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Solutions: Congress and the Climate Crisis

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By Huck Fairman

Princeton University recently presented a talk on the efforts, and bills that Congress is undertaking to deal with the climate crisis but also economic issues.

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Giving the talk was Alexis Segal, a senior congressional policy staffer. She titled her talk: Investment, Innovation, and Implementation.

The three Congressional bills that she focused on were: the Infrastructure Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Chips and Science Act. Each one addresses several related problems, and each one does so through multiple approaches and parts.

But in addition to the complexity of the bills themselves, each one is subject to the varying procedures that Congress follows.

The Senate processes bills in one way; the Congress in quite another. And Segal revealed, the authorization of a bill by one chamber does not lead automatically to funding.

And so, while the passage of these three bills appears to be significant steps forward in dealing with several problems – climate change, inflation, foreign chip manufacture, and several domestic social problems – because their funding happens over time, and could be subject to changing political balances, there is no guarantee that the bills will not incur changes.

Currently the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) appears to have wide popular support, as it promises a number of benefits, including funding for clean energy, for electrification, building efficiency, affordable housing, and health care. But maybe most importantly, the IRA will help the country reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. (Climate advocates have voiced, however, the need for greater reductions.)

The Infrastructure Act should lead to investment in broadband access and to rural homes and businesses nationally. And these should benefit education, jobs, and healthcare, in rural and urban communities. Also needed is funding for bridges and road repair, which should reduce transportation costs and inflationary trends.

Finally, the Chips and Science Act will provide funding and manufacturing incentives to restore our semiconductor industry, including creating good-paying jobs and our local supply chain. This will strengthen our economic and national security, as currently the chips we now use are mostly from Asia. This Act should facilitate the modernizing of plants and the development of next-generation semiconductors.

President Joe Biden, his administration, and supporting Congress members have joined together to accomplish these significant, but necessary, steps. Segal’s presentation informed her audience of the complicated steps and connections required to bring this complex, but essential legislation into being.

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