Press Briefing: The US Green Transition and the 2024 Elections

Two experts discussed the rollout of the Inflation Reduction Act and its impact on the 2024 elections.

Past event: April 25, 2024

Explore the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the US government’s biggest climate effort ever, as it nears its second year since enactment. In this webinar, panelists discussed how to cover the infusion of billions of investment dollars; the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs that could influence national, state, and local elections come November; and Project 2025 as a local story.

All CCNow Talking Shops and press briefings are for journalists only, and are recorded and published on our YouTube channel.


  • Lori Lodes, Executive Director, Climate Power
  • Scott Waldman, White House & Climate Policy Reporter, Politico’s E&E News

CCNow’s Executive Director, Mark Hertsgaard, moderated.

Key Quotes

“Doing better coverage of the IRA and the green transition does not mean cheerleading for them or sugarcoating the facts. It means doing what a free press in a democracy is supposed to do, which is to inform the public accurately and fairly so the public can cast informed ballots.” – Mark Hertsgaard

“One of the things that we need more of when it comes to the Inflation Reduction Act and reporting is just local journalists and state-level journalists digging into this about what it means for [the local economy and jobs].” – Scott Waldman 

“[Project 25 is] nothing short of Big Oil’s wishlist tied up in a bow, right? It is the blueprint and a preview of what Trump would do [if elected in November].” – Lori Lodes

Nine Takeaways

  1. Most Americans know little about the Inflation Reduction Act, a transformative climate bill with major local implications. According to Lodes, the IRA has created 271,000 jobs in 47 states and Puerto Rico.
  2. Local journalism is critical for understanding the impacts of the IRA on local communities. Explore where IRA funding is going to find story ideas. Climate Power, a nonprofit partisan organization, tracks IRA-linked projects throughout the US.
  3. New manufacturing plants, for example to produce batteries, are being set up nationwide, with many located in Republican-leaning states whose representatives voted against the IRA. As new jobs and other economic opportunities take hold, find out how these developments influence public opinion about the IRA.
  4. Don’t ask politicians if they believe in climate change. That suggests that climate science is debatable; it’s not.
  5. Ask candidates about their stance on the Inflation Reduction Act and the green transition. Are they working to support or hinder local clean energy projects? What are their climate and clean energy plans? If a candidate doesn’t have a climate policy, ask them why not.
  6. Conservative politicians are under increasing pressure to address climate change, especially from younger people. Waldman has spoken to conservative figures like US representative Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who said there are too many climate deniers in the Republican Party, and Charlie Kirk, a right-wing political activist, who calls for more climate policy among conservative politicians.
  7. If editors express doubt about covering climate stories, present them with objective climate data sourced from reputable sources such as NOAA and NASA.
  8. Dig into Project 2025, a document produced by the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation that is seen as a blueprint for Donald Trump, a climate denier, if he is re-elected US president. Project 2025 recommends rolling back the IRA and other climate and environment policies, raising concerns about the future of US climate action.
  9. Produce less horse-race coverage, which doesn’t interest audiences, and instead follow New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen’s advice to focus on the stakes, not the odds. Ensure that climate change is part of those stakes.


Climate Power’s Airtable tracks clean energy projects since the IRA was passed.

The State of the Clean Energy Boom” by Climate Power gives an overview of new clean energy projects since the IRA.

Covering Climate Now: “What Voters Need to Know About Project 2025” and our election guide, “Reporting on Climate and the US 2024 Elections

Sign up for CCNow’s newsletters, “Climate Beat” and “Climate on the Ballot.”

IRA One-Year Review,” a report produced by the non-partisan group E2, summarizes jobs and other IRA statistics.

Will Trump quit the World Bank? It would send climate shock waves,” co-bylined by Scott Waldman and Sara Schonhardt for Politico E&E News, explores part of Project 2025.


Mark Hertsgaard: Hello everyone, and welcome to another Covering Climate Now Talking Shop. I’m Mark Hertsgaard. I’m the executive director and co founder of Covering Climate Now and also the environment correspondent for The Nation Magazine. Our subject today, the US green transition and the 2024 elections.

For those who may not know, Covering Climate Now is a global collaboration of 500 plus news outlets reaching a total audience, pardon me, of billions of people around the world. We’re organized by journalists for journalists to help all of us do more and better coverage of the defining story of our time. It costs nothing to join Covering Climate Now, and there’s no editorial line except respect for climate science. You can go to our website,, where you’ll find a list of our partners, you can sign up for our two weekly newsletters, Climate Beat and Climate on the Ballot. You can check out our many other reporting resources. You can join our Slack channel and you can apply to join Covering Climate Now.

As I said, today we’re discussing the US green transition, how the Inflation Reduction Act is influencing that transition and how the many billions of federal dollars that are being spent might affect the 2024 elections at the national, but also the state and local levels.

The science has been clear for a long time, humanity must rapidly phase out oil, gas, and coal if we’re to prevent catastrophic and probably irreversible overheating of the Earth. That makes this year’s elections, and by the way, not only in the United States, de facto climate elections. Half of the world’s population is eligible to vote in elections this year. The governments they elect will be in power over the next four to six years. That is the critical period when according to science, the burning of fossil fuels must begin falling sharply if we’re to preserve a livable planet for our children.

Nowhere, I would argue, are the 2024 elections more consequential than in the United States, which is not only the world’s biggest economy, it’s also the biggest cumulative carbon emitter. And remember, it’s cumulative, not annual emissions, that drive global warming. What the US does and does not do on climate has enormous influence on what governments, corporations, and financial institutions all around the world themselves do.

The Inflation Reduction Act is the biggest investment in climate action ever undertaken in the United States. It’s the Biden administration’s chief instrument for limiting emissions, but it’s also aimed at spurring job growth and private investment. Nearly two years after becoming law in August 2022, the IRA is having an undeniable impact on local economies, especially in the South and the Midwest. And in the context of this year’s elections, it’s interesting to note that roughly 60% of the new jobs and investments of the IRA have taken place in red districts. You may recall that Republicans in Congress uniformly voted against the IRA, although I’ve noticed that that hasn’t stopped them from showing up at the ribbon cuttings in their districts.

But we journalists have made our own missteps on the Inflation Reduction Act, mainly by simply not covering it very much. Surveys indicate that a staggering 70%, 7-0, of the American public knows little or nothing about the IRA, despite the fact that the IRA is at the heart of the federal government’s efforts to slow climate change, not to mention a massive expenditure of taxpayer dollars. So as voters prepare for November’s elections, they deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent, and whether the IRA is really advancing decarbonization as it’s designed to do.

Today’s webinar is aimed at helping journalists remedy these shortcomings. I want to be clear here, doing better coverage of the IRA and the green transition does not mean cheerleading for them or sugarcoating the facts. It means doing what a free press in a democracy is supposed to do, which is to inform the public accurately and fairly so the public can cast informed ballots. And also, our job is to hold public officials and private interests to account, especially concerning how the public’s money is being spent.

I’m happy to say that we have two excellent panelists to guide us through this challenge today. Let me introduce them in turn. First, Lori Lodes. She’s the executive director and the co-founder of Climate Power. That’s a strategic communications operation, NGO if you will, that has been tracking the job creation and business investment sparked by the Inflation Reduction Act. Previously, she worked in the Obama administration helping to implement the Affordable Care Act.

And Scott Waldman. Scott covers the White House as well as climate change and energy policy for Politico’s E&E News. Previously, he worked at Politico New York and the Baltimore Sun among others. And his work has appeared in Scientific American and Science. I invite you all to please join me in giving a warm virtual welcome to our panelists.

And before we get started with questioning them, a couple more housekeeping notes. As usual, I’ll spend the first half hour posing questions to them. They can talk among themselves as well. The last half hour, your questions. Some of you have already submitted questions, but you’re also welcome to drop new ones into the Q&A function at the bottom of the zoom screen there. We’ll get to as many of them as we can.

One very important note that I’m going to urge everyone here to respect that these questions are only for working journalists, only working journalists invited to ask questions in these sessions. Thanks to everyone in advance for respecting that.

Okay, let’s get going. So Scott, let me start with you. You have a lot of experience covering energy news and political news, both locally and nationally. So in an election year that’s crucial for humanity’s climate future, how should we as journalists be thinking about the green transition and more specifically the Inflation Reduction Act? What are the angles that we should be exploring in our coverage? What are the stories that we should be telling that we have not been telling so far?

Scott Waldman: Well, like you said, most of the public hasn’t heard about this. I think it’s a pretty transformative bill, in fact, the most transformative bill we’ve ever seen out of a presidential administration. So that means there’s a lot of pieces of it, a lot of smaller pieces that may not be part of the top line stories that a lot of reporters are doing, particularly those of us here in Washington. I’ll speak to the local reporters now, but how is it affecting your district? How are the politicians in your coverage area reacting to it? Are they against it? Are they for it? Why? There’s some nuance there to report as well. In terms of the jobs, a lot of jobs, as you mentioned, are being created in red states. What does that mean in terms of how public opinion may be shifting?

And just looking at this election generally, I mean, I see every election as a climate election, like you said, this may be more than most. But I think one of the things that we need more of when it comes to Inflation Reduction Act and reporting is just local journalists and state-level journalists digging into this about what it means for them. And if it doesn’t seem obvious to you at first, just familiarize yourself with where the money is already starting to flow and how your local politicians are reacting. And I think you’ll start finding stories before you know it, and there’s plenty to do on the local level.

Mark Hertsgaard: So give us an example. I’m going to turn to Lori in a minute. But just give us an example of a kind of story that maybe you saw that could have been bigger, could have had more reporters on it, and how we might rectify that going forward.

Scott Waldman: Well, let’s just look at some of these battery plants and other pieces of the early rollout that are already getting funding. I know in Michigan there’s a battery plant that was sort of in a political tug of war in the EV battle between conservatives and Democrats in Washington. But one thing I didn’t see there is a lot of local reporting on it, even from national outlets coming in and talking to local people about it. I talked to a democratic politician, just sort of lower level, in Michigan and he said a lot of the people around this plant aren’t thrilled about it. You’d think they would be because this is a lot of jobs coming into their district, but they’re feeling like they’re going to be excluded from that. They’re feeling like, oh, it’s going to import people into our district that have these white collar type jobs and not local manufacturing. I don’t know that that’s totally right. But that’s a story right there that I’d love to see journalists jump into.

And that’s across the country. There’s all kinds of new plants coming online in Georgia, in Texas, Tennessee. All of that stuff needs more reporting on what it means for the local economy, who are the people getting jobs there? And I haven’t really seen any of that granular level detail on this that’s essential to understanding the Inflation Reduction Act. Not to mention introducing the concept to your readers in a story where they may not be interested in the IRA just on its face, but once they see, oh, this actually directly led to this project in my district, they might look at it differently and want to learn a little bit more about it.

Mark Hertsgaard: That’s so interesting. And it underscores the point I made earlier that covering the IRA and the green transition, it’s not about cheerleading. It’s a nuanced story. And as journalists, that’s our job. And at Covering Climate Now, another thing you said, Scott, we always say that the best climate coverage does three things. It humanizes the climate story by talking about real people. It localizes the story by telling the story in a context that your audience, whether they’re listening or watching or reading, can understand. And then third, it solutionizes the story, it talks about how to fix it. And of course, that’s what the IRA is all about.

Let me go now to Lori with a question. Lori, your nonprofit, Climate Power, has been documenting the economic outlays and impacts of the IRA, as I mentioned earlier. You’ve got a very nifty database, if I may say so, that lists all of the factories and other facilities that IRA funding has helped bring into being along with the amount of additional private investment that’s been leveraged and the number of jobs being created. So I urge all of my colleagues as journalists, you will find a lot of story ideas right there.

For transparency’s sake, I should say here that Climate Power is a partisan organization. You actively favor Joe Biden’s reelection. Given that, can you please take us through your database on the IRA and explain that database? And also, with all due respect, why should journalists trust the accuracy and fairness of a database that’s put together by a group that does favor Biden’s reelection?

Lori Lodes: I would say a little bit differently. Yes, we are partisan. We are partisan for climate. And so we are partisan for climate champions. And right now, Joe Biden has done more than any president in US history. Some would argue, some including myself, that the Inflation Reduction Act is not only the largest investment ever made in US history, but actually world history to take on climate. And so we produce quarterly reports. I think that the chat’s not working or otherwise I would post it in the chat: Clean Energy Boom Reports, that details all of the jobs that are being created by private corporations that are really focused… It looks like the chat is back. Nope, we’re getting emails. Sorry, I’m looking at the chat to see.

Mark Hertsgaard: Let me just interrupt briefly and say we’re trying to fix the chat. Don’t give up on the chat, folks. Carry on. Lori.

Lori Lodes: Oh, great. Eden just posted the document. So, it details all of the jobs. So for instance, we put it out just a couple of months ago, and since the Inflation Reduction Act passed in August of 2022, 271,000 plus jobs have been created in 47 states and Puerto Rico. So it details where all of these jobs are and what sectors they’re in.

And I want to go to Scott, one of the questions that Mark asked you in talking about the types of stories we want to tell, and you talked about in Michigan, the battery plant. There’s also a battery plant in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania. And this is the example that I think crystallizes not only the power of the Inflation Reduction Act, but also what journalists could be covering because this is a story that has not really been covered very much. Eos is a battery company, they’re located in Turtle Creek. Turtle Creek was home to Westinghouse, the big steel magnet for decades. They left 30 years ago. And when Westinghouse Steel shut down, Turtle Creek shut down with it. The high school closed. Main street was boarded up. The community was not able to stay in the community and to find jobs there.

And since Eos reestablished Turtle Creek… Not only did they come into Turtle Creek, they came into the Westinghouse Steel plant. And since they’ve come in and because of what the Inflation Reduction Act has done by creating that certainty, they cannot hire enough people. And basically the CEO, Joe, likes to say is if somebody comes in and they want a job, we’ve got a job for them. And they are hiring over 1,000 people. And that is not just about those jobs, and this is what Scott was getting to, it’s not just about those jobs, it’s that multiplier effect. What does that mean for the community? What does it mean for the economic investment? The mayor is like a three generation Turtle Creeker or whatever that might be. And he talks about how it has just brought the community back, where they have this economic future in front of them and that everybody can get to work.

And it’s not just there, it’s the mom and pop shops, it’s the diners that are able to come back because people, not only are they going to work, but they’re spending money in their communities again. So, Mark, why us? We care about the facts. We put out all of the data so you can look at it. We are not just putting out numbers.

Eden is our national press secretary and doing a great job in the chat of putting in these links. There’s an air table that is public that tracks every single one of these announcements that are made and shows you the details. And so every one of those announcements, and there’s hundreds of them, is a story waiting to happen.

And this is in zip codes all across the country. It’s not just in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and Arizona. Every single state has a story to tell.

Mark Hertsgaard: Thanks, Lori. And, of course, every state may have that story to tell, but as journalists, can’t help noticing that three of the states you just mentioned are swing states, considered swing states in November, which of course, is going to be, I say to my colleagues, that’s an easier story to sell to your editors, frankly, which is not to say you should not do those stories in so-called safe states. These are still important stories to do.

Lori, I’m going to ask you a follow-up question here in a second. But I first want to say to everybody our Q and A, as Lori mentioned, our Q and A function and to some extent the chat function is not working quite right yet. So please email your questions instead. And let me give you the email address.

You’re going to send them to Karin, but it’s K-A-R-I-N Send your questions there and she’ll forward them to me. So that’s K-A-R-I-N One very quick follow-up, Lori. Your data, correct me if I’m wrong, I believe is all based on federal … it’s federal data that you are essentially just pulling together in a frankly comprehensible form, right?

Lori Lodes: So what it is, it is, the methodology is basically we are tracking every single public announcement. So we are scouring corporations’ websites, press releases, announcements in local press and digging through and working closely. There are a lot of organizations out there like the CEIA, so the Solar Energy Industry Association and others who, America Clean Power who have companies that they work with.

And so it’s sort of this group effort to find these stories and it’s one of the reasons why we work with a lot of companies and we are always urging them, put your data out publicly because we don’t capture anything that there is not a public link that you can go to.

Mark Hertsgaard: That’s very reassuring. So it’s a combination, folks of federal data and frankly, public records and announcements. So now back to Scott, please. One concern that we at Covering Climate Now have heard from some of our fellow journalists is that including climate and making climate change central to 2024 campaign coverage can make the journalist and his or her news outlet look like they’re biased or even activist. Is that something that you’ve encountered yourself at Politico and E&E? And if so, what advice do you have for how journalists can navigate that newsroom challenge?

Scott Waldman: I think any good journalism is obviously rooted in facts. And when it comes to what’s happening with climate change, the science is quite clear. So if a politician wants to ignore that or highlight some cherry-picked statistics from a group that has been funded by organizations that are out there opposing regulations or the fossil fuel industry or anything like that, you don’t give the two descriptions of climate science the truth.

So all of our reporting is based in science. And that’s not to say you can’t challenge climate science and some of what comes out. If anything, one of my frustrations as a reporter is that I see too many outlets falling for the clickbait type of climate coverage, which is where you might see a study saying that coffee, for instance, is going to go away in the future because of climate change.

I think that those kinds of stories, and it’s important to cover studies themselves, we do it every day and it’s essential to reporting, but don’t fall for simple narratives that might lend themselves to a click on your article. Look at the substance here. And I think in terms of politicians that are ignoring climate change, there is more pressure on those who are ignoring it from even the younger generations now.

And I think that the time is increasingly limited where you can just be an outright climate denier. I think that the polling shows that across all political parties, independents, republicans, democrats, there is especially among young voters concern about climate change and what the US is doing about it that their elders didn’t have.

I’ve gone to some of the most conservative places on earth, the CPAC Convention here in DC every year and talk to young conservatives about it and you’d be surprised how many are concerned about it. Matt Gaetz, firebrand conservative politician, has told me there’s too many climate deniers in the Republican Party.

Charlie Kirk, another popular voice on the right, has also told me that he would like to see more climate policy coming from conservative politicians. So some of the conversations you may have with your local politicians may surprise you, and frankly, I’d like to see some more of that political coverage. Treating this as a political story in this election season is essential.

Mark Hertsgaard: I couldn’t agree with you more on that, but let me repeat my question because it wasn’t so much about politicians, but rather editors, what do you do to our colleagues who are on this call, we’re journalists here, what do you do when your editor says, huh, covering that, are you carrying water for Biden? What’s the answer to that?

Scott Waldman: Well, Lori laid out, I mean, you can cover the Inflation Reduction Act purely through economic terms. If your district, if your state, wherever you cover, your city is getting a bunch of jobs, you talk with your editor about, hey, this is an economic story. That’s not to say that everything has gone right here and Biden deserves XYZ credit.

It’s just, let me look at this from a purely economic level. When it comes to climate policy itself, some may try to politicize that policy itself, but there’s a whole undergirding of science. If you have an editor that’s questioning whether or not it’s a story that you live in one of the fastest, you’re in Reno, Nevada, one of the fastest warming communities in the country from climate change, you have a mountain of data to show them from objective sources including NOAA, NASA, those kinds of things.

So there’s always going to be politicians trying to claim that’s wrong and there’s a whole industry out there to sort of attack climate science. But as a journalist, you have to weigh, if you’ve got a skeptical editor say, hey, this is what the best science agencies in the world say. And here’s what a think tank funded by the fossil fuel industry thinks. I don’t know that we, or not I don’t know, we definitely don’t give those equal weight because one is sort of geared towards determining what’s true and another’s geared towards a political partisan truth, in quotes.

Mark Hertsgaard: Scott Waldman, he’s with Politico and E&E News, and he has just given me the perfect segue to my next question to Lori Lodes who’s with Climate Power, the NGO Climate Power. We’re talking about fossil fuel funded outfits. Lori, just like you at Climate Power, are working to elect climate champions, as you put it.

People who disagree with you on this issue are working to elect people who will turn back the clock on climate action. Recently, there has been a very important report that if my colleagues are not aware of it yet, you must become aware of this, it’s called Project 2025.

And it was put out by the Heritage Foundation, which is a venerable right-wing institute in Washington DC that since the Reagan era has been putting out these kinds of blueprints for what an incoming Republican administration can do to change policy all the way to suggesting laws that can be changed all the way down to fire that person, hire this person, et cetera, et cetera.

And by the way, across the whole range of government activity, this is not just about climate change or the environment. So Lori, could you talk a little bit about Project 2025, summarize in particular though, let’s narrow it just to the climate elements, which I gather you find quite alarming?

Lori Lodes: I mean it is really nothing short of big oil’s wish list tied up in a bow, right? It is the blueprint and a purview or a preview of what Trump would do. And it’s what Scott had said about that, and I completely agree with what Scott said, the science, the reality, the extreme and severity of the reality that we are all going to be facing makes it impossible for Republicans to continue denying that climate change is not only real, but we have to take action.

And yet president, former President Trump is a climate denier. He calls it a hoax. He calls it BS, but says the entire word out. And it is the roadmap of what he will do if he wins in November. And what it does, and Scott has written about this more than any other journalist, so he should really give you all of the details, but what it does is it basically reverses one, all of the actions that Biden has taken.

And it goes even further. So not only does it eliminate the Inflation Reduction Act, it guts the government’s ability to protect our air, water, and lands. And I think there is this notion from what Trump did in, remember the first time around when he was president, he took us out of Paris immediately. He did everything that he could.

He passed over a hundred and some odd regulations or protections that he took away to make our air and water dirtier. And I think one of the mistakes that people make is that that’s going to be what he would continue to do. And the reality is he is going to go even further and Project 2025 really is that roadmap for what Trump will do.

Now, I’m going to turn it over to Scott because, and I know what he’ll say, the Trump campaign denies this and they do, they deny that Project 2025 is their roadmap, but it was written by Trump, like former Trump officials and it really … it is the standard for what we should expect a Trump presidency to mean, that Scott can give you all of the gory details.

Scott Waldman: Sure. And it wasn’t just written by former Trump officials. It’s also written by those officials, I should say, are also in many cases expected to go right back into administration. I did a recent story with a colleague looking at how … there’s one line in there about dropping out of the World Bank, which again is not on its face a climate story.

It’s not even in the climate section of Project 2025. But that would have a major effect on the way the US operates overseas with disaster relief and also trying to bring fun projects to bring electrification in rural parts of Africa, for instance, where it’s much easier to get solar and wind going to power rural villages than it would be to build some kind of a power plant and run the transmission lines needed for that.

So it’s definitely, as the Trump folks will say, it’s not their policy blueprint, but they are closely paying attention to it. I think they’ve been frustrated that Heritage is sort of getting the credit for what they themselves are going to do. But just for instance, in that story I was just talking about with the World Bank, I spoke to Stephen Moore, who’s a longtime Trump economic advisor.

It was his idea to drop out of the World Bank and he had just met with Trump. He had just come back from Mar-a-Lago. So they’re talking about these things. It’s in Trump’s ear as we speak. What happened the first time around when Trump got elected, I think it surprised a lot of people on his team as well as the world, and they didn’t come in with a whole set of policy ready to implement on day one.

But this is to sort of rectify that in the views of conservatives that are writing this, they want to come in with an actual policy and the staff to implement it in the first 100 days, 180 days. This is definitely a road map. Whether or not they follow it to the letter or not is almost irrelevant because the ideas in here are so sweeping.

Mark Hertsgaard: Sorry, I say to my colleagues, if you do get pushback from your editors who are saying, well, Trump campaign claims that this is not their document, we have to see that in the context of their candidate does not have a record of telling the truth, and we know that very clearly now. This is the mistake that our profession made for a long time covering Donald Trump is to treat him like a normal politician who at least, of course, all politicians can shade the truth, but Trump goes way beyond that. Really let’s be grown up journalists here and not be gullible about this. Lori, you were going to say something.

Scott Waldman: If I can add this quickly on that. They’re saying that, but then the campaign, Trump campaign has pointed me to videos that Trump himself has released where he’s laying out what his policy priorities are and what he says in his videos lines up perfectly with Project 2025. When people run for office, they campaign in poetry and govern in prose as the late Mario Cuomo once said. And what that really means is you don’t get into specifics on the campaign trail because you can be attacked for specifics. That’s why we hear a lot of politicians speaking in vague and general terms. I don’t think they want to be pinned down on these ideas. But again, there’s people meeting with Trump one day and then talking to me the next about how they’re in his ear about this specific idea.

Lori Lodes: Well, that’s exactly, Scott, what I wanted to bring up is that this is not out of context with where Trump is publicly either. I want to be a dictator on day one and drill, drill, drill. There’s going to be a bloodbath, and it’s about EVs. He is being very clear about what his priorities are when it comes to climate and when it comes to energy, and it does align with where Project 2025 is. And the other point I wanted just to bring up, because yes, it was written by former Trump officials who also work in oil and gas. It’s like oil and gas is tied through all of this, which I think is also just an important to note that oil and gas, Trump, they are also funding his campaign at record levels early on because they see this as their best chance to stop the clean energy boom from happening.

Mark Hertsgaard: That’s Lori Lodes, she is with the NGO Climate Power. And also join us today, Scott Waldman, who is Politico and E&E News, White House reporter and Energy and Climate reporter. We’re going to go now the second half of the hour with your questions. We’ve got some great questions from literally all over the world, so I’m going to go through them quickly and I’m going to ask Lori and Scott to try and be as concise as you can so that we can get to all of them. But here’s one that I want to ask both of you to reply to. I’m going to start with Scott, which is, it’s a very straightforward question, but it’s very practical for reporters. What are the questions that reporters should be asking candidates about the Inflation Reduction Act and the green transition? What are the specific questions that you should be asking? First you, Scott, and then you, Lori?

Scott Waldman: Well, the question is, does the politician you’re reporting about support this? Do they not support it? Did they vote against it? If they’re running for office… If they’re not an incumbent and they’re running for office, ask them what they’re going to do about these kind of issues? What are their clean energy plans? If they don’t have them, why not? There’s a whole argument against this, and you can weigh that against climate science and what we should or shouldn’t do as a country and as a planet. But I think you have to have the conversations with people that are running for office and try to pin them down on answers. You’re going to get a lot of evasive attempts on both sides to ignore specifics. But ask them about projects in your area. Ask them about potential projects in your area. Are they going to support this? Why not? This is a jobs boom on one sense, are they going to get behind that in your state or local region?


Mark Hertsgaard: Thanks, Scott. Now, Lori, you’re not a journalist, so from somebody who’s watching it from the other side, what are the questions that you wish we journalists would be asking more of? You’re still muted.

Lori Lodes: Same. It’s the exact same. It’s what Scott just said. Every single Republican voted against the Inflation Reduction Act. This is bringing thousands of jobs into 47 states and Puerto Rico. And so what will they do? And I think you said it, Mark, at the beginning. They are voting members of Congress, Republican members of Congress are voting against the Inflation Reduction Act when they’re here in DC. And then they go home and they go to ribbon cuttings. It’s not about hypocrisy. They know they can’t be against jobs, but they need to be talked to about it. They need to be asked about it, and that discrepancy does need to be covered.

Mark Hertsgaard: This reminds me of one of Covering Climate Now’s pieces of advice to our colleagues about what kind of questions you should be asking candidates. Do not do what Fox News did in the first Republican presidential primary debate this year and ask politicians, do you believe in climate change? Because that implicitly frames the idea that climate science is debatable and that stopped being true decades ago. Instead, at Covering Climate Now, we urge our colleagues to ask the question of every politician, all partisans, all parties rather, what are you going to do about climate change? And specifically, if you support the Inflation Reduction Act, if you don’t support it, what is your better idea to do what science says is necessary, which is to slash the emissions over the next five years? Let me go now overseas, and here’s a question from our colleague at Globo, and for those of you who don’t perhaps know, Globo is by far the biggest news outlet in Brazil.

They have TV and newspaper and so forth. And very interesting question from our colleague there, which is… Let me just page down here and find it again. It is essentially, what is the impact that the Inflation Reduction Act is going to have overseas? Not just here in America where it’s a job investment program, but rather overseas. And I want to give the name of the reporter who asked this of, courtesy, while you guys think about it, here it is. It’s Marco Britto of Globo. Can you comment on the IRA’s effects worldwide, in South America, but worldwide? Lori, maybe you first.

Lori Lodes: Sure. My former colleague, John Podesta, who is now not only in charge of implementing the Inflation Reduction Act here in the United States, but has also taken on the climate envoy role that John Kerry had. And I think one of the things… And this is what he talks about publicly as he’s going around to all of these countries, is it really has become, we use the word blueprint, the Project 2025 being a blueprint for Trump, the Inflation Reduction Act is becoming a blueprint for other countries. And because we went so far and really set up that standard that it’s forcing other countries to really evaluate what they need to do. Obviously, there are pieces of the Inflation Reduction Act that because the point of it, or part of the point of it, is to really bring jobs back and invest in American clean energy, that it does create some hardships. And not some hardships, but just some tensions. But I think it’s something that the United States is working through with all of the countries, but I think more than anything, it does create that potentially roadmap for others.

Mark Hertsgaard: Can I jump in here with an amendment onto this question? This is from our colleagues at the Toronto Star. And Scott or Lori answer this, you’ve already started Lori, which is what’s the Inflation Reduction Act’s impact on Canada and Canada’s political decisions? What impact do you think that climate change might have on the Canadian elections? Scott, do you want to weigh in on this or Lori, whichever?

Scott Waldman: Sure. One of the things it does, as Lori says, it sets a new bar for other countries. And it’s like when candidates are running anywhere in the world, the question for them is, are you going to have a policy that is equal to this? Are you going to try to exceed these goals? The Inflation Reduction Act will be too in August. A lot of these policy ideas like one country tries to leapfrog over the other, particularly as we head towards the international climate talks every year in the fall. Will this affect Canada? I think it sets a new bar for what can be accomplished in a country with serious political divisions. This is something that passed. Who’s in the way of that being passed in your country? Are there ideas that are as bold as some of the ones in the Inflation Reduction Act on the table in your country thus far?

I think that’s true certainly of Brazil, certainly true of Canada. There’s been some tension with the Biden administration from overseas just with the US trying to bring so much domestic production here with solar panels, with EV batteries, with EV manufacturing. But I think the pushback to those other countries at these international climate talks has been, well, why don’t you do it too? If you don’t like this, you can do your own version of this. It’s certainly something that’s caused tension around the world to some degree. But now we’re almost two years into it. And I think that those other countries are at a position now where they may echo this and maybe try to exceed it.

Mark Hertsgaard: For you business reporters out there, that is a real great strand to be pursuing in your coverage. Just like we say to politics reporters, you need to be putting climate into your elections’ coverage. Business reporters, this climate should be part of your coverage as well. Let me backtrack to a question from a freelance reporter. This is a very basic question, but important. How vulnerable is the Inflation Reduction Act if Trump were to win in November? Or are IRA enabled investments so far along that as a practical matter, they can’t be disrupted? Lori?

Lori Lodes: This is a question that I feel very strongly about, and I know others have other views. It has been the law for a year and a half, almost two years. And it is the law of the land. I come from… In a previous life, I helped pass the Affordable Care Act, which is the US’s healthcare law, and then I helped defend it for a decade. One of the first things that Trump did when he became president was try to repeal the law. Right now, Republicans have already voted 31 times just since the Inflation Reduction Act passed to undermine it, to repeal it. And so I do not agree that it’s so far into its development that it is not in danger because I think what we have seen with Trump and what we have seen with the Republicans is that they will try to gut it. And it is not going to be a question of, will they? It is going to become a question of what are the pieces that we’re fighting for?

And I think it is such a critical point as to why this election is so important and why it is a climate election, again. Because we are out of time, this is like we did what we needed to do because the clock was running out. If Trump wins, the Inflation Reduction Act is not enough. We have to go do even more and build on it. And what Trump has said is that he will take it back. And so we just can’t afford any other time wasted. And so not only am I worried about it being repealed, the clock will have run out.

Mark Hertsgaard: Very closely related question there comes from Joan Michelson, I hope I’m pronouncing your name correctly. What happens if IRA money is not distributed? If Trump wins, what about IRA money that has not already been distributed? Does that just go back in the federal kitty or what?

Scott Waldman: I think that’s one of the most vulnerable parts of the law. In every election, typically, there’s some sort of proxy issue that stands in for climate change. I think EVs and EV mandates from the Biden administration are really the big main proxy battle in this election. And I think that’s one of the first things. I don’t think that the Trump administration can or wants to necessarily repeal the entire Inflation Reduction Act. That takes an act of Congress, Trump can’t do that unilaterally, but one of the ways they can weaken it as they did with the Affordable Care Act, is just start taking pieces of it away.

One of the most vulnerable pieces, I would assume, is the money that you get for buying an EV. It’s pretty generous. It’s $7,500 right now for a certain set of EVs, a limited set of EVs due to provisions that Joe Manchin put on the Inflation Reduction Act to pass it. But certainly that’s the kind of money that they can likely find a way to turn off the spigots. And Trump has promised that he will do that as soon as he gets into office. But also, it’s worth noting there’s politicians like Marjorie Taylor Greene, certainly one of the most conservative members of Congress. She has a massive clean energy industry building right within her district, in a town, Dalton, Georgia, which used to be known for carpet manufacturing, which has been on the decline for years. Now that area is booming with solar and EV manufacturing, and it’s really becoming a national leader in that. So you might even hear some members of Congress that would surprise you and don’t want the money spigot to be turned off because they’ve got it flowing right in their backyard and they don’t want to endanger 2,000 to 3,000 jobs.

Mark Hertsgaard: Great politics stories to do, folks. Let’s get to a couple more questions here. One is from our esteemed colleague at WBUR, the public radio station in Boston, Barbara Moran. Hi Barbara. She asks, what’s at stake for offshore wind if Trump gets elected?

Lori Lodes: Trump, when he really started gearing up running for president again during the primary last year, he spent a lot of time talking about the whales. And he also has spent a lot of time talking about how wind causes cancer and it kills all of the birds. Trump has made his views on offshore wind very clear for about a decade now, and it all goes back to his golf club in Scotland. And so I think we all know how important offshore wind is to being able to reach our climate goals. We also know, to Scott’s point, how important EVs are to reaching our climate goal. If we start going back on any of these, we will not be able to reach our climate goals.

And I think there is zero doubt that Trump would do everything he could to stop that progress and to roll it back with whatever power he had. We are starting to see offshore wind come online, like up in New York, and re-investments happening again in New Jersey, but it is a nascent industry that is very complicated. And so if Trump becomes president, part of it is, what will he do? But part of it is just that general uncertainty. And I cannot underscore just how important certainty is for these burgeoning industries. Just that uncertainty will cause investments, the capital that these companies need to stop. So the stakes could not be greater.

Scott Waldman: Just very quickly, one of the ways they can go after wind is something they did in the first administration, which is jam up the permitting. Interior work to do that the first time around, and you can expect more of that. They can also go after some of the incentive money flowing out the door. And offshore wind’s in a vulnerable place right now. I just saw some major cancellations in New York and elsewhere because of supply chain, because of inflation. All those things are driving the cost way up. So the industry of course is nascent, as Lori said, and it has tremendous potential to grow, and it will eventually over time. But when it’s as vulnerable as it is right now, it doesn’t take much to knock these major projects offline. It’s already happening now during the Biden administration, who’s working to help the industry really get a footing.

Mark Hertsgaard: Another great business story. Let’s take a question from, I hope I pronounce this correctly, Julie Titone. She’s a freelance reporter in Washington state and she asks, why is the rollout of IRA consumer benefits, such as rebates for induction stoves, why has that been so slow? Either one of you.

Scott Waldman: That’s government oftentimes. The EV Chargers is another example. They’ve been very slow to get built, but there’s a lot of red tape to go through. You have to work with utilities. I think the Inflation Reduction Act really will take root in the second term of a Biden administration. As Lori and I both said, these are nascent industries. They need time to get going, and four more years is going to be enough to build a lot of EV chargers. A lot of getting the money out the door for the induction stoves and those kinds of things. There is money already flowing. I know, for instance, I put in some windows in my house last year and got a nice chunk of change back when I did my taxes this year as a result of that. So the money is flowing, including for induction stoves. But of course, government doesn’t always operate on a dime and doesn’t operate fast, and we’re seeing that now.

Mark Hertsgaard: Part of it also that, to some extent, it’s states themselves who set the regulations. I know from California, California, it’s Sacramento, the capital that is slow on saying, “Hey, you can get this.” They didn’t have the… I live in California. We didn’t have the information in time to file for our taxes this year.

Lori Lodes: Right. There’s two different things. Not to be a complete nerd about the IRS. There’s tax credits and there’s tax rebates. The credits are there, as Scott talked about. So if you go to get an EV, and I would just like to point out, if you go to lease an EV there is more options available for that tax credit at point of sale. But when you buy solar panels or efficiency upgrades, whether it is an induction stove or new windows, those tax credits are there and available. On the rebate side, Mark is totally right. This is up to the states.

It is also complicated because there are 50 states and they each have their own existing programs and guidelines. And how do you set it up with that state? They have to file applications. And so yes, I think everyone is eager for the rebates to come online. I believe you will see things happening sooner than later, but it is a work in progress. But I think we’re about to start seeing more and more rebates and states starting to roll out their programs.

Mark Hertsgaard: Here’s a question that was suggested actually by an activist, but I think it’s a fair and good question, and it goes back to some of the contention, frankly, around the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, especially from folks in the environmental justice communities who felt like, yes, the Inflation Reduction Act to be oversimplifying, is all carrots and no sticks, by which they meant by of carrots, a lot of incentives to expand clean energy but no sticks to phase out dirty energy, and the dirty energy, the environmental justice communities correctly point out, burdens them disproportionately.

So the devil’s advocate question here about the Inflation Reduction Act. It does seem to be creating a lot of jobs. It is clearly accelerating solar and wind and clean energy development, and battery storage and all the things we want, but at the same time the US remains the biggest oil and gas producer in the world on Joe Biden’s watch. So is the Inflation Reduction Act… what does it do to actually stop the dirty energy as opposed to propel the green energy? Lori.

Scott Waldman: It makes it cheaper to have clean energy and alternatives. It allows all these industries to expand and to really get a foothold. When you put renewables up against coal, a lot of times they’re beating it. But it’s not like this Inflation Reduction Act is happening in isolation. First of all, I think that’s a very valid criticism I’ve heard repeatedly over the years since this came out. But look at what Biden did today with the power plant rule, where the rule, which is certainly going to end up in the Supreme Court where its chances are certainly… well, this court, yeah, I don’t know what its chances actually are of surviving. But nonetheless, this rule would really effectively shut down most of the country’s coal plants.

That also means the coal that’s stored. A lot of communities have problems with coal ash. They have a problem with just coal storage in my native Baltimore along some of the communities that live in the harbor there. The dust blows over their communities with devastating health effects. So it’s a stool with many legs, and I don’t think the Inflation Reduction Act is meant to stand alone. It’s just meant to really get the US moving on clean energy in a way that hasn’t before. But then there’s other regulations and policies that are there to back it up.

Lori Lodes: I 100% agree. The Inflation Reduction Act is a piece of the puzzle. And it’s the largest piece in slashing emissions, slashing pollution, but Scott mentioned the power plant rules that came out today. I could sit here and talk for another 15 minutes naming different actions the administration has taken on oil and gas. They’ve slashed methane pollution, they’ve slashed soot, they’ve slashed mercury, they’re closing loopholes for big oil so that they have to clean up the mess they have made on public lands.

They have paused the LNG new exports. Not only that, they have invested more than any administration even thought of in Justice40, ensuring that 40% of every climate and clean energy benefit goes to communities that need them most. But I think what’s at the heart of that question I think is important, because we are getting started. What has been accomplished in the last three years, I think if you would’ve asked any of us in a 50/50 Senate, what is the likelihood that Joe Biden will pass the biggest investment ever made in clean energy and take all of the climate actions he’s had? And I don’t think even folks like myself that are like the advocates, advocates who are pushing for all of this, would have thought it would be possible, because it should not have been.

But I say that because I truly believe that by, and this is… I’ll say this and then I’ll stop talking, Mark. This is my partisan side. Because I do know that Joe Biden has done more on climate than any president in US history, and that’s going to continue if he is reelected. And the risk is putting somebody in who calls climate change a hoax and bullshit. Pardon my language. That was his word, not mine. We have to build on what we’ve accomplished.

Mark Hertsgaard: That’s Lori Lodes. She’s with Climate Power, an NGO whose database I commend to all of my fellow journalists. If you’re going to be covering Inflation Reduction Act, it is just chock full of story ideas, both local and national. And I was very glad to. And a special shout out to our colleagues from Brazil and Canada who are asking about the international implications of the Inflation Reduction Act.

There’s another question in the chat that we’re not going to be able to get to today from Joan Michelson asking. She’s going to interview the treasury official today. Joan, I’m going to ask you to send that question to Scott, and maybe he can answer you offline. Lori’s final comment reminds me of something we say at Covering Climate Now all the time, that not just is it important to make sure that climate change is a central part of our coverage of the 2024 campaign, but that our coverage in general we must focus, as the great press critic has said, I’m blanking on his name right now, but focus on the stakes, not the odds.

Let’s do a lot less horse race coverage, because that’s not what interests the average person. That may interest the Beltway journalist. That’s not what the average person cares about. Let’s talk about the stakes. Our job as journalists, the reason that the press is the one institution that is explicitly protected in our Constitution, in the Bill of Rights is because we may get paid by our employees but we work for the public. We work for the public. And our job in a democracy is to make sure that the public is informed so that the public can take informed action as citizens, as voters.

So focus on the stakes, not the odds, and make sure that climate change is part of those stakes. And with that, I’ll just thank both of our wonderful panelists today, Lori Lodes at Climate Power, Scott Waldman, Politico and EE News. Please send further questions to us. We’ll route them to Scott and Lori, and I’m sure they’d be happy to reply to you. And again, come to our website Covering Climate Now. You’re welcome to join. We’ve got a lot of resources there to help all of our fellow journalists step up to this climate story in the crucial election year of 2024. And with that I will bid you farewell. This is Mark Hertsgaard on behalf of Covering Climate Now, wishing you all a very pleasant day.