How the Biden Administration is Tackling the Climate Crisis
I’ve been an environmental planner for more than two decades. During that time, I spent countless hours studying and implementing laws like the Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, and—my favorite—National Environmental Policy Act. Sometimes, in my exhausted state, I would wax poetic and wonder: did Americans realize the significance of these laws when the Nixon Administration passed them? And even if they were aware of their importance, could they have possibly grasped the impact these laws would continue to have more than 50 years later?
Complex and difficult to digest individually, the synergistic impact of the Nixon Administration’s environmental policies was probably incomprehensible, even to those who authored them. So, too, perhaps is climate-related legislation signed by President Biden.
Biden Administration Climate Crisis Legislation
In 2021 and 2022, President Biden signed three bills into law that will each play a significant role in ending the climate crisis: the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Bipartisan Infrastructure Law); CHIPS Act of 2022; Research and Development, Competition, and Innovation Act; and Inflation Reduction Act. Individually, these laws are complex and encompass numerous topics. Combined, they set the United States on a path to a clean energy transition.
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Bipartisan Infrastructure Law)
On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed a once-in-a-generation investment in American infrastructure. The bill includes around $550 billion in federal investments in America’s roads and bridges, public transit, water infrastructure, high-speed internet, and more.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) tackles the climate crisis by making the most significant investment in clean energy transmission and EV infrastructure in US history. The bill also funds a resilient, clean 21st-century electric grid and provides history’s single largest investment in carbon management provisions.
CHIPS and Science Act of 2022
On August 9, 2022, President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. This Act is a historic investment to revitalize America’s scientific research and technological leadership and to ensure the US makes more critical technologies at home. In addition to building resilient semiconductor supply chains, the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 supports the development of vital technologies that will propel the US into the clean energy transition.
Inflation Reduction Act
The Inflation Reduction Act builds on the historic investments in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Signed on August 16, 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act invests $369 billion in solutions to end the climate crisis.
The Inflation Reduction Act invests in domestic energy production and manufacturing and provides tax credits and rebates for American families to make their homes more energy efficient. These clean energy and energy efficiency provisions will enable the US to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.
Energy Efficiency Home Improvements
The Inflation Reduction Act includes tax credits and rebates for the efficiency upgrades detailed below. The rebate programs will be distributed by the States that apply for them and will not be available until 2023.
A heat pump provides super-efficient heating and cooling for homes. The Inflation Reduction Act includes tax credits and rebates that can cover up to 100% of the costs, depending on household eligibility.
Heat Pump Water Heater
Heat pump water heaters can be two to three times more energy efficient than conventional water heaters. The Inflation Reduction Act includes tax credits and rebates that can cover up to 100% of the costs, depending on household eligibility.
biomass Stoves and Boilers
High-efficiency biomass heating products, such as pellet stoves, once again qualify for a tax credit under the Inflation Reduction Act. This law includes a new 30 percent tax credit – capped at $2,000 annually – for appliances installed between January 1, 2023, and December 31, 2032. The credit can be used on the purchase and installation costs of qualifying appliances.
Windows and Doors
The Inflation Reduction Act provides tax credits and rebates for many home improvements that reduce energy leakage, including outdated windows and doors. In addition to supporting upgrades of exterior windows and doors, the Inflation Reduction Act can also covers the cost of a home energy audit so that an inspector can identify the best improvement options.
Insulation and Air Sealing
Insulation material can lower heating and cooling costs by up to 20%, and air sealing (like caulking and weather-stripping) saves energy and improves air quality. That’s why the Inflation Reduction Act provides tax credits and rebates for upgrading your home’s insulation. In addition to supporting the upgrades themselves, the Inflation Reduction Act can also cover the cost of a home energy audit so that an inspector can identify the best improvement options.
Electric heat pump clothes dryers are more efficient than electric or gas dryers, which is why the Inflation Reduction Act includes rebates that can cover up to 100% of the costs of purchasing and installing a new electric heat pump clothes dryer, depending on household eligibility.
Electric Stove or Oven
Electric stoves, including induction ranges, are more energy efficient and protect indoor air quality better than gas stoves. The Inflation Reduction Act provides rebates that can cover up to 100% of the costs of electric stoves, cooktops, ranges, and ovens, depending on household eligibility.
Breaker Box and Electrical Wiring
To help a home handle the load from new electric appliances, the Inflation Reduction Act includes tax credits and rebates to upgrade a home’s breaker box or electrical wiring.
Multi-Family Unit Energy Efficiency Improvements
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides tax credits for improving the energy efficiency of multi-family units.
Commercial Building Energy Efficiency Improvements
The IRA updated the Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Deduction, which provides a deduction for the cost of energy efficient commercial building property. The IRA changed the deduction amount (subject to prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements).
The Inflation Reduction Act provides tax credits that cover up to 30% of the installation costs—and this federal credit can be paired with additional incentives available in many states.
The Inflation Reduction Act adds $1 billion for clean school and transit buses to the $5 billion for electric transit buses and $5 billion for clean and electric school buses in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides grants for upgrading the accessibility of rail systems by increasing the number of stations that meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards. It also includes funding to improve mobility for seniors.
Finally, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes $8 billion for grants to support new and expanded commuter and light rail, bus, and ferry services.
Zero Emission Transportation
The Inflation Reduction Act continues a tax credit of up to $7,500 for certain new electric vehicles and adds a credit of $4,000 for used electric vehicles for the first time. Also, for the first time, the Inflation Reduction Act adds a tax credit for commercial EVs, enabling companies to electrify their entire fleets.
While the Inflation Reduction Act continues the existing $7,500 tax credit, it added three important provisions to spur manufacturing in the United States, encourage car manufacturers to produce less expensive electric vehicles, and promote lower income families to benefit from the tax credit.
In addition to passenger vehicle credits, the Inflation Reduction Act includes up to $40,000 in tax credits for zero-emission commercial vehicles and $100,000 in tax credits for heavy-duty charging infrastructure.
Electric Vehicle Charging
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes the most transformative investment in EV charging in US history. To achieve the Biden Administration’s goal of installing 500,000 chargers across America by 2030.
The Joint Office of Energy and Transportation was created through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to facilitate collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Transportation. The office provides support and expertise to many programs that seek to deploy a network of electric vehicle chargers, zero-emission fueling infrastructure, and zero-emission transit and school buses.
The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 authorizes basic research and development to ensure the US is competitive in energy storage.
One such program is the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program. NEVI Formula funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes $5 billion available over 5 years and helps build an EV charging network across the country.
Under this program, each State was required to submit a plan describing how the State intended to use its NEVI Formula Program funds to install electric vehicle charging stations along alternative fuel corridors—major freeways that connect states. Under the Program, States must install at least four fast-charging ports every 50 miles on these corridors and ensure they are within 1 mile of an off-ramp. Drivers can recharge their vehicles in about 1 hour using a fast-charging port.
Any vehicle charging infrastructure installed using funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law must also use nonproprietary charging connectors and include payment methods available to everyone and not limited by the membership to a particular payment provider.
Plans for all 50 States received final approval on September 14, 2022. With this approval, States have access to NEVI Formula Program funding for 2022 and 2023, totaling more than $1.5 billion. This funding will help build EV chargers across approximately 75,000 miles of highway from coast to coast, ensuring a convenient, reliable, affordable, and equitable charging experience for all users.
Once these funds are released, each State will administer them through a competitive grant program. Grant applications will be due sometime early in the first half of 2023.
In addition to the historic investments outlined above, the IRA extends the federal tax credit on charging equipment for individuals and commercial operations through 2032. To qualify for the credit, commercial developers must place chargers in low-income communities or nonurban areas.
Electric Vehicle Battery Reuse and Recycling
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes $3.16 billion to fund a new Battery Manufacturing and Recycling Grants program. This program is designed to fund demonstration projects, construct commercial-scale facilities, and retrofit or retool existing facilities for battery component manufacturing and recycling. Grant funds can also be awarded for programs demonstrating second-life applications of electric vehicle batteries as aggregated energy storage installations to provide services to the electric grid.
These provisions aim to reduce the cost of manufacturing, purchasing, installing, operating, and maintaining electric vehicle batteries, thus reducing the cost of electric vehicles. A successful recycling program will also maximize the recovery of critical materials for use in new products, reducing the need for mining new materials and decreasing dependency on foreign countries that currently supply these materials.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes funding under the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grant Program for local governments to study the feasibility of creating a smart grid capable of increasing grid capacity during peaks or outages using Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technologies.
Electric Bicycles and Scooters
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law requires the Transportation Secretary to study the benefits of incorporating bicycles into disaster preparedness and disaster response plans of local communities. Presumably, the study would include the benefits of electric bikes, including electric cargo bicycles.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides funding for researching the impact of new mobility options, such as docked and dockless bicycles and electric scooters, on urban design, transportation, real estate, and municipal budgets.
Electric Batteries and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Systems
While the CHIPS Act of 2022 does not provide rebates or incentives to the public for installing electric vehicle charging stations, they provide funding opportunities and potential tax benefits for companies researching and developing electric batteries and hydrogen fuel cell electric systems. This funding is in addition to the $28 million the Department of Energy awarded to accelerate innovation in EV batteries and drive systems in 2021.
Biodiesel and other Clean Fuels
The Inflation Reduction Act reinstates expired credits for biodiesel, biodiesel mixtures, renewable diesel, renewable diesel mixtures, small agribiodiesel producers, and alternative fuels and mixtures. The Inflation Reduction Act also extends a tax credit for second-generation biofuel produced after 2021. The Inflation Reduction Act also provides a production credit for clean fuels produced after 2024. This credit is increased if the business meets wage and apprenticeship requirements.
Clean Hydrogen Strategy
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided $9.5 billion in funding for clean hydrogen, and the Inflation Reduction Act provided additional policies and incentives for hydrogen. To best utilize these funds and implement the new policies, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law mandated the Department of Energy develop a national clean hydrogen strategy and roadmap. This roadmap prioritized three strategies:
- Targeting strategic, high-impact uses for clean hydrogen
- Reducing the cost of clean hydrogen
- Focusing on regional networks
The draft strategy and roadmap were released on September 2022.
Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs program includes up to $7 billion to establish 6 to 10 regional clean hydrogen hubs across America. These hubs will create networks of hydrogen producers, consumers, and infrastructure to facilitate using hydrogen as a clean energy carrier. Because hydrogen can be used to power the electric grid and fuel cell electric vehicles, these hubs support the Biden Administration’s goal of a 100% clean electrical grid by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050.
Clean Hydrogen Manufacturing and Recycling
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law created the Clean Hydrogen Manufacturing Recycling Program. This program provides $500 million for funding technologies that produce, process, deliver, store, and use clean hydrogen and practical approaches to reusing and recycling clean hydrogen technologies. These funds are available to industry partners through grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements.
The Inflation Reduction Act builds on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law by providing a production credit to clean hydrogen produced after 2022. This credit increases if the business meets wage and apprenticeship requirements.
Grid Resilience Grants
To support the Biden Administration’s goal of a national grid run 100% on clean electricity by 2034, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes $2.5 billion in grants for projects that strengthen and modernize the power grid against wildfire, extreme weather, and other natural disasters that the climate crisis has worsened.
Grid Innovation Grants
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes an additional $5 billion in grants for developing innovative transmission, storage, and distribution approaches.
Smart Grid Grants
The Deployment of Technologies to Enhance Grid Flexibility Program is an electric grid grant program created under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This program makes $3 billion in funding available to utilities, universities, for-profit companies, nonprofits, as well as State and local governments and tribes.
These grants will fund the development of technologies that support modernizing the electric power grid to create a smart grid. A smart grid consists of energy-efficient buildings equipped with technologies that enable it to communicate with the electric grid and manage its electricity usage during periods of high use or during an interruption in power generation. Not only can smart appliances and smart meters adjust their run schedule according to grid demand, but electric vehicles can be used to supply electricity to the grid during these peaks or outages.
The interactive capacity of the smart grid will become even more valuable as consumers move toward installing solar panel systems and producing energy.
These funds build in the $4.5 billion included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that spurred the deployment of smart grid technologies.
Advanced Energy Manufacturing
In 2050, almost half of carbon reductions will come from technologies currently at the demonstration or prototype phase (https://www.iea.org/reports/net-zero-by-2050). The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 authorizes the Basic Energy Sciences Program, which authorizes research funding and focuses on investing in products in these phases of development.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $750 million in grants to small- and medium-sized manufacturers for building new or retrofitting existing manufacturing and industrial facilities to produce energy from renewable sources; manufacture fuel cells, electric or fuel cell vehicles, or energy storage systems; or build facilities for the capture and removal of carbon from the atmosphere. The manufacturers must reside in communities where coal mines or coal power plants have closed.
Projects on Mining Lands
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $500 million to fund five clean energy projects (e.g., solar, microgrids, geothermal) on current or former mining sites. Projects should provide job creation and economic development in areas impacted by shuttered coal power plants or mines.
The Inflation Reduction Act provides extends and restores several tax credits to producers, developers, and investors in renewable energy. These credits are imperative for transitioning the US to renewable energy and meeting President Biden’s goal of a 100% clean electrical grid by 2035.
The Inflation Reduction Act creates a new tax credit for the domestic production and sale of solar and wind components.
The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 authorizes a program to support incubators in accelerating the commercial application of clean energy technologies.
The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 authorizes funding to research and develop fusion materials and to establish two national teams to create conceptual designs for a pilot fusion plant. Additional funding is provided for the Fusion Energy Sciences Program and the construction of the ITER international fusion project.
Carbon Capture, Storage, and Transport
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $3.47 billion to fund carbon capture demonstrations and pilot projects capable of scaling for commercial deployment. It also provides $100 million to support the deployment of carbon dioxide transport infrastructure. The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 establishes an initiative to research coal, coal-wastes, and carbon ore chemistry and efforts to research carbon storage and sequestration.
Carbon Transport and Storage Infrastructure
The Carbon Dioxide Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, enacted under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, provides $2.1 billion in loans and grants for building the carbon transportation infrastructure. This infrastructure is needed to move carbon from points of capture to conversion or storage facilities. Large-scale carbon transport and storage are required to meet President Biden’s net-zero goals by 2050.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law creates the Large-scale Carbon Storage Commercialization Program. This program includes $937 million in funding for developing new or expanded commercial large-scale carbon sequestration projects and associated infrastructure.
Regional Direct Air Capture Hubs
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $3.5 billion to create a program for capturing and storing carbon dioxide directly from the air. The Regional Direct Air Capture Hubs program will support four regional hubs. A regional hub comprises a network of direct air capture projects, potential carbon dioxide utilization, and the associated infrastructure.
Carbon Sequestration Tax Credits
The Inflation Reduction Act significantly increases the tax credit for captured qualified carbon oxide stored in geologic formations and oil and gas fields or for the use of captured carbon emissions. The Inflation Reduction Act also expands eligibility for these credits.
Wildland Fire Management
Wildfire Risk Reduction
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes $3.3 billion for wildfire risk reduction efforts. These investments include the following over the next 5 years:
- $500 million for prescribed burns
- $500 million for mechanical tree harvesting and clearing
- $500 million for developing fuel breaks and control locations
Additional funding of $500 million has been made available for the Forest Service to award Community Wildfire Defense Grants to those communities at high risk of wildfire. This funding will help these communities create wildfire plans.
To help federal agencies recruit and retain wildland firefighters, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes $600,000,000 for salary increases and to convert 1,000 temporary positions into permanent positions.
A vital step in preventing wildfire is restoring it to historical conditions. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes $2 billion for ecological restoration projects on public and private lands. These projects will improve wildlife habitat and water quality.