We’re at a Tipping Point Now…
July 16, 2021
This past week, New York Times columnist Ezra Klein pondered an issue that has been top of mind in the midst of record-breaking heat waves and fires: “It seems odd that we would just let the world burn.”
Indeed. Unfortunately, many people view global heating as too big a problem for them to help change. They make small efforts in their own lives: cutting down on meat, recycling, and driving less. They vote, and they post. Even serious climate activists haven’t made much of a dent. As Klein puts it, “Decades of climate activism have gotten millions of people into the streets but they haven’t turned the tide on emissions, or even investments.”
We’re at a tipping point now -- but the good news is that we still have time to keep the earth’s atmosphere within livable limits if we follow one fairly simple path: electrify everything. And we have to start with the decisions we make around our kitchen tables: how we heat our homes and our water, dry our clothes, cook our food, and power all that and our cars. American households spew 42 percent of our energy-related carbon emissions (37 percent if you count the emissions from agriculture, cows, and other sources not related to our energy usage).
But, as a new poll of ours shows, people don’t realize the huge impact the decisions they make about how they heat and cool their homes and what kind of car they drive has on our emissions. Only 15 percent of respondents said that they believed their homes produced “a lot” of carbon emissions. And even those who do realize how important it is to replace their fossil fuel-burning machines with electric vehicles, heat pumps, induction stoves, and other appliances may not be able to afford them -- not without some kind of assistance.
That’s why our poll found strong support for federal rebates for the purchase and installation of zero-emission and energy-efficient electric appliances among the people we surveyed. The poll got attention from Huffington Post and will be released in full next week, but we can share a few key findings:
- 65 percent of voters would prefer the government offers rebates on electric appliances vs. gas appliances
- 71 percent of voters support federal rebates for the purchase and installation of zero-emission and energy-efficient electric appliances
- 24 percent of voters would "Definitely" and 40 percent of voters would "Probably" consider participating in this rebate program
- 75 percent of voters think the associated jobs created by this rebate program would have a positive impact on their communities
This poll indicates that there should be strong and bipartisan public support for the Zero-Emission Homes Act of 2021, which Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) filed on Thursday, with the support of Senators Blumenthal, Smith, Schatz, Booker, Whitehouse, Murphy, Bennet, Ossoff, Gillibrand, Stabenow, and Luján. The bill has received widespread support from nearly 200 organizations and nonprofits.
The Zero-Emission Homes Act contains what one observer described as a “bushel of carrots.” The bill:
- Makes electrification easier and more affordable for all Americans, to meet our climate targets.
- Establishes a Zero-Emission Homes Program that provides households with consumer rebates to equalize cost differences with fossil-fueled alternatives at the time an appliance must be replaced, installed, or upgraded.
- Those rebates would be up to $14,000 for lower- and middle-income (LMI) households, and up to $10,000 for non-LMI households.
- Appliances that qualify: electric heat pump water heaters, electric heat pump space heaters and coolers, electric cooktops (including induction), and electric clothes dryers - as well as the critical enabling household infrastructure, an upgraded circuit panel (breaker box). Additional incentives are provided to contractors to help deliver the products to neighborhoods most in need.
As we’ve shown, electrification also offers enormous economic opportunities. Our new report, Bringing Infrastructure Home: A 50-State Report on U.S. Home Electrification, estimates that 85 percent of households in America would save money on monthly energy bills today if they were using modern, all-electric equipment.
Here’s the report arriving at the U.S. Senate to a senators-only lunch!
Speaking of bushels of carrots, we’ve also had a big win on the supply side of the energy flow chart, with news that the Clean Electricity Standard would likely be in the Senate Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package. Rewiring America advisory committee member Leah Stokes described the carrots and sticks for utilities to move away from fossil fuels this way to NBC News: “You build clean stuff at the pace and scale that’s necessary, you get money. You don't build clean stuff at the pace and scale that’s necessary, you have a fee.” Why should it make the Senate Parliamentarian’s cut as a budget item that only needs 51 votes? “Money and fees, that's the budget,” said Stokes. “That's how it works.”
We’re not willing to let the earth burn. We are making good progress in electrifying everything. We’re counting on you to do your part.