Vice President Kamala Harris addresses a crowd at McKinstry in Seattle
Vice President Kamala Harris celebrates the one year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act and touts clean energy investments in an address to a crowd at McKinstry in Seattle (Photo: Kamil Zaidi/NPI)

Vice Pres­i­dent Kamala Har­ris took the president’s chair in the U.S. Sen­ate a year ago and cast the tie-break­ing vote for what Har­ris described Tues­day as “the largest cli­mate invest­ment in Amer­i­can his­to­ry.” All fifty Sen­ate Repub­li­cans and all 207 House Repub­li­cans vot­ed against the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act.

The vice pres­i­dent has tak­en to the road late­ly, cel­e­brat­ing the leg­is­la­tion, which com­mits $369 bil­lion over a decade to fund­ing and tax cred­its and clean ener­gy tech­nolo­gies with the goal of reduc­ing harm­ful emis­sions while increas­ing rede­ploy­ment of the Unit­ed States toward a future no longer behold­en to the pol­lu­tion belch­ing fos­sil fuel economy.

The Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act broke a decades-long impasse in com­mit­ting the U.S. to reduce its car­bon foot­print, and ful­ly engage a twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry econ­o­my that moves away from the burn­ing of coal, oil, and petro­le­um gas. It is the mar­quee achieve­ment of the Biden-Har­ris administration.

The invest­ment is com­ing none too soon. “It is clear the clock is not just tick­ing, it is bang­ing,” Har­ris told a crowd at the McK­instry, a Seat­tle based firm which has been a nation­al leader in ener­gy-effi­cient build­ing construction.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaking at McKinstry
Vice Pres­i­dent Kamala Har­ris grins dur­ing her speech at McK­instry (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

In a swel­ter­ing gym, on a day when Seattle’s tem­per­a­ture reached 94 degrees Fahren­heit, Har­ris spoke of a plan­et warm­ing and suffering.

“Every day around the world, the impact of the cli­mate cri­sis is stark and it is vivid,” said the veep, to a sup­port­ive crowd. She made note of parts of Amer­i­ca “choked by drought, washed out by floods and dec­i­mat­ed by hurricanes.”

The voice of Kamala Har­ris is increas­ing­ly heard these days.

For more than two years, she has been tied down in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., hav­ing to cast tie-break­ing votes in the Sen­ate, and becom­ing part of a close-knit Joe Biden oper­a­tion that has worked togeth­er for more than forty years.

Har­ris is a for­mer Cal­i­for­nia attor­ney gen­er­al and San Fran­cis­co pros­e­cu­tor. She emerged dur­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion as a sharp, no-non­sense, take-no pris­on­ers inter­roga­tor of the for­mer president’s fre­quent­ly unqual­i­fied and clue­less appointees.

The Seat­tle vis­it, which con­sist­ed of stops tout­ing the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act and head­lin­ing a pricey Demo­c­ra­t­ic fundrais­er in Med­i­na, brought Har­ris togeth­er with an equal­ly no-non­sense for­mer Sen­ate col­league – Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell.

Cantwell has tout­ed the eco­nom­ics of a clean ener­gy econ­o­my. She was first to point out, after trips to Chi­na ear­ly in this cen­tu­ry, that the Chi­nese were forg­ing ahead in such fields as solar pan­els and wind power.

Senator Maria Cantwell speaks at an Inflation Reduction Act celebration hosted by McKinstry
Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell touts the ben­e­fits of the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

She argued that the Unit­ed States had an oppor­tu­ni­ty to do good for the plan­et, and its own econ­o­my. She fought for tax advan­tages of util­i­ties invest­ing in wind pow­er, and spoke out in frus­tra­tion when tur­bines for wind farms in Cen­tral Wash­ing­ton came from Den­mark and Germany.

The Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act has changed all that. “The IRA is ten years of pre­dictable invest­ment so that com­pa­nies like McK­instry and oth­ers can do the inno­va­tion that is going to give con­sumers a choice,” Cantwell said.

Har­ris has just recent­ly been to Dal­ton, Geor­gia, and vis­it­ed a solar pan­el man­u­fac­tur­er that will be employ­ing 2,500 people.

All told, she added, “175,000 new clean ener­gy jobs” have flowed from that tie-break­ing Sen­ate vote last year. Touch­ing on anoth­er long-time Cantwell cause, the veep said “thou­sands of miles of new high volt­age trans­mis­sion lines” are under con­struc­tion to car­ry green ener­gy from source to market.

“We are rebuild­ing America’s man­u­fac­tur­ing, we are rebuild­ing Amer­i­can inno­va­tion,” Har­ris declared. Of Cantwell, her for­mer Sen­ate col­league, Har­ris allowed: “She is tru­ly one of our nation’s great cli­mate leaders.”

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee, whose sev­er­al-month 2020 pres­i­den­tial bid helped sup­ply Pres­i­dent Biden with a cli­mate plat­form, spoke excit­ed­ly of clean ener­gy projects in East­ern Wash­ing­ton. He was recent­ly at the ground break­ing for a sus­tain­able jet fuel pro­duc­tion plant in Moses Lake. A con­nois­seur of hyper­bole, Inslee has described the East­ern Wash­ing­ton city as “the new Kit­ty Hawk.”

Both Har­ris and U.S. Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Jen­nifer Granholm gave a nod to clean ener­gy devel­op­ment in the Inland Empire. And not by accident.

Repub­li­can U.S. Rep. Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers led House floor oppo­si­tion to the Infla­tion Reduc­tion. McMor­ris Rodgers has cham­pi­oned con­tin­ued sub­si­dies for the petro­le­um indus­try, coal min­ing on pub­lic lands, and expe­dit­ed per­mit­ting for new pow­er plants – despite sum­mers of drought and wild­fires in her con­gres­sion­al dis­trict, which includes a big swath of the Inland Northwest.

“Here in Wash­ing­ton state, you have endured dead­ly heat waves and dev­as­tat­ing wild­fires,” Har­ris noted.

Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Jen­nifer Granholm spoke before Har­ris and stressed the good news, not­ing that com­pa­nies have announced $110 bil­lion in clean ener­gy projects dur­ing the year since Har­ris’ vote broke a tie in the Sen­ate. “The Amer­i­can ener­gy sec­tor has nev­er been more elec­tri­fy­ing,” Granholm joked.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm speaks at an Inflation Reduction Act celebration hosted by McKinstry
Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Jen­nifer Granholm waves to the crowd after pro­vid­ing a syn­op­sis of the cli­mate-friend­ly poli­cies in the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

She pre­dict­ed eighty per­cent of the nation’s elec­tric­i­ty will come from clean ener­gy sources by 2030. Biden has set a goal of one hun­dred per­cent clean elec­tric­i­ty by the year 2035. “We are back in the game, baby,” Granholm joked.

Har­ris, Inslee, Cantwell and Granholm were on what might be called polit­i­cal hal­lowed ground. Then-Sen­a­tor Barack Oba­ma vis­it­ed McK­instry’s SoDo cam­pus in 2008 for a morn­ing immer­sion in the poten­tial of clean ener­gy build­ing tech­nol­o­gy. He then went on to greet a crowd of 17,000 at (then) KeyAre­na, and pro­ceed­ed to dom­i­nate Washington’s pres­i­den­tial precinct caucuses.

Half a year lat­er, he was elect­ed the forty-fourth Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States.

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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