In recent weeks, the realities of the climate crisis have become increasingly visible, from wildfires in California and throughout the Pacific Northwest to catastrophic flooding in Kentucky, which killed almost 40 people.
During this time, Democrats worked to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes the most important actions to address climate change that the United States has ever taken. The bill — which was signed into law by the president on Aug. 16 — has been the subject of criticism worthy of a fact check.
For example, Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee tweeted that the legislation would quote “decrease energy production.”
But first, some background
President Joe Biden’s agenda has included massive social, fiscal, health and climate reforms. An earlier debated bill, known as “Build Back Better,” included this legislation.
But Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin from West Virginia was a key holdout on “Build Back Better.” Because of this, the bill failed, and a main part of the Biden agenda was derailed.
Then on July 27, completely unexpectedly, Joe Manchin announced that he and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had come to a deal, the Inflation Reduction Act.
The agreement between Schumer and Manchin, while not as large as Build Back Better, injects $369 billion in energy and climate reform over the next decade, the largest U.S. action ever taken on climate.
Lateral reading and reading upstream
A good way to fact-check a claim like the one made by Blackburn is to use a skill called “lateral reading,” a term coined by the Stanford History Education Group. Instead of reading vertically on just one page, you open multiple tabs to see what other credible sites are saying about a topic.
The key here is using keywords. Google people, organizations and buzzwords from the topic you want to verify while you are reading — then move laterally across tabs.
We did a Google search for “what is in the inflation reduction act democrats manchin budget reconciliation,” and it brought up results for this NPR article, which explains that the bill invests in the creation of renewable energy.
Another article, from The New York Times, points out that the bill incentivizes consumers to install rooftop solar panels by helping to lower prices and offering up to a 30% tax credit for those who do so.
In addition, factcheck.org says the bill will “facilitate more domestic energy production from fossil fuels, including oil and gas drilling.”
Frustrations with the bill haven’t just come from those on the right but also from some on the left. Brett Hartl, of the Center for Biological Diversity, said the bill contains “poison pills,” referring to provisions that would expedite the process of granting oil and gas leases. According to The Washington Post, this provision was agreed to in order to win Manchin’s support.
But you may want to find out even more about the Inflation Reduction Act, and consider some claims about the bill from Democrats and Republicans for yourself. To do that you can go to the website of the U.S. Congress and read the original bill, which comes to 730 pages.
This is called “reading upstream.” That’s when you go directly to the source of a claim and check it out on your own. Here is a quick tip for search engines to send you right to the bill.
We opened a new tab and used the keywords “inflation reduction act” in quotes to find exact matches for the whole phrase. Then we added “site:congress.gov.” This will show only results from the Congress website. The first result sends us right to the text of the bill, along with the Congressional Budget Office estimates of how much it’s all going to cost.
The bottom line here is that this bill spends $369 billion to address climate change and, as mentioned earlier, is the largest step the United States has ever taken on the climate crisis.
Back to the original claim made by Sen. Blackburn, which suggests that the bill decreases energy production. We rate this claim Not Legit, because there is no evidence that the bill does this and in fact, does the opposite by incentivizing not only renewable energy but also oil and gas-related projects.
ATTENTION TEACHERS: This fact-check is featured in a free, one-hour lesson plan about how statistics can mislead, with tips to help students avoid sketchy data. “Inflation Reduction (F)Act check” is available through PBS NewsHour Classroom, and includes slides and a handout, among other resources for teachers.