- The bottom line: The majority of the funding, totaling more than $300 billion, would provide tax incentives for expanding clean energy generation, electric vehicles, transmission lines and other infrastructure to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Significant additional provisions would bolster the nation’s resilience against damages caused by climate change and targets climate-friendly investments in clean energy technology development, manufacturing and the supply chain.
- What critics say: House Republicans are generally opposed to the Build Back Better Act, citing rising inflation and a litany of other more specific concerns. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), for instance, have criticized the proposal for a Civilian Climate Corps. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Mich.), the co-chair of the House Auto Caucus, has for years taken aim at electric vehicle tax credits as subsidies for the wealthy.
- Senate prognosis: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has continued to air concerns about aspects of the climate policy, including sizable tax credits for buying electric vehicles. Those credits, among other provisions, may be vulnerable.
Of course, Democrats didn’t get all they had hoped for. One of the top wish-list items left out was the Clean Energy Performance Program, which would reward power companies that increased their share of renewables by 4 percent a year and penalize those that didn’t.
Documents from the White House and analyses by independent experts suggest the legislation will reduce U.S. annual carbon dioxide emissions by about a gigaton, nearly a sixth of its current annual emissions. Here are more details on how it aims to do that.
Consumer incentives: The changes that people will likely notice most directly and immediately are the tax credits, rebates and other incentives aimed at encouraging companies and consumers to go green.
The credit on electric vehicles, for instance, would increase from the current maximum of $7,500 to $12,500 for cars that are manufactured in union-organized factories in the United States. Car buyers would get the rebates right at the time of sale, instead having to wait until they’ve filed their taxes. The tax break begins phasing out for individuals making over $250,000 a year and joint filers making over $500,000.
The proposal would also extend credits to include the purchase of certain used electric vehicles. It would also triple the credit available for two- to three-wheeled electric vehicles to 30 percent of the cost, with a $7,500 maximum, potentially a major boon for, say, electric motorcycle enthusiasts.
The House bill would extend the credits for installing solar panels, geothermal pumps, small wind turbines and other residential clean energy projects, covering up to 30 percent of the cost of the system. The White House estimates that it would cut the cost of installing rooftop solar by about 30 percent and shorten the payback period by roughly five years.
The proposal includes about $6 billion for “qualifying electrification projects” such as converting gas or fossil fuel-powered appliances to electric alternatives, or installing a heat pump system. Heat pumps, for instance, could qualify for rebates of between $1,250 and $4,000 depending on the type and efficiency of the system. There’s a maximum of $10,000, or half the project cost. Of that incentive pot, $3.8 billion is reserved for rebates "carried out in Tribal communities or for low- or moderate-income households.”
There’s roughly another $6 billion to support home energy efficiency retrofits. The money would go to state energy offices through the Energy Department. These rebates will depend on how much energy is saved during a retrofit and range from $2,000 to $4,000.
Climate Conservation Corps: A key aspect of the resilience measures in the Build Back Better proposal is funding for a new Civilian Climate Corps. Modeled in part after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s popular New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps, the climate program could hire hundreds of thousands young people to restore forests and wetlands and guard against the effects of rising global temperatures. While it may take time to launch the initiative, and only certain segments of the population will be eligible, it could ultimately be an attractive employment option for American youth.
Other resilience provisions include billions for wildfire and hazardous fuel reduction measures on National Forest System land. There’s also funding for “investing in coastal communities and climate resilience.”
Clean technology and manufacturing: The proposal would put money into a wide range of clean energy technology and manufacturing sectors. The Energy Department, for instance, would get $1 billion for researching renewable energy. There’s also billions of dollars available to help companies start, or convert to, manufacturing alternative fuel vehicles.
Fossil fuel revenue: This bill aims to raise more than $100 billion in revenue from fossil fuel companies. It does this by closing a tax loophole, reinstating a lapsed tax and a few other smaller measures, such as raising the royalty rate for new fossil fuel leases on public lands.
In its current form, the bill also includes a controversial fee on methane, designed to prod companies to curb leaks of the potent greenhouse gas. The House bill would phase in payments for methane emissions above a certain threshold, starting at $900 a ton in 2023 and ramping up to $1,500 a ton in 2025. But that portion of the bill, like so much of Biden’s agenda, hinges on winning the support of Manchin and several Texas Democrats, who has raised concerns about the fee.