Leah Stokes is too damn busy for despair. A recent mother of twins, a UCSB professor, and a one-person media whirlwind on the subject of climate change, Stokes doesn’t have the time to get overwhelmed either. “Action gives me hope,” she explained in a recent interview from her recently all-electrified home in San Roque.
Translated, that means Stokes now rides an electric bike; drives an electric car; and heats and cools her houses with a heat pump, the green technology equivalent of a perpetual motion machine. She heats her water the same way and cooks with an electrified induction model stove, a technology said to rival that of gas stoves, still the preferred method for most cooks. Stokes’s roof is adorned with solar panels, and she’s installed an electric charging station in her yard. City Hall, she rued, could have made it significantly easier for her to get all permits necessary, but that’s a fight for another day.
Such a major infrastructure makeover is admittedly not cheap, but Stokes cited studies showing it will bring her home energy costs down by $1,800 a year. Thousands of dollars of rebates and tax breaks are now available to offset a significant chunk of the up-front costs needed to exorcize fossil fuels from the infrastructure of one’s abode. These tax breaks are baked into the $369 billion climate bill — better known as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — signed into law by President Joe Biden last summer. That bill, Stokes said, will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to the tune of 40 percent. And given that fossil-fuel costs account for 41 percent of recent inflation, she said, the name makes sense.
Stokes would know more than a little about this legislation. She has the scar tissue to show for it. Not an ivory-tower intellectual content to wage the good fight from the safe distance of theoretical models, Stokes spent the past three years in the thick of the bloody battle that led to the eventual passage of the IRA, which is the single biggest and most sweeping climate-change legislation the federal government has ever passed. In various interviews since, Stokes has described it as “huge,” “cool,” and “a BFD.”