Megan Hall: Welcome to Possibly, where we take on huge problems like the future of our planet and break them down into small questions with unexpected answers. I’m Megan Hall. 

Sometimes it seems like Congress passes a big bill, it’s in the news for a few weeks, and then we forget about it. Last year, when President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, there was a lot of talk about how the bill would help the US address climate change.  

But how? And what happens now? We had two of our reporters, Juliana Merullo and Charlie Adams, look into this question for us! 

Juliana Merullo: Hiya Megan! 

Charlie Adams: How’s it going? 

Hall: How is the Inflation Reduction Act going to help us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions?

Merullo: Well first, the IRA, as it's commonly known, isn’t just a climate bill. But it does earmark hundreds of BILLIONs of dollars for climate issues, which is the most federal funding ever for climate change. 

Adams: And all that money is likely to make a big difference. Thanks to the IRA, experts think the US will be able to reduce its emissions by 40% over the next 7 years.

Merullo: Which is probably not enough to avert the worst climate consequences. .

Hall: But it’s a start, right? How is the IRA going to make those reductions happen? 

Merullo: About a quarter of the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are supposed to come from tax credits for utility companies, towns, and local governments to encourage them to invest in renewable energy. 

Hall: In what way? 

Merullo: One type of tax credit will make it more affordable to build things like wind or solar farms. Another will reward utilities based on how much electricity they create.

Adams: These options make it more lucrative for utilities to invest in renewable energy.  

Merullo: So much so, that these credits are expected to double our country’s investment in wind and solar power. 

Hall: Wow! That’s awesome. So what are some of the other big programs in the legislation?

Merullo: The IRA also has a bunch of provisions related to transportation, which is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US. 

Adams: They help individuals buy new or used electric vehicles and install charging stations, as well as fund the manufacturing of batteries and other components for electric cars.

Merullo: The IRA also gives billions of dollars to electrify vehicle fleets, like those owned by companies and utilities, and electrify the Postal Service’s trucks.

Hall: Well my mail truck has seen better days, so that’s good to hear! Are there other ways that industries and other big polluters are going to be affected?

Adams: Absolutely, especially high-emitting industries like steel, cement, coal, and natural gas. 

Merullo: The IRA targets them in a couple of ways: one is through a tax credit to make it more attractive to develop carbon capture technology, and another puts billions of dollars towards funding clean energy demonstration projects.

Hall: Demonstration projects? It sounds like a science fair!?

Adams: Think of it as seed funding for a big idea. This money is basically going to fund implementing, upgrading, and studying technology that’s supposed to reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions.  

Hall: Is there anything that will punish companies and industries for polluting in the first place? 

Adams: Actually, there is! Our senator here in Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse, advocated for what’s called a methane emissions fee. It charges petroleum and gas facilities that leak methane. He says this is important because: 

Senator Whitehouse: “Methane is a far more impactful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the short run.”

Merullo: Senator Whitehouse says this fee would start at $900 per ton in 2024, and increase to $1500 per ton by 2026.

Senator Whitehouse: "That gives us huge opportunities to really ramp up enforcement against major methane emitters."

Adams: The legislation also includes funds to help facilities reduce methane leaks in the first place. 

Hall: But, what will the IRA mean specifically for me? Will it help me finally buy an electric car?

Adams: We’ll talk more about that next week. 

Hall: Great. That’s it for today. For more information, or to ask a question about the way your choices affect our planet, go to the public’s radio dot org slash possibly. Or subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. 

You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter- at “ask possibly” 

Possibly is a co-production of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown’s Climate Solutions Initiative, and the Public’s Radio.