal government to provide roughly $400 billion over 10 years to fight climate change. To put this into perspective, this is exactly $400 billion more than what had been on the table only three weeks ago. This level of federal support will also encourage at least another $600 billion in private spending. The public funds will leverage private investment through, among other specific programs, tax credits for clean energy investments, consumer rebates for electric vehicle and heat pump purchases, loan guarantees that lower risks to banks for clean energy investments, and a national Green Bank underwritten by the federal government. This would bring total public plus private clean energy spending from the IRA to roughly $1 trillion over 10 years, or about $100 billion per year.

This is a huge sum of money, but also not nearly enough. Keep in mind that $100 billion equals about 0.4 percent of current overall economic activity, i.e., GDP. By my own estimates and those by others, for the U.S. to reach the emission reduction targets set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — i.e., a 50 percent CO2 emissions cut by 2030 and zero emissions by 2050 — will require about $400 billion in today’s economy and an average of $600 billion per year between now and 2050. So the total amount of public and private clean energy spending generated by the IRA would deliver, at best, about 25 percent of the necessary funding level. Again, 25 percent is way better than 0 percent. But it is also way worse than 100 percent.

I want to emphasize that this is a best-case scenario. The main reason is because of what Sen. Joe Manchin extracted from his fellow Democrats in exchange for his endorsement. Manchin agreed to support the IRA only if, in return, his fellow Democrats would support the construction of the 300-mile Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline that would run through West Virginia as well as Virginia.

The pipeline will likely create major environmental damage, including the contamination of rural streams and land erosion. But still worse is the obvious fact that building a new natural gas pipeline only makes economic sense if we are still burning natural gas to produce energy for the next 50 years or so. This is despite the fact that burning natural gas — along with burning oil and coal — to produce energy is, by far, the main cause of climate change. Support for the Mountain Valley pipeline in West Virginia is, unfortunately, fully consistent with the point you mentioned, that the IRA mandates the expansion of oil and gas exploration leases on federal land and water.

How can we possibly reconcile a supposedly transformative piece of climate legislation with building new natural gas pipelines? The only conceivable way to get there is to also support massive-scale deployment of carbon capture technology as a major component of the overall U.S. emissions-reduction program. Carbon capture technologies aim to remove emitted carbon from the atmosphere and transport it, usually through pipelines, to subsurface geological formations, where it would be stored permanently. To date, the general class of carbon capture technologies have not been proven to work at a commercial scale, despite decades of efforts to accomplish this. After all, carbon capture would be the savior for oil, coal and natural gas industries if the technology could be made to work commercially at scale. A major problem with most carbon capture technologies is the prospect for carbon leakages that result through flawed transportation and storage systems. These dangers will only increase to the extent that carbon capture does end up becoming commercialized and operates under an incentive structure in which maintaining safety standards cuts into corporate profits.

Matters become still worse to the extent that the IRA channels big-time funding into carbon capture, as could easily happen. Several of the major programs within the overall bill do not have fully specified mandates, including the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, the Clean Energy Investment and Production Tax Credits, and the Clean Energy Loan Guarantees. When push comes to shove — and, in particular, with oil companies and the likes of Senator Manchin doing the pushing and shoving — big chunks of funding through these programs are likely to be channeled into carbon capture. This would then mean less money for solar and wind — where the money needs to go. Read more

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Op de Dam

Zaterdag toch maar even gekeken bij die demonstratie op de Dam. Voor een opknapbeurt is het Nationale Monument ingepakt. Hopelijk zijn de oren goed afgeplakt zodat de onvervalste retoriek van de nieuwe bruinhemden en aanhang, de complotlandwacht, aan het Monument is voorbijgegaan.

Aldus mijn tachtigjarige buurman vanochtend in een lange e-mail.

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Frank Bovenkerk & Jan Rath – Lodewijk Brunt ~ Flaneur in toga

Er is al een tijdje niks verschenen op de blog van onze vader Lo die in 2020 uit ons leven verdween. Dat vinden wij soms zonde van zo’n omvangrijk en divers document. Lodewijk’s oude studievriend en collega Frank Bovenkerk heeft samen met Jan Rath (opvolger van Lodewijk als professor stadsstudies) een uitvoerig en mooi resumé geschreven over het werkzame leven van Lo. Wij willen dat graag plaatsen als aanvulling op al het overige. Beide heren zijn grondig te werk gegaan en hebben zich ook verdiept in de periode nadat Frank en Lo elkaar een beetje uit het oog zijn verloren. Wij, als zoons van Lo, kunnen ons helemaal vinden in de feiten en hoe Frank en Jan het hebben opgeschreven. Vooral het nogal onvoorspelbare karakter van onze vader wordt raak beschreven en iedereen die hem goed kende herkent deze kant van hem wel. Ook de gedrevenheid in zijn wetenschap en vooral zijn grote passie, de stad (en dan vooral Amsterdam), komen in het stuk heel mooi naar voren. Na het lezen van het stuk hebben we toch weer opnieuw bewondering voor hem gekregen en we missen hem nog iedere dag. Papa Lo was trots geweest op dit in memoriam. Wij hopen dat de bezoekers die dit stuk lezen dat met evenveel genoegen doen als ondergetekenden.

Tibor & Omar Brunt

Zie: http://www.lodewijkbrunt.nl/Lodewijk_Brunt_flaneur_in_toga_2022.pdf

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Trust me (we’ll get to know each other later) – Tagline: blockchain re-invents who and how we trust

Ills.: nl.wikipedia.org

I’ve been mulling a wry title for this piece. The passage of deliberation punctuated by flocks of green avians (yes, parrots and in Amsterdam!) dissecting the blue, blue firmament on their screeching way to somewhere possibly exotic, only to pivot and rush back the way they had come mere moments later.

The struggle is to find the depth of pith required to compliment the hint of wit that will sustain attention beyond a headline. ‘Trust me (again)’ comes close as does ‘Trust re-invented’. ‘Trust 2.0’ is potentially smirk worthy but only to those, perhaps, for whom Web 3.0 or Industry 4.0 elicit a familiar nod.

Trust me, this was the best I could do.

Most of us trust someone or something: a distant cousin on your mother’s side, a company, an institution, or even the government. Agreed, it was not strictly necessary to add the word ‘even’ when mentioning the government and yet…

Trust runs through us like Brighton through rock. It’s free and freely given. It’s easily and frequently betrayed only to be given again.

And so…

We trust that the barber is no Sweeney Todd; that government will safeguard state pensions; that the late-night Uber driver is, honestly, just an Uber driver; that the limited-edition Warhol is not, on inspection, a Wharwhole; that the heating engineer can distinguish a water pipe from a gas pipe; that the eviction technician barring entry to Koooolers Nightclub will not sell the enforced copy of your ID to X-Ron3023, a denizen of the dark-web and a close associate of NightKnightBungie100-2; that the recently promoted (former) assistant VP now has access to the executive bathroom on the top floor.

We need trust. The moment maker. The oil in the works. What is there without trust? And I implore you to keep in mind that trust starts with truth and ends with truth, fear leads to more fear, and trust leads to more trust, and we must surely all concur that to be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved. Trust Hemmingway to weigh in with ‘The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.’

All good. Not a jot of critique from my side. Old school trust. Built over decades, augmented by endorsements of others. The trusted and tested and true assured reliance on character and values and judgement, our innate ability and strength to see the truth of someone or something leading us have confidence (unscientifically, some might say) that our best interests will be represented, or at the very least not compromised.

It’s been a battle – a losing battle – to maintain my willingness to trust those making increasingly frequent requests for, yes, my trust. You can trust us with your profile data, they cry; you can trust our claim that the coffee-famer received a living wage in the production of this premium product; that the energy powering my microwave is not only green but the greenest; and that this cod was sustainably caught in the North Sea using the latest ecologically friendly gear and the discard (read: disposing of dead fish that you’d rather not have caught) was negligible.

Sceptical? Should you find a moment in your local supermarket to peruse the little letters and labels printed on the packaging en route past Dairy and Fresh to where Linda waits patiently at the checkout, you’ll surely agree that the credibility of these claims is enhanced by cutting-edge keywords that include (but are not limited to) WiggleWoggle certified, artisan organic, free range (define range) and farm fresh(ness) – whatever that means.

Further doubts may be placated by a plethora of QR codes and high-quality logos and, without a shred of hesitation on my part, I’d like to state for the record that many of these logos go way beyond clipart.

Look, we’re a few paragraphs in and I’ve not mentioned blockchain which has not been easy. Don’t ask or expect me to defend the many (but not all) justifiable claims that cast blockchain in a poor light. Decades must pass before blockchain’s battered reputational half-life decays to the point of defying detection.

Blockchain. Disruptive? Disreputable? I need to move on as, otherwise, this post will assume book-length dimensions as I attempt to parry what many are thinking. My plea, humbly made, is that you will accept that blockchain is a ‘thing’ and that we’ll save other discussion for later.

[Author’s note: the remainder of this article contains numerous dangerous bends in train of thought, and a range of concepts and terms invented by nerds whose average age is twenty-three. Continue reading only under medical advisement].

How can blockchain replace old school trust? What could possibly supplant the handshake, the written agreement, the unshakeable faith in a bond handed down the generations?

The answer is that blockchain cannot replace any of these things.

Rather, blockchain facilitates alternative forms of trust. Trust between parties that have never met, who have not heard of one another, who do not like each other, who compete with each other and – I’m just putting it out there – do not trust each other. Blockchain facilitates trustless transactions where a distributed network of ‘verifiers of truth’ (nodes) guarantee both the execution of transactions between parties (liveness) as well as the integrity of transactions following agreement (consensus).

Furthermore, blockchain requires no mediating (meddling?) third-party as an enabler and, as a result, there is no centralised authority needed to deny or refuse or scrutinise or record any transaction or interaction between two parties. Humans are not involved in consensus forming and, as a result, there is no opinion-based influence and no ad-hoc bias. Given the same set of inputs, the blockchain will consistently resolve in the same manner each time of asking. Trust me on that.

In considering how blockchain helps reinvent trust, we need to first dispel the notion that blockchain and cryptocurrency are synonymous. The repute of the former tarnished by the ponziness of the latter. Take transactions for example. The first and best-known blockchain network was named ‘Bitcoin’, while the first and best-known cryptocurrency was named ‘bitcoin’ (the branding agency has a lot of explaining to do). And the first transaction involved a bitcoin token on the Bitcoin network. Read more

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Attie S. van Niekerk & Sytse Strijbos (Eds.) – We cannot continue like this: Facing modernity in Africa and Europe

The book is based on the view that the present trajectory of modern development cannot continue as it is now because it is ecologically unsustainable, it continues to enlarge the gap between rich and poor, and the decolonialisation movement has drawn our attention again to the specific role of religion, culture and value in human affairs and the need for a robust element of indigenisation and contextualisation. This book is strongly focused on the context of Africa, with two chapters that are written by authors from the Netherlands, for the purpose of presenting a North-South dialogue. The book contains reflection on approaches followed in building sustainable human communities in general and reflection on specific efforts to solve sustainability issues. It seeks to integrate academic reflection and insights gained from practical involvement with sustainability issues in local communities and low-income households, with contributions from Theology and Natural and Social Sciences.

Download the book (open access):

This book is the first result of a quite unique and emerging researc collaboration between three organisations, NOVA, the International Institute for Development and Ethics (IIDE) and the Centre for Faith and Community (CFC) that is housed at the Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria. The central aim is to chart an innovative course in the debate on ‘sustainability and development’. NOVA and IIDE are independent entities that both want to operate as an intermediate between the university and broader society. Read more

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Bruce Springsteen – Chimes Of Freedom (East Berlin 1988)

July 1988. One year before the fall of the Berlin wall, between 200.000 and 300.000 east-berliners witnessed this historical concert. In his speech, they recommended him not to say the word “wall” so he changed it for “barriers”. Epic historical moment.

GERMAN: Es ist schön in Ost-Berlin zu sein. Ich möchte euch sagen ich bin nicht hier für oder gegen eine Regierung, ich bin gekommen um rock’n’roll zu spielen für Ost-Berlinern, in der Hofnung dass eines Tages alle Barrieren obgeriesen warden.

ENGLISH: It’s nice to be in East Berlin. I want to tell you that I’m not here for or against any government, I have come to play rock’n’roll for the East-Berliners, in the hope that one day all barriers will be torn down.

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