News that Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia won’t consider funding for climate and energy programs in any reconciliation bill will not only have a devastating long-term impact on the planet, but also an immediate one on lower-income families (”Biden urges passing economic package,” Nation, July 15).
Inflation is hitting these families hard, as the cost of food, consumer goods, and other items eat into limited budgets. Electricity prices are rising especially fast; the average electric bill in New England is expected to increase 11 percent over summer 2021. Solar panels and batteries can reduce, or eliminate, electric costs, saving tens of thousands of dollars, increasing property values, and protecting against blackouts.
Even as the costs of these technologies have plummeted, rates of adoption among underserved homeowners have stayed low. The 26 percent Solar Investment Tax Credit doesn’t benefit families with no, or limited, tax liability. The Build Back Better Act would have made it refundable, so that all families, regardless of income, could afford clean energy. As the climate crisis drives extreme weather, geopolitical instability, and price volatility, it’s vitally important that underserved families have access to the green technologies that are the solution rather than leaving them out in the cold — or, increasingly, the heat — as Manchin has done.
Founder and CEO
Capital Good Fund
The public must lead on the climate crisis since government won’t
What with the US Supreme Court, Republicans, and Senator Joe Manchin, governmental action to rein in the climate disaster will not be forthcoming this season. Expecting government to lead on the environment, however, was always naïve. The public must learn to lead on this issue.
Hoping a government will lead is faulty on two levels. First, the business world expects its government to keep the economy growing, and that growth is still measured by the ever-increasing use of fossil fuels. Second, any governing bloc in a democracy must maintain approval of a majority of voters to stay in office. The energy crisis generated by the war in Ukraine has exposed how much pressure there is to protect industries and maintain the support of voters, both of which are still deeply dependent on fossil fuel consumption. Unsurprisingly, we see governments turning away from efforts to fight climate change at an alarming rate.
To reassure elected officials, the public must learn to lead on climate change. A public that takes steps toward an ecological way of life is one that evidently wants — and will vote for — a government committed to bring their efforts to scale.
If we each strove to cut our energy use in half, businesses would have to shift to other goods and services, and politicians would believe we wanted change.
We’re in a game of chicken now between election-focused politicians nervously eyeing the next election cycle and voters waiting for government to save our ecosystem without decreasing energy consumption or increasing costs. No wonder we keep spinning our wheels.