Aug 3 • 1HR 25M

Volts podcast: what to make of the Democrats' last-minute climate bill

A conversation with Jesse Jenkins and Leah Stokes about the Inflation Reduction Act.

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Volts is a podcast about leaving fossil fuels behind. I've been reporting on and explaining clean-energy topics for almost 20 years, and I love talking to politicians, analysts, innovators, and activists about the latest progress in the world's most important fight. (Volts is entirely subscriber-supported. Sign up!)
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As Volts listeners are no doubt aware, Senator Joe Manchin — Our Lord and Savior, blessed be His name — seems to have found his way to an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on a reconciliation bill. The 700 page Inflation Reduction Act would raise some taxes, reduce some drug prices, and subsidize some healthcare exchanges, but most notably, it would invest almost $370 billion into clean energy and climate change mitigation.

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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) sees the anguish & uncertainty in your eyes & it delights him. (Photo: Getty Images)
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) sees the anguish & uncertainty in your eyes & it delights him. (Photo: Getty Images)

Make no mistake: if it passes, this bill will be a very big deal. Though it has shrunk from $550 billion to $370 billion, the original climate and energy package in the House-passed Build Back Better bill is still visible in the IRA, if you squint just right. Though the Clean Electricity Payment Program (RIP) is long gone, most of the clean energy tax credits have survived, amidst a sweeping variety of spending on everything from consumer heat-pump rebates to a green bank to money for carbon-capture and hydrogen research.

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Everyone, including his fellow senators and top congressional staffers, was taken by surprise by Manchin’s pivot, so perilously late in the game. There is a bit of giddiness in the clean energy world, tempered by the hard-won awareness that nothing is certain until Joe Biden signs a piece of legislation. There are still many ways this can all go wrong.

While we wait for the final outcome, our fingernails digging into the arms of our chairs, we might as well discuss what's in the bill and what we should think about it. To do that, I've brought back two of the earliest and most popular guests on Volts: Jesse Jenkins, Princeton professor and energy modeler, and Leah Stokes, professor of political science at UC Santa Barbara.

I'm excited to talk to them about what's in the bill, what’s been taken out, what we should be worried about (and not), and what they think of the bill’s chance of passage.