Even after last week's pod, there were many lingering questions and objections about the Inflation Reduction Act floating around. So I decided to have Princeton professor Jesse Jenkins back on to dive into the nitty-gritty details; we talked so long that I divided it into two episodes. In today's, we talk about those obnoxious fossil-fuel leases, the CCS subsidies, and the bill's effect on environmental justice.
Since permitting reform comes up in this, I'd suggest we need something a bit like the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission -- they basically took input from every area, and then presented the list of closures that they'd decided best balanced the various issues (value of the bases to various communities, cost to operate, etc), and there was just a single up-or-down vote on the package, and at that point the legislature didn't really want to be responsible for going back and nitpicking the details, so they just passed it.
Similarly for planning where we're going to site energy projects, we should have a commission that listens to all of the various communities, puts together the package of projects that make the most sense for adding up to the target kW with the minimal environmental and community impact, and then the legislature votes on the package, and most likely they're going to pass it, even if some individual members have some people in their district who are mad about one particular project.
The intro mentions a previous podcast with Jenkins and Stokes, but I don’t see such an episode in the list. Where do I find that?
Great episode. I'd be interested in how much a hostile administration could undermine the impact of the IRA and which aspects are vulnerable.
On the procedural justice front, I'm curious how adding more frictions to the energy transition is in the interest of the marginalized? Structurally any tools you build in for consultation and veto by marginalized people will always be more available to and wielded more potently by the privileged (https://bookshop.org/books/public-citizens-the-attack-on-big-government-and-the-remaking-of-american-liberalism-9798200846986/9780393634044). The alternative to any given project isn't the best project you can imagine, it's the status quo.
Further, speedy deployment has two significant positive spillovers. The first is, as mentioned in the pod, the groups disproportionately harmed by existing environmental costs are these very communities, so any generic reduction in those costs will necessarily disproportionately benefit them. Second, early adopters are always unusually rich. After bridging the chasm, technologies are expensive and adopted by strange elites. The only way technologies are made cheaper is through learning by doing, which means deployment. Any policy which directly results in building socially beneficial technologies functionally subsidizes those technologies for the poor through cost reduction. Given that there is unequal distribution of capital, anything which slows deployment keeps technologies out of the hands of marginalized communities.
This is especially true in the global perspective. Degrees of warming won't be won or lost in the united states, it's India and Africa and South America. Decarbonizing our society is essential to buy them time, but ultimately the developed world needs to invent and make inexpensive the technologies of a net-zero economy. The costs of a hotter world will not be borne by rich white people like me who live in Berkeley, and any procedure which slows deployment consigns the global south to higher seas, hotter days, and greater ecological devastation.
As for impacts to EJ communities - we need to be thinking about the impacts of mining for the new metals that are going to be needed for our clean energy economy. Mining is a very dirty industry and the tailings are a source of terrible pollution, which of course hurts EJ communities the most. A thoughtful discussion about how to move forward in meeting the demand for materials that we are going to see without repeating the same injustices that the fossil fuel industry has inflicted on BIPOC and rural white folks would be good.
It sounds like permitting reform ties into 2 podcasts ago with Lauren Azar (MISO) where she talked about succeding in carrying out 2 thousand miles of electrical transmission installation planning in the Midwest to the South-East. For solar, I know that it can be deployed virtually in most any U.S. state (see 2021 DOE Solar Futures Study, pg 32). So long range transmission lines can be deployed before or during solar permitting.
Yes to an episode fairly soon on permitting reform. And many thanks for this one, the one with Jesse & Leah Stokes and the follow-on to this one.
Fabulous episode. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.