Opinion: 5 ways the Inflation Reduction Act will help American families

Editor’s Note: CNN Host Van Jones is a co-founder and a board member of Dream.Org, a national nonprofit organization working at the intersection of criminal justice reform, green economics and tech equity to create a better future. Jessie Buendia is the Green For All National Director at Dream.Org. The opinions expressed in this commentary are their own.

America needs a new approach to energy. Nothing has shown that as well as the record high gas prices and temperatures hitting families across the country this summer. To cope, some Americans are cutting back on their air conditioning use, while others are reconsidering driving long distances to see friends and family.

That is why we were excited to see the new Inflation Reduction Act that senators Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin recently announced. The proposed legislation will lead to lower energy costs for families, create more job opportunities and make health care more affordable.

This bill was never guaranteed to happen. The process started and ended multiple times, and some sticking points remain. But the crushing impact of high energy costs has made progress toward passing this bill imperative, which is why we are encouraging lawmakers to continue to seek common ground. Focusing on policies we know will create jobs, lower prices and drive investment will deliver real benefits to the country.

Here are five reasons working families need this legislation to pass:

Lower energy costs

The bill includes tax credits for consumers to buy energy-efficient appliances, switch to clean vehicles, install rooftop solar panels and improve their home’s efficiency — all of which add up to lower utility costs. Government research has shown that energy efficiency improvements alone can reduce energy costs by $670 per year for the average household. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, installing energy-efficient appliances can add up to $500 a year in savings on utility bills. And a significant portion of the funding for these programs goes directly to people in low-income households and underserved communities who need it most.

Neighborhood-level investments

It is well-documented that low-income Black and Brown communities are impacted the most by the negative effects of pollution and climate change. For instance, asthma rates are 36% higher among African Americans, as they are more likely to live in areas with greater air pollution and fewer trees. They also have lower incomes, leaving them more vulnerable to extreme weather events.

That’s why this bill drives $60 billion in investments to disadvantaged communities with grants and tax credits. They will go to community-led projects in areas disproportionately impacted by climate change. This includes $3 billion to improve air pollution at ports through the purchase and installation of new technologies that reduce emissions, creating cleaner air in the surrounding neighborhoods, and another $1 billion to make affordable housing more energy-efficient.

Cleaner air for industrial neighborhoods

Communities most impacted by pollution, like those near manufacturing and industrial waste sites, are especially vulnerable to high rates of asthma and other respiratory problems.

This bill uses grants and tax credits to incentivize manufacturers to switch to cleaner technologies and practices that will lead to a reduction in emissions, including almost $6 billion for a new Advanced Industrial Facilities Deployment Program, which specifically targets the largest industrial emitters, like chemical, steel and cement plants.

Greener transportation

Hybrid and electric vehicles reduce emissions and help families keep more money in their pocket by reducing or eliminating the need for oil changes and visits to the pump. But that doesn’t help if you can’t afford the car.

To help more working families cut down on transportation costs, this legislation provides a $4,000 tax credit specifically for lower- and middle-income individuals to buy a used clean vehicle — and up to $7,500 in tax credits to get a new one off the lot. And there’s also $1 billion for communities to invest in clean versions of heavy-duty vehicles like buses and garbage trucks. Even better, with up to $20 billion earmarked for building clean vehicle manufacturing facilities, this bill will create new, high-paying jobs that help even more working families.

A green economy isn’t just a solution to climate change — it’s a solution to the underinvestment that has been holding many communities back. Smart investments in new technologies also bring new jobs and opportunities, and we want to see those jobs in the communities that need them most.

More business and job opportunities

That’s precisely what this bill will do by including $27 billion for a clean energy technology accelerator to turn new ideas into thriving businesses with a focus on disadvantaged communities. Bringing our economy into a green future means including everyone and providing an opportunity to make sure Black and Brown entrepreneurs and job seekers benefit.

The Senate still has to debate and pass this bill, and then it needs to make its way through the House of Representatives. If it does, we could see the single greatest investment in climate change and underserved communities than we have in years. Let’s hope Congress makes the right choice.

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