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Climate Politics/Capitol Light (15)

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                                                                     July 11, 2019                                                                

Nothing like a good slime. It seems algal slime has turned Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis into an environmentalist. After toxins in Florida’s waters killed animals and left humans scared to swim, the state’s future governor made cleanup a campaign issue. Florida’s severe green and red algae blooms are also killing tourism and businesses in the state. (The Guardian)

To his credit, Governor DeSantis is making good on his promises. While in Congress, DeSantis was a Trump believer and a climate change denier.

  • What changed for DeSantis was being closer to the problem. The situation proves once again that Tip O’Neil was right—all politics are local.
  • Florida’s current junior senator, Rick Scott, was nicknamed Red Tide Rick for his having dismissed the blooms and their relationship to climate change. It nearly cost him the Senate election. Now Scott too has changed his tune and is working with the Florida Congressional delegation to find solutions to the problem.

Don’t shoot. Representative Matt Gaetz offered an amendment that would nix the June 30, 2022 expiration date for the drilling moratorium in Gulf Test Range. An amendment from the bipartisan Florida delegation would prohibit oil and gas pre-leasing and any other relevant activities off the state’s coast to maintain military readiness.

So, sue him. Two major health organizations on sued the Trump administration over its rollback of an Obama-era rule on power plant emissions.

The American Lung Association and the American Public Health Association are challenging 
President Trump’s newly unveiled American Clean Energy (ACE) rule, the administration’s replacement for the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. (The Hill)

Give a little, get a little? Not!. California’s air pollution control boss says she’s open to compromise with the Trump administration over its efforts to relax mileage standards, as the bitter standoff threatens to unleash years of court fights and confusion in the U.S. auto industry.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement: “The Trump Administration believes strongly in a national fuel standard that promotes safer, cleaner, and more affordable vehicles. The Federal government, not a single state, should set this standard. We are moving forward to finalize a rule for the benefit of all Americans.” (AP)

They’ve got some catching up to do. Britain’s approach to climate change and action to slash greenhouse gas emissions is lagging far behind what is needed, according to the government’s own advisers. In its annual report to parliament, the Committee on Climate Change said the government had to show it was serious about tackling the problem in the next 12 to 18 months. It warned that efforts to prepare homes, businesses and the countryside for higher temperatures were “less ambitious” than they were a decade ago. Chairman Lord Deben said: “We can’t go on with this ramshackle system … and doesn’t begin to face the issues.” (Guardian)

Be it resolved. Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced a resolution that would deem climate change an emergency - a resolution that senator and presidential contender Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has said he would introduce in the Senate. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), another presidential candidate, plans to become a sponsor of the Senate version of the resolution, according to a spokeswoman

Without naming it, the resolution makes a case for the sort of Green New Deal outlined in a February resolution all three lawmakers sponsored. (Huffington Post)

  • The resolution will never make it to the floors of the House and Senate. Pelosi has become more than a bit irritated with the progressives in the Democratic delegation. The Speaker is particularly irked by progressives going public with their gripes and tweeting their displeasures over the recent disaster bill and other issues.
  • Even before tensions began to rise, the Speaker was not going to allow H. Res. 109, the original Green New Deal resolution, to make it onto the floor for a vote. She certainly won’t let this new one find its way there either.
  • Pelosi’s perspective on things is there are four difficult progressives and a lot more moderates who won in 2018 in Republican districts. Although the progressive get the publicity, the moderates are in some ways more important for the Democrats to continue their House majority and possibly capturing the White House and the Senate.
  • The fight will continue. At some point, the Speaker will begin to isolate and quietly censure the progressives less for their policy positions and more for the sin of airing dirty laundry in public.

Put a price on it. Congress is moving legislation that could direct the Defense Department to calculate replacement costs for its most vulnerable installations and ensure that new installations are built to withstand climate impacts better. (Bloomberg BNA)

You’re not first with us. For the administration of President Donald Trump, a policy of "energy dominance" means reducing dependence on imported oil and promoting exports to boost the national economy and Washington's political influence overseas. For many of America's European allies, however, it means unwelcome interference in its markets.

  • Incredibly, Trump administration has billed the moves as a way to achieve foreign policy goals, with the added benefit of helping US energy producers expand their markets and American allies diversify their supplies. 
  • If one of Trump’s goals is to p*ss off European allies, he’s certainly found a way to do it.
  • In hawking US fossil fuels in Europe and elsewhere, he’s also sending the message that the US has no intention of paying attention to climate change. The message is irritating EU countries that are committed to the transition while giving cover to countries like Poland who are intent on keeping their coal mines open. (Yahoo news)

There should be no choosing between problems. Hunger is growing, and the world is not on track to end extreme poverty by 2030 and meet other U.N. goals, mainly because progress is being undermined by the impact of climate change and increasing inequality, a U.N. report said (Phys.Org)

No ice in mine. A NASA-funded study found instability in the Thwaites glacier, meaning there will probably come the point when it was impossible to stop it flowing into the sea and triggering a 50cm sea level rise. Other Antarctic glaciers were likely to be similarly unstable. (The Guardian)

Well, “duh.” There’s a problem here: Federal scientists often face political pressure that undermines their research and their ability to share it with the public. Political leaders have buried critical reports, keeping the public in the dark about real threats. They have prevented scientists from publishing their research or attending scientific conferences.

Politicians have disciplined scientists for talking about their findings to journalists. Local governments and first responders rely on federal agencies to track potential disasters and help their communities recover. Moreover, accurate, up-to-date scientific information will be vital as we address the increasing risks of climate change. (The Hill)

We’ll pay you to leave. Cities like Nashville are buying homes of residents in flood-prone areas and prohibiting future development. "Rebuilding out of harm's way can help avoid future devastation in a way that flood insurance cannot," said David Maurstad, head of the National Flood Insurance Program. (Inside Climate News)

How to save $15 trillion. Moody's Analytics estimated that climate change could cost the world $69 trillion by 2100 if global warming reaches two degrees Celsius, while 1.5 degrees Celsius would still bring $54 trillion in damages, according to the consulting firm. The report tallies damages to health, productivity, agriculture, and tourism, and expects the economies of quickly growing countries, such as Brazil and China, to be among the most affected. (The Washington Post)

It all ads up. The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers' 30-second spot will run statewide through July in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The group didn't immediately say how much it was spending on the buy.

  • There’s something sad about having to communicate with the “leader of the free world” through television ads.

I’m curious. Even if the Green New Deal can find support in Congress, it will still have to grapple with its biggest political, economic, and technical challenge: transmission lines. The fundamental challenge of integrating solar and wind energy into the US electric grid is that the areas that are best for generating these types of clean energy are usually very remote. (Wired)

  • I’m curious to know what readers think of this problem.

Right on, E.on. Big Six energy supplier E.on will become the UK's biggest renewable power firm from Tuesday as bosses revealed they would only provide electricity from renewable generation for its 3.3 million customers.

Around half of all the electricity going into homes signed up with E.on will be generated by the German supplier's own renewable sites or via direct agreements with independent renewable generators.

The rest will be from traditional sources, such as gas and coal-fired power stations, but will be offset by E.on buying Renewable Energy Certificates.

Gaslighting. President Donald Trump gave a speech on Monday touting his administration’s “environmental leadership.” He didn’t utter the words “climate change” once; he’s one of the few Republicans still committed to outright denialism. However, he did brag that America was doing better than the rest of the world in fighting the root cause of climate change.

Trump’s speech wasn’t the first time his administration has made this case. Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a statement defending its recent repeal of Obama-era greenhouse gas regulations and its commitment to global warming: “The science is clear, under President Trump greenhouse gas emissions are down.” Moreover, Republicans like Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander have argued that America is a climate savior, not a villain. “When it comes to climate change, China, India, and developing countries are the problem,” he said in a recent floor speech. “American innovation is the answer.”

  • Expect to keep seeing the claim that under the Trump administration, GHG emissions are down. It’s an outright lie. The emissions they are claiming were down were under the Obama administration. The trend has reversed itself, and now, emissions are rising.
  • Trump is testing the message which is targeted towards educated suburban women. His core believes anything he says. Suburban—largely independent white—women are a cohort he needs. His core is not large enough to assure his re-election. Unless, of course, the Democrats blow themselves up with moderate-progressive dog fights.
  • Something new in the message that should be looked for in the future from Trump and Republicans is the claim that the US is somehow saving the world by responsibly burning fossil fuels—and, no I’m not gaslighting. Look for more from me on this in a  coming article.

A good wind blows. State energy regulators in Republican strongholds are forcing utilities to look at the improved economics of solar and wind, facilitating the switch to an electric grid that is reliant on mostly renewable energy.

“If you look at wind development, it is the middle of the country, the midwestern, solidly red states, that have made most of the investment in wind energy, and to me that is completely a non-political issue,” said Devashree Saha, a senior associate with the World Resources Institute, a nonpartisan environmental think tank based in Washington. (Washington Examiner)

Off target. Assuming no major policy changes, the U.S. is projected to fall short of the GHG emissions reduction target set by the Obama administration under the Paris climate change accord.

The U.S. is on track to cut emissions 12 percentto 19 percentbelow 2005 levels by 2025, according to a report released Monday by the Rhodium Group. That is well below the Paris agreement goal of reducing emissions 26 percentto 28 percentin that time frame. (Washington Examiner)

We shale overcome? Power sector emissions will continue to fall through the 2020s, with the coal fleet expected to shrink by nearly a third by 2025, as it loses out to cheaper natural gas and renewables.

However, if natural gas prices stay low (at around $2.65 per MMBtu or lower) through the mid-2020s, that could pose a “serious” threat to climate goals over time, Rhodium projected. Sustained low natural gas prices, with only moderate reductions in renewable costs, could cause solar capacity and wind deployment to grow more slowly, and also harm nuclear power.

In a worst-case scenario, Rhodium says, with low natural gas prices, 45 percentof the nuclear fleet could retire by 2025, equaling 12 percentof the zero-carbon capacity on the U.S. power grid today.

Cheap natural gas could also cause industrial emissions to rise, with low prices encouraging more activity in energy-intensive industries, including steel, cement, chemicals, and refineries.

Methane emissions that come from the oil and gas sector could increase nearly 30 percentby 2025 if the Trump administration weakens methane regulations. (Rhodium Group)

Whew. The Trump administration has indefinitely paused any plans for a climate science review panel amid concern over the public's perception of the president's environmental record and disagreements in the White House, according to two sources. One National Security Council official confirmed the idea is indefinitely delayed but disputed the notion that the White House has fully scrapped the effort, which has been led by William Happer, who has consulted groups that deny mainstream climate science to inform such a panel.

  • I’ve written before that the “review” was an attempt to bring together denialists to again claim climate-science is still unsettled. The documentation would have been used to justify rolling back environmental regulations and, at some point, to challenge the endangerment finding.
  • It would be wise not to think the White House won’t try to find another way ‘round mainstream climate science.

In an age of identity politics. Renewables are shedding their individual identities as wind, and solar become clean energy MWhs.

Though no full-scale hybrid projects co-locating both resources and energy storage have been built in the U.S. and few are online around the world, the U.S. renewables industries are taking on barriers such as interconnection, dispatch, and compensation challenges, according to speakers at the 2019 American Wind Energy Association's Windpower conference.

What’s in a name? Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced legislation to reduce carbon pollution from the national highway system. The Generating Resilient, Environmentally Exceptional National (GREEN) Streets Act would establish national goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help states adapt to the adverse effects of climate change for the federal highway program. In 2016, the transportation sector became the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the United States at 28 percent total emissions, surpassing electricity generation. Driving currently represents 83 percent of all transportation emissions and are rising – despite more efficient vehicles and cleaner fuels – because people are making more frequent and longer trips. (Markey press release)

On the march. Young climate activists are preparing to launch a sprawling, nationwide campaign to push the Democratic National Committee to allow a presidential primary debate devoted to the climate crisis.

Given all of the pressure being felt by DNC Chair Tom Perez, there’s a chance DNC members could vote favorably on whether to allow a climate debate. The DNC will meet again at their Aug. 22–24 meeting in San Francisco.

  • What I found most galling and politically dangerous about the no debate on climate decision was the prohibition of any candidate organizing one on his/her own, with the threat of being cut from the other scheduled DNC debates.
  • These types of responses are Trumpian in nature and show weakness, not strength.

A very Warren-like act. Presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday re-introduced legislation that would force companies to disclose their exposure to climate-related risks.

Warren’s Climate Risk Disclosure Act, originally announced last year, would require every public company disclose to the Securities and Exchange Commission about climate risks to business, such as greenhouse gas emissions.

The measure requires fossil fuel companies to release even more detailed reports and pushes firms to switch more quickly to cleaner and more efficient energy sources. (Now On Line News)

The scientific approach. A House Science, Space, and Technology subcommittee approved legislation yesterday to bolster Department of Energy research and development with additional funding and new climate-focused missions.

The three bills — targeting DOE research activities on wind; solar; and carbon capture, storage, and sequestration — would authorize nearly $7 billion in new annual spending over the next five fiscal years, a 33 percentto 36 percentincrease from current levels.

For Democrats, the updated authorizations would better align federal research efforts into areas that could unleash technologies to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change.

Topping the list of bills passed is H.R. 3607, which would mean a significant update to DOE's Office of Fossil Energy, a program that has not seen a formal reauthorization since 2005.

The bill, led by Representatives Marc Veasey (D-TX) and Conor Lamb (D-PA), the Energy Subcommittee's chairman, would update the program's mission statement to focus its efforts on reducing carbon to help combat climate change.

It would also break out new research ventures in direct air carbon capture and methane leak detection on natural gas infrastructure as well as expand carbon capture research programs related to a variety of industrial sources.

The funding would eventually reach just over $1 billion by fiscal 2024. Congress provided the Office of Fossil Energy $740 million for fiscal 2019.

The other bills — H.R. 3609 and H.R. 3597 — would authorize additional wind and solar research activities at the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, including ways to increase the durability and sustainability of wind components and ways to boost domestic manufacturing of solar panels and other parts.

The bills would set solar research funding at $270 million in fiscal 2020, reaching $328 million by fiscal 2024, and wind energy funding at $104 million in fiscal 2020, eventually rising to $126 million.

Solar research earned $247 million for fiscal 2019. Wind energy got $92 million.

Republicans complained that the legislation would throw more money at programs that already are seeing robust budgets above other DOE initiatives. EERE last year got $2.4 billion — the largest line item in DOE's applied research portfolio.

  • There’s no question that continued research is necessary, and that research is an area of potential bipartisan cooperation.
  • What should be worrying is that research becomes the answer to demands for more aggressive federal climate action. The Republicans are pitching research as the solution to the problem. They also make it sound as if there’s no technology available today that could help solve the problem.
  • What can’t be allowed to happen is allowing recent deniers to pitch long term research as their get out of jail card.

It wasn’t us. The Agriculture Department’s research leaders appear to be doing damage control after reports that the agency suppressed climate science research and potentially violated its own scientific integrity policies. (Washington Post)

Right and wrong. A new bicameral Republican conservation caucus today unveiled its agenda — ranging from clean energy growth to addressing plastic pollution in the oceans — in an effort that South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said will end the GOP's need to "play defense on the environment."

Members of the bicameral Roosevelt Conservation Caucus laid out their priorities during a 30-minute press conference, more than four months after the group's creation was first announced.

"We will win the solution debate. However, the only way you're going to win that debate is to admit you've got a problem," said Graham, who co-chairs the Senate caucus along with Colorado Senator Cory Gardner. Florida Representative Brian Mast and New York Representative Elise Stefanik will co-chair the caucus for House lawmakers.

Graham said the group will build on remarks President Trump offered Monday, emphasizing nonregulatory solutions to pollution while also touting the economic benefits of domestic energy production

Graham also said he hopes that Trump will drop his skepticism on climate change and embrace scientific research. "I'm not a scientist; I have the grades to prove it. But I have really taken this issue to heart, and I would encourage the president to look long and hard at the science and find the solution," Graham said. "I'm tired of playing defense on the environment."

The caucus is named in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican who is often remembered for his prescient and far-reaching protections of the country's natural resources.

  • If anyone needed more proof that Republicans in Congress are worried that climate is a problem voters want solved—or at least worked on by the federal government—this is it.
  • Until proven otherwise, the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus should be viewed with suspicion that it’s not an effort by Republican to greenwash themselves. That they Caucus doesn’t mention climate change in their name is, I think, telling.
  • My guess is the Caucus will focus on things like plastic pollution of the oceans—something Pence and others in the administration have been touting a lot lately.
  • In touting nonregulatory solutions to pollution while promoting the benefits of domestic energy production, the Caucus is telling that they will continue to support the oil, gas and coal industries—perhaps with a little solar and wind thrown into the mix.
  • I bet Graham hopes Trump will change his climate tune at least through the 2020 elections.

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Joel Stronberg's picture

Thank Joel for the Post!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 11, 2019 10:33 pm GMT

Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced a resolution that would deem climate change an emergency - a resolution that senator and presidential contender Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has said he would introduce in the Senate. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), another presidential candidate, plans to become a sponsor of the Senate version of the resolution, according to a spokeswoman

Normally I roll my eyes at political theater because it's not actually working towards those solutions we need, but this is one I'm  happy to see. Put this to a vote so we can see which representatives (and potential future candidates for higher office) will fail to pass this lowest possible bar for climate advocacy. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 11, 2019 11:12 pm GMT

Great summary, Joel.

"What should be worrying is that research becomes the answer to demands for more aggressive federal climate action. The Republicans are pitching research as the solution to the problem. They also make it sound as if there’s no technology available today that could help solve the problem.

What can’t be allowed to happen is allowing recent deniers to pitch long term research as their get out of jail card."

Members of the American Petroleum Institute love research, as they love renewables + storage, carbon capture + storage, and advanced nuclear - each come stored in a can to be kicked down the road at a moment's notice. The purpose? To allow API's membership to continue profiting on sales of fossil fuel until there's none left to extract.

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