President Joe Biden has signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law, which will usher in a historic investment into combating the climate crisis, set an unprecedented corporate minimum tax and, for the first time, allow Medicare to negotiate the prices of certain drugs.
The climate community had been pushing the Biden administration for many months to finally take action: If it weren’t for climate activists’ relentless advocacy over the past decades, the IRA may have never come to pass. The bill’s nearly $370 billion for climate spending has been heralded as groundbreaking for the climate movement.
But activists aren’t taking this time to rest; after all, the bill contains “poison pills” to expand fossil fuel exploration that climate experts say will fail to prevent the worst effects of the climate crisis. Instead, activists are mobilizing to demand more — and they say that whatever Biden does next may determine the course of the climate crisis.
One of the first targets of climate activists’ docket is a “dirty” side deal made by Democratic leaders with coal baron Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) in order to get him to support climate provisions in the IRA. The deal would fast track the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a fracked gas pipeline that would run through West Virginia and Virginia.
The project is a priority of Manchin but would be a major contributor to the climate crisis, and it is estimated to emit the equivalent of over 19 million passenger vehicles or 26 coal plants of greenhouse gasses a year. Activists say that the pipeline would be particularly harmful to Appalachian communities along the path of the project which face the risk of explosions, leaks and other safety hazards.
“Here in Appalachia, we are done being a sacrifice zone,” said Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights Coalition organizer Grace Tuttle, in a statement provided to Truthout. “Far too many corrupt people in power have thrown us under the bus for their own political gain and profit. No more.”
People vs. Fossil Fuels, a coalition of over 1,200 climate and advocacy groups, added that activists “will not allow our relatives in Appalachia to be sacrificed at the altar of corporate greed.”
Indeed, the deal is so fossil fuel-friendly that a draft bill text for the Mountain Valley Pipeline and other polluting projects that’s been circulating among lawmakers carries the watermark of “API” — which is believed to belong to the powerful American Petroleum Institute.
Activist groups are planning to flood D.C. in September to urge Biden and Congress to kill the pipeline deal, Stop the Oil Profiteering campaign spokesperson Cassidy DiPaola told Truthout, saying that activists will be waging an “all hands on deck” campaign to protect frontline communities that will be affected by the pipeline.
Some Democratic and progressive lawmakers have spoken out against the deal and called for it to come to a separate vote. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) told The American Prospect on Tuesday that progressives are vowing to vote against the pipeline, saying that “we sure as hell don’t owe Joe Manchin anything now.” It’s unclear if the pipeline has enough support to pass Congress.
Advocates are also planning to urge Biden to use his executive power to expand clean energy beyond the funding in the IRA. Crucially, they say that funding for these projects could come out of the budget of the world’s largest institutional greenhouse gas emitter: the Pentagon.
The Pentagon’s massive budget is the ideal source for climate funding, advocates say, considering the fact that lawmakers view it as must-pass budgetary legislation each year. The U.S. spends trillions of dollars on the “defense” agency, which regularly loses absurd amounts of funding through poor accounting practices — all while fueling humanitarian crises and violence across the globe.
According to a 2021 report prepared by the National Priorities Project and the Institute for Policy Studies, the U.S. could have decarbonized its entire electric grid several times over with the amount of money the country’s spent on militarization over the past two decades. Since 9/11, the U.S. has spent $21 trillion on domestic and foreign militarization, while it would take only $4.5 trillion to decarbonize the grid. Transitioning away from fossil fuels, unlike endless military spending, could also have the dual benefit of saving billions, if not trillions, of dollars a year.
Climate advocates say that Biden could have the power to redirect defense funds for climate priorities if he declares a climate emergency, which advocates and lawmakers have been urging Biden to do since he took office. There are also a host of actions he could take to limit fossil fuel expansion like prohibiting U.S. funding from funding fossil fuel projects overseas.
“Resting on renewable incentives alone won’t get Biden or the world where we need to go,” said Jean Su, energy justice director and attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The fight for a livable planet depends on Biden leading the all-of-government approach he promised, starting with using the powerful climate tools granted him under the law.”