Sign In or Create an Account.

By continuing, you agree to the Terms of Service and acknowledge our Privacy Policy

Politics

Why Biden Talked Up the IRA Without Saying Its Name

A curious absence at the State of the Union.

President Biden.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Would the IRA by any other name be as sweet to voters?

It’s a valid question. President Biden’s final State of the Union address before the November election represented as good a chance as any for him to make his pitch to the American people — and he did so without ever saying the name of his most significant piece of legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act.

That might seem like a curious, or even downright disastrous, choice to make regarding a law that has struggled with branding. Though the actual contents of the law are popular with voters, some 63% of Americans say they’ve heard “not much” or “nothing” about the IRA, according to a 2023 Heatmap poll. And while the “Inflation Reduction Act” is only a little more descriptive than “H.R.5376,” the law has been called “misnamed” and “silly” from the start, in large part because it obscures all trace that it is, in actuality, the biggest climate law in U.S. history.

On Thursday night, Biden appeared to lean into that confusion rather than fight it. Or, perhaps more accurately, he seemed to double down on the avoidance inherent in the law’s very name. Far from giving up on touting the IRA’s accomplishments, Biden repeatedly boasted about “clean energy, advanced manufacturing,” and creating “tens of thousands of jobs here in America.” He further referred to a Stellantis plant in Belvidere, Illinois, that reopened partly due to a federal grant made possible by the IRA.

Meanwhile, other laws got shout-outs. He cited the CHIPS and Science Act — which rivals the Inflation Reduction Act for dryness. He credited the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for “46,000 new projects … across your communities.”

It was also notable that the economic upsides of the IRA were largely separated from Biden’s brief mention of “confronting the climate crisis” in the second half of his speech. Just as he’d paid rote attention to childhood literacy initiatives and veteran healthcare, Biden reiterated his established goals like “cutting our carbon emissions in half by 2030,” “building and installing 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations,” and “conserving 30% of American lands and waters by 2030.” Absent were mentions of consumer incentives, like the IRA making heat pumps, solar panels, and EVs more accessible. Tellingly, his lone new climate announcement pertained to a rather minor piece in his more extensive agenda: Biden promised to triple the Climate Corps of young people working in clean energy “in a decade.”

This divorce of climate change from the economy in the speech is, in actuality, a little like what the name “Inflation Reduction Act” is functionally doing, too. The Biden administration has consistently moved its climate goals forward by not calling attention to the fact that they are climate goals. After all, any Republicans who voted against something called the “Inflation Reduction Act” could be hammered for being — what, pro-inflation?! At the same time, using the State of the Union to draw attention to specific economic accomplishments that just so happen to be in the clean energy space allows Biden to go toe-to-toe with Donald Trump on the economy — an issue voters are more concerned about this election cycle than the climate — without letting such a talking point be dismissed as green liberal woo-woo.

Biden can’t avoid talking about climate directly, of course. It’s an issue that is important to young voters, and some progressives worry he’s losing their support over his approval of the Willow oil drilling project. No wonder, then, that the most prominent part of the State of the Union’s climate section centered on a program explicitly designed to create jobs for 18- to 35-year-olds.

This isn’t a matter of cynicism — it’s messaging. Admittedly, that is a bit ironic, given that the long-standing criticism of the IRA is that no one knows what it is. Still, Biden is embracing the very spirit of the name of the Inflation Reduction Act by never saying the words.

Blue

Jeva Lange

Jeva is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Her writing has also appeared in The Week, where she formerly served as executive editor and culture critic, as well as in The New York Daily News, Vice, and Gothamist, among others. Jeva lives in New York City. Read More

Read More
Politics

Are Pollsters Getting Climate Change Wrong?

Why climate might be a more powerful election issue than it seems.

A pollster on an ice floe.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Climate change either is or isn’t the biggest issue of our time. It all depends on who you ask — and, especially, how.

In March, as it has since 1939, Gallup asked Americans what they thought was the most important problem facing the country. Just 2% of respondents said “environment/pollution/climate change” — fewer than those who said “poor leadership” or “unifying the country” (although more than those who said “the media.”) Pew, meanwhile, asked Americans in January what the top priority for the president and Congress ought to be for this year, and “dealing with climate change” ranked third-to-last out of 20 issues — well behind “defending against terrorism,” “reducing availability of illegal drugs,” and “improving the way the political system works.”

Keep reading...Show less
Blue
Politics

AM Briefing: Earth Day Edition

On expanding solar access, the American Climate Corps, and union news

Biden’s Big Earth Day Agenda
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Torrential rains forced Mauritius to shut down its stock exchange • “Once in a century” flooding hit southern China • In the Northern Hemisphere, the Lyrid meteor shower peaks tonight.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Biden kicks off Earth Day with $7 billion for expanding solar access

Today is Earth Day, but President Biden and his cabinet are celebrating all week long. Senior members of the administration have scheduled a national tour of events and announcements related to the president’s climate and environmental record. It starts with Biden’s visit to Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia, today, where he will announce $7 billion is being awarded to 60 state and local governments, tribes, and national and regional nonprofits through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Solar for All initiative, which aims to support solar in low- to moderate-income communities. The average grant size will be more than $80 million, and the funding will be used to design new programs and bolster existing ones that subsidize the cost of rooftop solar installations, community solar projects, and battery storage.

Keep reading...Show less
Yellow
Sparks

Biden’s $7 Billion Solar Bonanza

The Solar For All program is the final piece of the $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

Solar panel installation.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

The great promise of solar panels — in addition to their being carbon-free — is the democratization of energy. Anyone can produce their own power, typically for less than the going utility rate. The problem is that those who stand to benefit the most from this opportunity haven’t been able to access it.

That pattern could change, however, with Solar for All, a $7 billion program under the Environmental Protection Agency to support solar in low- to moderate-income communities. On Monday, the Biden administration announced it was awarding the funds to 60 state and local governments, tribes, and national and regional nonprofits, at an average grant size of more than $80 million.

Keep reading...Show less
Green