Inflation Reduction Act Signed Into Law, with Major Computing Implications

By Oliver Peckham

August 16, 2022

For the second time in as many weeks, President Biden has signed into law a major bill with significant implications for the computing sector. The Inflation Reduction Act – which is certainly the cornerstone of Biden’s first two years in office – allocates hundreds of billions of dollars toward energy security, climate change and healthcare. Among those hundreds of billions are hundreds of millions for scientific computing.

At the signing ceremony this afternoon, Congressman Jim Clyburn (majority whip) and Senator Chuck Schumer (majority leader) spoke ahead of President Biden. Clyburn heralded the unanimous Democratic vote that enabled passage of the bill and said the act would “lead to transformative change” in the United States. Schumer, meanwhile, called the Inflation Reduction Act “a groundbreaking achievement – the most important bill we have passed in a long time” and “one of the greatest legislative feats in decades.”

The headlines of the bill are as follows: $437 billion in investments, broken down into $369 billion for energy security and climate change; $64 billion toward expanding the Affordable Care Act; and $4 billion for Western drought resiliency. This is counterbalanced by $737 billion in raised revenue from additional corporate minimum taxes, Medicare drug pricing changes, IRS tax enforcement and more.

Zooming in on that funding, about $2 billion goes toward Department of Energy laboratories. This includes $164 million for advanced scientific computing outright as well as $583 million for general lab infrastructure. However, it also includes hundreds of millions toward projects likely to intersect with high performance computing: $217 for nuclear physics research; $280 million for fusion energy research; $295 million for basic energy sciences; and $158 million for isotope research.

Of course, climate and weather modeling is another massive application of HPC – and to that end, the Inflation Reduction Act targets a massive ~40 percent reduction in U.S. carbon emissions by 2030. The $369 billion dedicated toward this task includes around $3.3 billion toward the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Among those billions: $190 million for high-performance computing data processing capacity, data management and storage assets in service of NOAA’s climate and weather research agenda, as well as hundreds of millions toward those research endeavors more generally.

At the signing, Biden called that $369 billion investment “the most aggressive action ever in confronting the climate crisis and strengthening our energy security,” calling out billions of dollars in tax credits to lower costs for consumers and enable the growth of clean energy industries in the United States.

Last week, of course, Biden signed into law the landmark CHIPS and Science Act, which allocated around $280 billion toward bolstering the American semiconductor supply chain ($54.2 billion) and myriad other computing-adjacent allocations (~$225 billion), such as $20 billion for a new breakthrough technology directorate with the National Science Foundation (NSF). Read more about the CHIPS and Science Act here and here.

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