Opinion | Tony Jones: Jumping on the Inflation Reduction Act bandwagon

The Inflation Reduction Act was enacted a year ago and represents our nation’s biggest-ever investment in clean energy infrastructure and climate change mitigation. Its $368 billion price tag and corresponding increase in the federal deficit is alarming, but even given that, I’m hopeful that this wide-ranging investment in America will help with the transition towards renewable energy and better management of the effects of climate change.

The act’s impact on inflation is debatable, and President Biden has admitted the bill wasn’t really about bringing inflation down. Instead, it’s a medley of Democratic wish list items that includes funding for promoting clean energy, combatting the effects of climate change, and even addressing drug pricing. While these might be seen as budgetary excess on the part of Democrats, ordinary citizens across the country, red and blue states alike, will benefit from the largesse in this law.

The Inflation Reduction Act was universally opposed by Republicans in Congress, none of whom voted to support the act. I guess they saw it as being too liberal since the terms “climate change” and “renewable energy” are associated with it, but truth be told, Republican congressional districts are benefiting more from the act than Democratic ones. This creates an interesting dynamic as Republican lawmakers spin their no votes on the act in the wake of the law bringing new business investment to their states. After all, how do you explain voting against a law that supports your state’s economic interests, especially when you’re from a political party that has traditionally stood for pro-business initiatives and espouses policies that stress jobs over pretty much anything else?

Take for instance, Rep. Lauren Boebert’ s recent tussle with President Biden over an Inflation Reduction Act investment that will benefit the town of Pueblo, part of Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. CS Wind, the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, is poised to become one of the biggest employers in Pueblo, a move made possible by the act, which will bring up to 850 jobs to that district by 2028.  Biden couldn’t help poking fun at the “quiet Republican lady” from Colorado’s Western Slope, pointing out that she’d previously been vehemently against the act but is welcoming it now.

Had Boebert and other Republicans taken off their partisan-colored glasses for a moment, they might have understood the economic potential of the Inflation Reduction Act for their constituents and supported it. Instead, she provides yet another example of Republican politicians jumping on the bandwagon after having not helped in giving that bandwagon the push it needed to get started moving. This also goes to show how far some in the party have gone in putting politics ahead of pragmatism. As the party continues its crusade against clean energy and climate change mitigation, it will likely find itself on the wrong side of history when it comes to this inevitable energy evolution.

Republicans should embrace clean energy efforts and the job growth they will bring for the sake of their constituencies, from both an environmental and economic perspective. By playing politics for, at best, scoring short-term political points with their base, they are ignoring opportunities to make inroads with moderates and maybe even some conservative Democratic voters. Rather, they appear intent only on making partisan gains and maximizing corporate profits (and hence political donations) for fossil fuel companies at the expense of the environment and the health of the citizenry.

Concerns with the impact of clean energy expansion on fossil fuel industries are understandable. But instead of standing in the way of the progression towards clean energy, Republicans could embrace it while insisting on legislation that helps to ease the transition. This legislation might be in the form of ensuring training options for workers impacted by the shift, or providing those industries regulatory off-ramps that would enable them to clean up existing operations while they invest their research and development dollars in renewable energy technologies. Republicans can also build on their reputation for reducing regulation by pushing for the streamlining of permitting for new clean energy infrastructure. This would be critical to America in reaching its ambitious climate policy goals. The rate at which permits are issued may be one of the biggest factors in whether we reach those goals in the timeline desired. Republicans can take political advantage of this by working to reduce permitting red tape to speed the conversion to a clean energy economy, all while remaining faithful to one of the core tenants of their party plank, deregulation.

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