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Play Ball! It's Big News Thursday

The Chips and Salsa and Build Back a Bit Acts

PRESENTED BY ECOVADO GUACAMOLE

It’s a BIG NEWS THURSDAY and I’ve got a cold, so let’s see how this goes.

The BIG NEWS is that the U.S. Senate smoothly passed the $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act (S.Amdt. 5135 to H.R. 4346, aka “Chips and Salsa”) yesterday, 64-33. This legislation, expressly intended to help the United States compete with the “malign influence” of China, includes $52.7 billion in subsidies for the semiconductor industry to return manufacturing to the United States. Intel CEO Patrick Gelsinger had threatened to nix building two plants in Ohio if these subsidies didn’t pass.

There is also $200 billion in science and technology research funding, including $30 billion for the Department of Energy for renewable and nuclear research and deployment and $81 billion for the National Science Foundation. The bill includes NASA authorization (but not appropriations), including its Moon to Mars mission. The Senate also tacked on $20 million in new cops to protect our theocratic Supreme Court.

Fifteen Republicans supported the bill, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was the only member of the Democratic caucus to vote against it, slamming it as corporate welfare.

“In order to make more profits, these companies took government money and used it to ship good-paying jobs abroad. Now, as a reward for that bad behavior, these same companies are in line to receive a massive taxpayer handout to undo the damage that they did.”

The BIGGER NEWS is that right after the passage of CHIPS, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) announced a $443 billion reconciliation deal on energy, taxes, and health care, bending to the demands of Congressional staffers who protested in Chuck’s office this Monday to keep negotiating.1

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (H.R. 5376, aka “Build Back a Bit”) includes, on the spending side, $369 billion in energy provisions and $64 billion in extending the Affordable Care Act. The bill intends to raise $739 billion in revenue, most of it through an increase in the corporate tax rate for large corporations to 15 percent ($313 billion) and prescription drug reform ($288 billion).

So, how about the energy package? The Green Blue Alliance’s Ben Beachy combed through the text and made a side-by-side comparison of the spending with the previous iterations of the Build Back Better, exposing the significantly scaled-back ambition. Gone is support for rail and public transit, gone is lead pipe remediation, gone is the Civilian Climate Corps.

What is included—on the good side:

  • $30 billion in production tax credits for solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and critical mineral processing

  • $60 billion for environmental justice, $60 billion for clean energy manufacturing, $27 billion for a new federal green bank

  • A $3 billion appropriations to the US Postal Service for the purchase of zero emission vehicles, with $6 billion more for a clean fleet

  • $10 billion investment tax credit for clean energy manufacturing, some $9 billion for clean federal procurement and more than $20 billion for “climate-smart” agriculture

  • $4,000 tax credit for used “clean” cars and up to $7,500 for new clean cars

  • Methane pollution fee program

On the not-so-great side:

  • mandates offshore oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska, and prohibits offshore wind lease sales unless there has been a major offshore oil and gas sale within a year

  • the polluter-subsidy 45Q credit for carbon capture and storage is expanded

  • new subsidies for existing nuclear power plants

  • Tax credits for “clean vehicles” include hydrogen-fueled cars in addition to EVs.

Given the political reality, this is an impressive win, barring a Kyrsten Sinema veto. (It’s definitely a big win for cleantech investors.) Given the physical reality, it’s not. The United States is continuing to accelerate its suicidal fracking-for-export boom, rapidly building carbon infrastructure meant to last decades, and the deal cut with Manchin will keep that going.

In what our corporate Congress won’t allow become the BIG NEWS, the House Natural Resources Committee approved the Environmental Justice for All Act (H.R. 2021) yesterday, after a year of community meetings around the nation to develop the bill’s text. This is amazingly good legislation that Manchin would never let become law.

The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act is on the House floor today.

CHIPS beneficiary Intel is one of the top sponsors of tonight’s Congressional Baseball Game, to be held at Nationals Park. Activists are organizing to disrupt the game, a bipartisan corporate love-fest sponsored by oil giants BP and Chevron, coal-and-gas-powered utility CMS Energy, and corporate lobbying groups that have killed climate action for decades like the Edison Electric Institute and the American Farm Bureau.

Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, explained why he’s joining the protest, though the Manchin deal definitely will change the mood.

Congrats to Shannon Osaka, who is leaving Grist to join the Washington Post’s climate team, covering the climate zeitgeist.

Energy efficiency expert Brendan Owens has his confirmation hearing to become Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment, overseeing energy planning for DOD’s $1-trillion-scale global network of military facilities.

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) chairs a hearing on preventing polluters from getting government contracts. Our friend Manchin has a legislative hearing on a passel of bills that include expediting liquified natural gas projects, processing uranium, improving weatherization assistance, and supporting carbon capture. And Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) chairs a hearing on how leaded aviation fuel continues to poison our communities.

Hearings on the Hill:

Climate Action Today:

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1 I sort of kid, here, but also sort of not? It’s certainly the case that climate activists criticizing and protesting against Schumer and Manchin didn’t hurt the deal coming together, after months and months of climate lobbyists trying to “protect” the negotations by discouraging protests.

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