How to Get Government Aid to Ditch Fossil Fuels
Americans can get tax credits to go electric, but only if they have cash upfront. Other countries have programs, too.
Ready for the climate version of HGTV?
At the moment, you can start making plans for climate-friendly home makeovers, with some help from your tax dollars. That’s one of the goals of the $370 billion Inflation Reduction Act. It offers oodles of money to get rid of fossil fuels from your everyday life, by electrifying your home and making it more energy efficient. There’s also money to help you upgrade your wheels to electric. (Is there a TV channel for that?)
📌 Here’s a guide to help you figure it out, made by my colleagues Nadja Popovich and Elena Shao.
As with many government programs, it’s especially lucrative if you have upfront money to spend. And if you own a home. And if you live in a suburb or city neighborhood with single-family homes. I live in a cooperative apartment building in New York City. It’s unclear to me if I can get much at all, though the building could as a whole if we invest in solar panels or a heat pump.
I must tell you I feel a bit of whiplash writing this today. Even as the White House is taking credit for the I.R.A., designed to wean Americans from polluting fossil fuels, it is also promoting new oil and gas drilling on U.S. lands and waters. This week, as my colleague Lisa Friedman wrote, the Biden administration approved a giant oil drilling project in Alaska, though in a scaled-back version of what the Trump administration had approved and that a federal court had blocked. Also, the United States is the world’s biggest exporter of natural gas.
(If you live in the European Union, each country has a different policy for whether and how to electrify your home. Here’s guidance from the Netherlands. If you’re in Britain, there is a guide on replacing your gas boiler with help from the government; other renewable energy subsidies are listed here.)
For readers in the United States, here’s the news you can use about the I.R.A.
💰 How do you cash in?
For those of you who own a single-family home, if you can fork out the money to buy a new heat pump or an energy efficient refrigerator right now, you can be rewarded with tax credits down the road. They also cover things like solar panels, heat pumps, stand-alone batteries and energy efficient windows.
If you don’t have that kind of money, be prepared to wait. Rebates for big-ticket items, including upfront discounts at the point of sale, don’t kick in until later this year. They’re going to be administered by state energy departments and tribal governments.
The tax credits are linked to your tax bill, so if you don’t owe the federal government any money, you won’t get anything back, either.
And yes, you can cash in if you replace your gas stove with an electric one. Except if you’re in New York City, it is hard, as this article in New York magazine explained. And eye-poppingly expensive.
💸 Where should you start?
You’d do yourself a favor by first getting an energy audit. There’s a tax credit of up to $150 for that.
That way, you have a better picture of how much energy you’re losing and from where, and what makes sense to fix. I can tell you, as I write this in my New York City apartment, bundled in a shawl on a very cold February morning, I’m losing a lot of heat from my drafty windows. If I had thousands of dollars to spend, believe me, I would get these old geezers replaced immediately.
In general, it’s better to insulate your home before investing in a new heat pump or air-conditioner. Have a look at this guide, by the advocacy group Rewiring America, for more details.
🚗 And wheels?
If you need a car, the law could help reduce the price of an electric vehicle. Depending on your income, you could be eligible to claim up to $7,500 in tax credits if you buy a new electric vehicle, and slightly less for used electric cars, as Nadja and Elena explain more thoroughly in the guide. New cars that cost up to $55,000 and trucks and S.U.V.s that cost up to $80,000 are eligible. (The electric Hummer in which President Biden recently posed is above that price limit and does not qualify.)
Too bad, city people without a car (🙋🏾♀️ me): Electric bikes aren’t eligible for tax credits. And no, there are no rebates for riding public transit.
🇺🇸 Do cars have to be made in America?
Yes. This is an America First industrial policy.
To be eligible for the rebates, new cars must be assembled in North America, and carmakers must ensure that battery components, including the critical minerals that go into them, come from North America or a U.S. ally.
There are also tax credits for companies to build new solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and hydrogen plants in the United States. There is a domestic political reason: Some of those investments are going to Republican-led states, where they could create new jobs. And there’s a geopolitical reason: The made-in-America provisions are designed to punish China, which is the world’s largest manufacturer of renewable energy equipment and also electric cars and buses. But it’s also sparked a trade feud with the European Union, a key U.S. ally.
The White House says additional details about the various programs will come out in March. So you can start making plans now, and stay tuned for more.
Essential news from The Times
A floating recycling headache: No government wants to let this decommissioned Brazilian aircraft carrier dock to be dismantled. So officials plan to sink it, toxic materials and all.
Sitting on strategic metals: A rare earths mine would force major change in a Nebraska community, but locals say digging metals crucial for defense and the green economy is a patriotic duty.
Drilling in Alaska: The Biden administration cleared the way for the oil project known as Willow. If it gets final approval, it would produce about 600 million barrels over 30 years.
Party over? Oil majors Exxon and Chevron made a killing last year. But fuel prices are down and the outlook for the industry is cloudy.
For the birds: Every year, hundreds of millions of birds die in the United States from flying into glass. But affixing window stickers correctly could prevent crashes.
They outlasted the dinosaurs: Few plants and animals have survived more geological upheaval than sturgeon. But can they survive us?
Bug hunting while Black: Someone called the police after watching Bobbi Wilson, 9, trying to catch invasive lanternflies. Bobbi’s efforts were later honored by Yale University.
From outside The Times
The United States is about to become the global leader in exports of liquefied natural gas. Canary Media looked at what that means for the climate.
Eating certain fish could have an environmental impact up there with eating beef. These graphics from the Washington Post explained why.
KCAL News reported that Los Angeles is requiring residents to compost food scraps.
From E&E News: A farm bill that sets agriculture policy for the United States is expected to be the most important climate legislation out of Congress this year.
The New Yorker interviewed members of a tribal nation that is a sustainability leader in the Colorado River Basin.
A yellow fever epidemic has killed a third of all golden lion tamarin monkeys. The Associated Press talked to scientists rushing to vaccinate them.
Before you go: The godmother of southern seeds
The Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in Virginia has looked after regionally and culturally important seeds for some 40 years. And for about a quarter of a century, Ira Wallace, 74, has played a key role at the company. She has nurtured seeds of traditional southern vegetables, gardens and even other seed companies. According to one woman she has mentored, “When you say her name in our community, all this love comes up.”
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Manuela Andreoni, Claire O’Neill and Douglas Alteen contributed to Climate Forward. Read past editions of the newsletter here.
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