Marshall Brain

Editor’s note: Marshall Brain – futurist, inventor, NCSU professor, writer and creator of “How Stuff Works” is a contributor to WRAL TechWire.  Brain takes a serious as well as entertaining look at a world of possibilities for Earth and the human race.  He’s also author of “The Doomsday Book: The Science Behind Humanity’s Greatest Threats.” Brain has written several posts recently about the threat of climate change. His exclusive columns written for TechWire are published on Fridays.



RALEIGH – You might have heard the news this week: The United States Senate has passed America’s first piece of significant climate change legislation. The House of Representatives is expected to pass it as well, and then the President is expected to sign it soon after.

Therefore, we could ask three big questions about this piece of legislation:

  1. What is the United States planning to do when it comes to climate change?
  2. How much is America planning to spend in an attempt to combat climate change?
  3. Will all this spending actually move the needle on climate change in any meaningful way, or is it too little too late?

What is in the Inflation Reduction Act?

For a piece of climate change legislation, it has a funny name. All of the climate change stuff we are going to discuss here is housed inside the “Inflation Reduction Act”. Part of this act intends to spend $369 billion on climate change, Specifically the act is going to “invest in domestic energy production and manufacturing, and reduce carbon emissions by roughly 40 percent by 2030,” according to the Senate summary.

How is the act going to accomplish these goals? It does it by creating and funding many new programs that try to attack climate change from many different angles. The actual text of the document is 730 pages long – plenty of room for lots of different programs. Let’s see what’s inside.

Even though the Inflation Reduction act is a massive document, some parts of it can be surprisingly easy to read. To give you an example, let’s take a look at the actual text in the act that talks about new electric Post Office delivery trucks. The act says:

“(1) $1,290,000,000, to remain available through September 30, 2031, for the purchase of zero-emission delivery vehicles.

(2) $1,710,000,000, to remain available through 25 September 30, 2031, for the purchase, design, and installation of the requisite infrastructure to support zero-emission delivery vehicles at facilities that the United States Postal Service owns or leases from non-Federal entities.”

And then in addition to that $3 billion total investment, there is:

“$15,000,000, to remain available through September 30, 2031, to support oversight of United States Postal Service activities implemented pursuant to this Act”

You can see that there is $1.29 billion in the bill to actually purchase new electric delivery trucks, and then $1.71 billion to install things like charging infrastructure for all these new trucks, and then $15 million for the people to manage all of this purchasing and installation. This video shows you what the new electric Post Office trucks will look like:

In other words, the climate change portion of the Inflation Reduction Act lays out an enormous amount of spending like this to try to help address climate change. Every post office truck that we convert to electric reduces the carbon dioxide emissions of the post office. And this is just one small part of the overall effort.

Stuff that helps normal consumers

There is a part of the act that basically hands out money to normal consumers like you and me in order to change our behaviors. The act is trying to encourage consumers to reduce the amount of gasoline and natural gas they burn. Therefore, we can find these incentives in the bill:

  • A $7,500 rebate when consumers purchase certain new electric cars
  • A $4,000 rebate when consumers purchase used electric cars
  • A $8,000 rebate when installing a heat pump
  • A $1,750 rebate for heat pump water heaters
  • A $840 rebate for heat pump clothes dryers
  • A $840 rebate for electric stoves
  • $1,600 for things like insulation and sealing
  • $600 for windows and skylights
  • $250 for exterior doors

As you might expect, “some restrictions apply”. This video talks about how, at this exact moment, there are not many electric cars on the market that qualify for the rebates:


But in the next few years there will be many new models of electric cars appearing in the marketplace. This will happen in part because this act contains $3 billion for advanced technology vehicle manufacturing and $2 billion in domestic manufacturing conversion grants to help car manufacturers produce more electric and hybrid electric vehicles.

Stuff that helps install new solar and wind power

It would be great if we could completely abandon the fossil fuels used to produce the nation’s electricity, mainly coal (18% of power plants) and natural gas (43% of power plants). This step would have a huge effect on the amount of carbon dioxide that the United States dumps into the atmosphere. Therefore, we need to be manufacturing and installing things like solar panels, wind generators and battery systems as fast as we can. Domestic production is a plus because right now China produces about 80% of the world’s solar panels.

Therefore, the act contains funding for programs like these:

  1. $30 billion to help produce things like solar panels and wind generators in the United States. Over 10 years, 500+ gigawatts of solar and wind power should be added to America’s grid. That’s roughly half of the grid’s current capacity, with the caveat that solar and wind are intermittent.
  2. $100 million to help transmit power from offshore wind farms.
  3. $9.7 billion for rural electric cooperatives to “achieve the greatest reduction in carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions associated with rural electric systems through the purchase of renewable energy, renewable energy systems, zero-emission systems, and carbon capture and storage systems.” Plus $100 million to manage this program.
  4. $25 million to cover water canals with solar panels. These projects both generate electricity and shade the canals to reduce evaporation.
  5. $5 billion for energy infrastructure reinvestment financing, along with a huge loan guarantee package, mainly to help improve the electric grid.
  6. $40 billion for the Department of Energy Loan Programs Office

Odds and Ends

Then there is some more esoteric stuff in the act, including:

  • $5.8 billion to help with advanced industrial facilities deployment, mainly to help factories install advanced equipment.
  • $300 million for sustainable aviation fuel projects.
  • $145 million to help Indian Tribes electrify homes with clean energy. $220 million for tribal climate resilience. $23.5 million for native Hawaiians. And more.
  • $500 million for sustainability and environmental programs.
  • $975 million for emerging and sustainable technologies.
  • $2 billion for low-carbon materials used in buildings.
  • $32 million for climate data collection
  • $250 million to help fish and wildlife in the era of climate change
  • $2.8 billion for climate justice grants
  • $100 million to label construction materials on their carbon impact
  • $700 million for mitigation of methane emissions from oil wells
  • $250 million for environmental product declarations
  • And so on, for hundreds of pages.

As you can see, the Inflation Reduction Act contains this incredible hodge podge of different programs and allocations to try to help with climate change.

To its credit, one interesting aspect of all these programs is that the act pays for them by raising taxes, mostly on corporations and wealthy people. This is not deficit spending – it is paid for.

Is this enough, or is it too little too late?

Is all of this climate change funding worthwhile? Of course it helps. Reducing the carbon dioxide emissions of the United States by 40% in a 2030 timeframe is a win.

But is it enough? No, it is nowhere close to enough. The fact is that the United States needs to reduce carbon emissions by 100% by 2030. And so does the entire world.

Think about everything that we have already seen unfold in 2022:

  • All of the heatwaves
  • All of the crop failures
  • All of the droughts
  • All of the rivers that have dried up
  • All of the flooding
  • All of the wildfires
  • The oncoming famine triggered by the crop failures + droughts

All of this is just a taste of what is coming in our future. This is the tip of the iceberg.

Now think about what will happen as a few more years go by. How bad will things be in 2030 because humanity is not acting fast enough or significantly enough?

I will make a prediction: by 2030, even if the United States does reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 40%, the world as a whole will still be breaking records for worldwide carbon dioxide emissions. And thus we will be living on a planet where things are much, much worse than they are in 2022. Let’s hope, for the sake of humanity and the rest of Earth’s biosphere, that I am wrong. Let’s hope that the human species can somehow join together and really tackle climate change in a serious way over the next few years so that we can completely eliminate fossil fuels and their resulting carbon dioxide emissions. The United States is taking one small, initial step with the Inflation Reduction Act. The world will need to 100X this effort to actually make a dent in the coming climate catastrophe.


  1. – Inflation Reduction Act One Page Summary
  2. – Summary of the Energy Security and Climate Change Investments in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022
  3. – Actual text of the Inflation Reduction Act
  4. – EVs that may qualify for the Inflation Reduction Act tax credit
  5. – USPS is going electric!
  7. – Climate and Equity Investments in the Jurisdiction of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) in the Inflation Reduction Act
  10. – Humanity has only a handful of decades to avoid a devastating ‘Hothouse Earth’
  11. – Arctic Methane. Has 2020 triggered a tipping point?
  12. – Climate change catastrophe: What does melting Permafrost mean for our planet? | 60 Minutes Australia
  18. – Millions in East Africa face famine triggered by drought
  19. – Kenya’s worst drought in decades creates humanitarian crisis
  20. – Italy’s drought-hit farmers face sea water threat
  21. – Italian authorities: ‘70% of crops are gone’ in Po River Delta