Sens. Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer shook the political world when they announced they’d reached agreement this week on $369 billion in climate spending, just two weeks after Manchin seemed to abandon the endeavor. The cash is part of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, and it would be the biggest climate investment in U.S. history.
The bill — if passed, of course — would pour money into clean energy manufacturing and deployment, from wind turbines to heat pumps. That would dovetail well with the tech sector’s decarbonization plans and investments. Yet Big Tech is still largely on the sidelines when it comes to supporting the bill.
Protocol asked major tech companies for their reactions and specifically whether they plan to lobby in favor of the bill. All of those contacted — Amazon and AWS, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft and Salesforce — have made net zero commitments, and in some cases are even more ambitious with their decarbonization plans (see: Microsoft’s carbon negativity goal).
Yet only Salesforce responded saying it explicitly supports the legislation.
“We urgently need to move our country forward to a more sustainable future, one that will create jobs, reduce pollution, drive greater economic security and increase equity and access to clean energy for lower-income communities,” the company’s executive vice president of government affairs Eric Loeb told Protocol. “The $369 billion climate and clean energy investments in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 helps to do that and we’re keeping close attention knowing that provisions may still be amended.”
Salesforce was also one of the very few major tech companies to support the climate investments in the Build Back Better Act. (Microsoft eventually offered its support for Build Back Better, though roughly a month after Manchin killed it the first time.) Earlier this month, Chief Impact Officer Suzanne DiBianca publicly called on Congress to act on climate legislation in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision restricting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
An AWS representative referred Protocol to the trade group the American Council on Renewable Energy rather than comment directly. ACORE, for its part, released an enthusiastic press release on Wednesday about the bill. The group’s president and CEO Gregory Wetstone called the news a “huge relief” and said that its provisions “will spur critical investments in renewable power, energy storage, and advanced grid technologies that will allow us to meet our climate goals.”
Representatives for Google and Microsoft said neither company had a comment at this time. Neither Apple nor Meta responded to Protocol’s questions on the proposed legislation, and Amazon did not send a comment at the time of publication.
The relative silence of leading tech companies raises questions about their commitments to the ambitious decarbonization plans they’ve put forward. Many of those plans include commitments to reduce Scope 3 emissions tied to the use of their products, which are by far the biggest chunk of tech companies’ emissions.
“If a company is sincere about achieving zero emissions, they should be lobbying for climate policy to be in place to help society,” Jamie Beck Alexander, the director of Drawdown Labs, told Protocol a few months ago.
The Inflation Reduction Act could do just that. Independent analysis by research firm Rhodium Group said it would cut U.S. carbon emissions 31% to 44% below 2005 levels in 2030, in part due to how the legislation could help decarbonize the grid.
Some tech companies worked behind the scenes to get Business Roundtable, a trade group for major corporations, to drop its opposition to the Build Back Better Act. Yet the legislation still died. With a razor-thin margin in the Senate, Democrats will need all hands on deck to pass the Inflation Reduction Act. Having the tech industry throw its entire weight behind it could help steer the bill toward passage — and show just how serious Big Tech is about meeting the climate moment.
This piece will be updated with further tech company reactions if and when they are made public.