Ditching Fossil Fuels – The New York Times
By the end of today, Congress will likely have passed the largest climate bill in US history.
This newsletter has already discussed the main objectives of the bill and the background to how it came about. Today I want to go into more detail and explain how it will help people and businesses to ditch the dirty energy that contributes to global warming.
What’s on the bill?
The climate provisions of the bill are usually a collection of subsidies for energy that does not emit CO2, such as solar, wind and nuclear energy. Without these subsidies, polluting fossil fuels are often even cheaper. The subsidies try to give cleaner energy a head start.
“I don’t mean this in an exaggeration: this really changes everything,” said Jesse Jenkins, a climate policy expert at Princeton University. “It’s going to effectively shift the financial business from dirty energy to clean energy for everyone.”
For consumers, the subsidies will lower the prices of electric vehicles, solar panels, heat pumps and other energy-efficient home improvements. You can claim the subsidies via a tax return; as a separate discount if you don’t file a tax return; or, in some cases, immediately when you make a purchase.
Let’s say you want to buy one of the cheaper new electric vehicles on the market today, priced around $40,000. To get the grant, you first want to make sure the car qualifies; the bill requires, among other things, that the vehicles be assembled in North America. (Ask the car dealer or manufacturer to find out.) Then make sure you qualify; for example, individual tax applicants cannot earn more than $150,000 per year. And, given the high demand, you may need to order a car well in advance.
If you meet the requirements, you can claim up to $7,500 in tax credits, bringing the price of a $40,000 vehicle to $32,500.
That is the tax credit for new cars. For used cars, there is a smaller tax credit of up to $4,000. The aim of both credits is to level the playing field: cars that run on fossil fuels are still generally cheaper than electric vehicles. With the credits, electric cars will be much closer if not cheaper than comparable non-electric vehicles.
For home improvements, the process will be different, but the basic idea is similar. For a typical $20,000 rooftop solar installation, tax credits will lower the price by up to $6,000. There are also subsidies for heat pumps, electric heaters and other energy efficiency projects. The hope is to make all of these changes much more affordable for ordinary Americans, leading to less reliance on fossil fuels and expanding the market for cleaner energy.
‘A good deal’
The bill also includes a slew of benefits for businesses. For example, they can claim credits to replace traditional cars with electric ones, saving up to 30 percent on the cost of each vehicle.
Another set of incentives will encourage companies to build and use cleaner energy. Similar credits have existed in the past, but they often expire after one or two years, causing unpredictable boom-and-bust cycles for investors and companies. This time, Congress sets the credits for at least a decade, helping to create more security. And the credits will apply for the first time to public utilities and nonprofits, a large segment of U.S. electric utilities.
The bill does contain a compromise: It requires more leasing of federal land and water for oil and gas projects. Senator Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, demanded this provision.
But experts say it will have only a modest impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Overall, the bill will deduct at least 24 tons of CO2 emissions for every ton of emissions the oil and gas supply adds, according to Energy innovationa think tank.
“It’s a trade-off,” my colleague Coral Davenport, who deals with energy and environmental policy, told me. “But in terms of emissions impact, it’s a good deal.”
it comes down to
The bill will make cleaner energy and electric vehicles much cheaper for many Americans. Over time, they are also likely to become more affordable to the rest of the world as more competition and innovation in the US lead to cheaper, better products that can be shipped worldwide.
And it will move America closer to President Biden’s goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions to half their peak by 2030, according to three independent analyses.
The bill is also a sign that the US is starting to take climate change seriously. That gives US diplomats more credibility when they ask other countries, such as China and India, to do the same.
Still, many scientists believe the US will eventually need to do more to prevent serious damage from climate change. “This bill is really just the beginning,” said Leah Stokes, a climate policy expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
THE LAST NEWS
The power of hugs
A common motif in Japanese animation is the hug – two characters collide in an embrace, often as they fall through the air. An essay by Times critic Maya Phillips explains how hugs became such an important part of the art form.
Anime is characterized by exaggeration, in its characters, design and action, but it tends to be coy in its depictions of romance. The dramatic hug meets both criteria, she writes: “A hug between lovers or family or friends is an expression of intimacy that anime can increase.”
Read the essay, which visualizes many of anime’s iconic stuffed animals.