WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has persuaded congressional Democrats to provide hundreds of billions of dollars to fight climate change. Now comes another formidable task: enticing Americans to buy millions of electric cars, heat pumps, solar panels, and more efficient appliances.
It’s a public relations challenge that could determine whether the state meets Biden’s ambitious goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
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But it also means the administration’s fight against global warming will be fought “one family at a time,” said Shannon Baker-Branstetter, who works on energy issues at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank closely associated with the White House.
“It’s a very gradual process, so it requires a very complex communications strategy,” she said.
Biden acknowledged the snag during a recent Cabinet meeting where he talked about the incentives that became available this year.
“People need to know how to capitalize on these benefits that we’ve been through. That’s on all of us around the table here to make sure we get that message across,” he said.
The White House says it is developing a plan to partner with state governments, contractors, retailers and social media influencers to get the word out. “Reducing utility bills will be a key driver,” said Josh Peck, senior policy advisor on clean energy issues.
It’s also collaborating with Rewiring America, a nonprofit focused on ways to electrify homes and businesses, and companies like Airbnb, Redfin, and Lyft. As part of this effort, Rewiring America was created Online calculator It shows what homeowners may be eligible for, based on their zip code and income.
Buying a heat pump or installing solar panels is “a major expense line and a great opportunity for savings,” said Ari Matusiak, founder and CEO of the group. “So it’s really important to make sure people are aware of the resources they have available and the benefits they can free up in terms of savings on energy bills.
But the White House faces an uphill battle.
Polls show that while Americans support action to slow climate change, they are broadly unaware of the Inflation Reduction Act, the massive piece of legislation that includes fiscal incentives to cut emissions, and question their role in the climate crisis.
An AP-NORC poll published in SeptemberOne month after the law was signed into law, it found that 61% of adults in the United States said they knew little or nothing about the legislation. And despite billions of dollars in investment in climate solutions, only a third said it would help with climate change; About half of them said it wouldn’t make a difference.
The White House says it was not impressed by the results. The goal, Beck said, is to ensure that consumers know the financial benefits of energy-efficient products while they are making major decisions about the products they buy.
“One of the challenges here is trying to meet consumers where they are when they are making decisions about these purchases,” he said.
A majority of adults in the United States said they are unlikely to install solar panels or buy an electric car in the next three years, according to the AP-NORC poll. Of those, at least half said financial incentives would make no difference to their decision.
Homeowners are often reluctant to replace furnaces or water heaters until they absolutely have to shell out money for them.
“One day the heat won’t turn on and it’ll be minus 10 degrees outside and you’ll say, ‘Oh my God, I have to get a furnace,’” said D. Richardson, co-founder of Elephant Energy, a Colorado company that helps homeowners install electric heat pumps and other appliances. “So the biggest challenge from our perspective and from a climate perspective, is getting people to think ahead about how they can replace these assets.”
Most homeowners don’t understand what equipment qualifies for a tax deduction or credit, Richardson said — and even contractors aren’t always aware. While some heat pumps qualify for a full rebate, others do not or only qualify for partial rebates.
“So it’s just a nightmare if you’re not used to working building spreadsheets to analyze and make sense of all this stuff,” he said.
Not all incentives are ready either. While people can get a tax break on the cost of an electric vehicle, solar panels or heat pumps, Rebates for low- and moderate-income Americans seeking to make their homes more energy efficient aren’t yet available. The Energy Department is still developing a system for distributing that money.
Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council in the Obama administration, said she knew in her tenure that it was critical for government to invest in policy implementation.
“Too often we as advocates and policy makers applaud when a policy is enacted and then stop caring,” she said. Instead, they need to design ways to target people directly to help them “understand the steps they can take and the ways government will make it easy”.
The Department of Energy has begun issuing information to states about setting aside $9 billion to support home energy upgrades, including weathering homes and installing heat pumps.
And Biden, who describes himself as a “car guy,” has done his part in promoting electric cars, appearing on the Detroit Auto Show in September and on the TV series “Jay Leno’s Garage”.
Donnell Byrd, founder and CEO of BlocPower, a company based in Brooklyn, New York that partners with utilities, government agencies and building owners to improve energy efficiency, has worked with Lowe’s and other retailers to promote green appliances.
The idea, Bird said, is that “the person in charge of the checkout says, ‘You know, you can get a tax credit if you don’t get that lawnmower and get a green one instead.'” The results, Beard said, are confident that tax breaks and other benefits of climate law will become better known.
He said, “It took years before the ACA got started,” referring to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. “I think the same thing can happen with this law.
Dan Pfeiffer, former chief communications adviser to President Barack Obama, sees another lesson in the Affordable Care Act.
“The ACA becomes more popular the more Republicans try to repeal it,” he said, noting that Biden is leveraging any Republican effort to roll back the inflation-lowering law to draw more attention to the law’s benefits.
“I have no doubt that the White House has thought through all of this,” Pfeiffer said. “But the problem is that none of it is easy.”
“The bulk of the work begins now,” he added.
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