Climate Politics: The View from Washington (19th Oct.)


Original appeared at Civil Notion

Climate Politics: The View from Washington (19th Oct.)

Joel Stronberg, Esq.
By Joel Stronberg, Esq. and 10/19/23

It’s been weeks now and 221 Republicans can’t seem to get their House in order. It seems that the gang of eight that removed Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from the speaker’s chair didn’t have a Plan B. The U.S. House of Representatives remains out of order without an elected successor to the former speaker.

Although there’s probably no good time for a leaderless lower chamber, the dysfunction of the House today could hardly come at a worse time—what with wars and a pending government shutdown because the current continuing resolution keeping the doors open will lapse on November 17th without congressional action. Then too there are the matters of inflation and other economic woes facing American families.

The speaker’s race is in turmoil and tempers are beginning to flare. Following the failure of House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) to gather the 217 votes needed to succeed McCarthy, Jim Jordan (R-OH) defeated the moderate Austin Scott (R-GA). Jordan has now failed in his efforts to capture the needed votes.

For many in the Republican House conference Jordan is the last one they would like to see become speaker. It’s an opinion shared by the 212 Democrats. Jordan, a founder of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, has been a leading figure in the ousting of House Speakers Boehner (R-OH) and Ryan (R-WI).

Jordan’s elevation to the speakership would be a case of rewarding the House’s bad boy for the chaos he’s managed to cause since his arrival in Congress in 2007. Jordan has now twice failed to win the 217 votes needed. He lost the second time by more votes than the first. Republicans were heard to say that he was using strong-arm tactics to flip the opposition.

Texas Representative Kay Granger (R) posted on social media: “This was a vote of conscience and I stayed true to my principles. Intimidation and threats will not change my position.” In return for her principled vote, Granger has now received credible death threats from Jordan supporters.

Grainger’s hardly the only House member to receive them. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks has also been threatened after “pulling her support from Jordan in the second round of balloting to choose the next speaker of the House.”

Republicans in both the House and Senate believe the House fiasco will bode badly for them in 2024—especially in districts and states where Biden performed well in 2020. The lesson many voters will learn from the chaos is that Republicans can’t govern.

Among the worried is Congressman Don Bacon (R-NE), who represents Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional district. Bacon is worried about more than winning re-election. He’s reported saying that his wife is getting ugly messages because of his opposition to Jordan. (The congressman has voted twice for McCarthy rather than Jordan.)

Bacon has offered rare insight into the problem. According to him:

These guys want to be in the minority. I think they would prefer that because they could vote 'no' and yell and scream all the time," he told the network. But governing, you have to work together.

Jordan is forcing a third vote rather than taking his having lost the second vote by more than the first. Whether a third loss will cause him to bow out is anyone’s guess at this point. It took McCarthy 15 votes to finally win. Alternatives are being discussed both within and without the Democrats.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY) has indicated that the Democrats would be willing to work with House moderates to come up with a candidate they can agree on. One possibility is voting the temporary House Speaker Patrick McHenry (R-NC) into the speaker’s slot. McHenry, however, has indicated he doesn’t want the position. Can you blame him?

There are other possibilities. Time works against the Republicans on this issue. There’s also a lot of risk involved for any moderate Republican to work with Democrats. Sympathies may be similar but there’s a line to be drawn—somewhere.

There’s a lot of negotiating going on in the used-to-be smoke filled rooms. The Democrats oppose Jordan for many reasons—not the least of these being he’s the lead on efforts to impeach President Biden. There are issues on the table as well and the GOP dysfunction gives them an opportunity to do a bit of horse trading.

Time works against the Democrats as well. They’ve given their colleagues across the aisle all the opportunity to make the decision in a timely manner. They’ll lose the “moral high ground” if they seem unreasonable.

Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern (MA) has described the feeling amongst House Democrats best of all: “We want people who are gonna’ do the responsible thing, not cheer on a government shutdown, not bring garbage to the floor, but actually — for whatever period of time — that person would be there to actually help us legislate in a responsible way.”

The sad part of this is that no business is being conducted on Capitol Hill. If chaos was the objective of the eight far-right Republicans who engineered McCarthy’s removal, they’ve succeeded.

On to today’s ten.

CAFE Oh No. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation took aim at the Biden administration’s plan to drastically hike fuel economy requirements, saying yesterday that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s proposed CAFE rules were “unreasonable” and would significantly drive up average vehicle costs for consumers.

Under the proposal, U.S. automakers would be required to increase the average mileage of passenger vehicles sold by 2% per year, and 4% per year for light-duty trucks and SUVs between 2027 and 2032—resulting in an average fuel economy of 58 miles per gallon.

AAI, which represents nearly all major U.S. automakers excluding Tesla, said yesterday that NHTSA’s plan “exceeds reason and will increase costs to the American consumer with absolutely no environmental or fuel savings benefits.”

The American Automotive Policy Council also urged the administration to halve its proposed fuel economy increases for trucks, saying in a separate statement Monday that the proposed rule “would disproportionately impact the truck fleet,” including more than 80% of vehicles produced by the Detroit Three automakers. (Reuters)

Startups start down. Private market equity and grant funding for climate tech startups around the world totaled $65 billion for the last fiscal year, according to a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. That marks a more than 40% decrease compared to the year prior.

Bloomberg lays out, the reasons for the drop in funding levels can be pointed to geopolitical turmoil, inflation, rising interest rates and lowered valuations – all factors that affect the tech investment landscape at large.

But the stakes for climate investing are higher than ever – the Earth just experienced its hottest September ever, following a record-breaking summer.

The market downturn means that climate tech startups need to be more focused on solving real world problems and understanding “the buyer persona,” Amit Chaturvedy, a global head and managing partner of SE Ventures, a $1 billion venture capital firm, told Bloomberg. (Bloomberg)

Can you hear me now? Climate activist Greta Thunberg was arrested today after she joined hundreds of other protesters in London to disrupt the Energy Intelligence Forum, a three-day conference attended by CEOs from some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies as well as politicians and investors.

The protest was organized by Fossil Free London and Greenpeace, who have dubbed the event as the “Oscars of oil” and plan to stage similar disruptions through the rest of the gathering.

Thunberg said protesters “have no other option but to put our bodies outside this conference and to physically disrupt” the gathering.

Speakers include the CEOs of major fossil fuel companies including Occidental Petroleum, Equinor, Saudi Aramco, and Shell. (

Between a rock and hard place. President Joe Biden is facing pressure from Republicans and some Democrats to crack down on Iranian oil exports following Iranian-allied Hamas’ attack on Israel last weekend, despite the possibility of spiking global oil prices. Earlier this week, Florida’s Rick Scott and nine other GOP senators urged Biden to impose “severe sanctions” on Iran with the help of other Group of Seven countries, while Democrats like Florida Rep. Jared Moskowitz have co-sponsored legislation that aims to deter the country’s oil exports. (Politico

It just keeps rising. Global emissions from energy use are expected to increase through 2050 as a growing population and higher incomes will “offset” the impacts of efficiency and lower carbon intensity, according to a new report from the Energy Information Administration. The primary source of carbon dioxide emissions through 2050 will be China, the EIA said, while India is expected to become the second-biggest emitter by that time. (The Hill

A step in the right direction. Solar developers, environmentalists, farming groups and tribal organizations said on Thursday that they had reached an agreement that could make it easier in the United States to build large solar farms, which have attracted stiff opposition in some places.

The agreement seeks to address some thorny land-use and biodiversity issues that often stymie power projects in which developers propose installing large arrays of solar panels. The deal is the result of months of discussions organized by the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Nature Conservancy.

Various groups have opposed large solar projects, arguing that they take up land that is sacred to tribes or is home to threatened plants or animals. Some people have also opposed solar farms for aesthetic reasons, arguing that they ruin their view or the pastoral nature of their communities.

Participants in the talks that produced the agreement said it would give project developers and potential opponents a framework — focusing on greater public participation early in the siting process — to resolve concerns without resorting to legal and political fights. That, in turn, would help accelerate the use of solar energy and fight climate change. (New York Times)

What a load of crop. Republican Rep. Mike Lawler and Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin of New York have introduced a measure that provides farmers with funding to reduce carbon emissions and nutrient pollution – a bill that already has a Senate companion, and could be considered in the upcoming farm bill.

The House measure, dubbed the “CROP for Farming Act” and first obtained by the Washington Examiner, would amend the Food Security Act of 1985 to expand access to funds for farmers looking to voluntarily reduce their emissions. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which falls under the decades-old law, pays farmers to plan and implement conservation projects – and under this bill, would make three agricultural practices eligible for federal funds: reducing nitrous oxide and methane emissions, and storing carbon in soil and plants. Read the bill here. 

“As a member of the Conservative Climate Caucus and Co-Chair of the Appalachian Trail Caucus, ensuring that we preserve our environment for future generations is very important to me,” Lawler said in a written statement. “This legislation will help our farmers and incentivize innovative practices that ensure a cleaner, better future for everyone. That’s something we can all support, regardless of politics.”

According to an analysis from activist organization Environmental Working Group, total EQIP payments to farmers between 2017 and 2020 totaled more than $3.6 billion – but only 23% of payments went toward mitigating climate change. The offices cited this study in a fact sheet to explain that an expansion of the EQIP program would aid farmers in reducing agriculture-related emissions, and help the U.S. reach its climate goals by 2050.

The bipartisan measure has nearly 30 organizations endorsing the measure, including green groups such as Earthjustice and Evergreen Action. (Washington Examiner)

Put a cap on it.  The Treasury Department announced new enforcement measures today aimed at strengthening the price cap on Russian oil, a first-of-its-kind punitive measure that comes amid reports that Moscow’s flagship Urals-grade crude is being sold at prices far higher than the $60 per barrel cap set by Western leaders.

Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said it is sanctioning two entities that have continued to transport Russian oil at prices above the capped price while using Western shipping services.

The sanctions are the first time that the G-7-led oil price cap coalition has made good on its threat to punish entities that continue to defy the oil price cap—or the first-of-its-kind effort designed to slash Russia’s oil revenue while also keeping its barrels on the market. (Washington Examiner)

A matter of money. Among consumers who said they were considering installing solar panels in the next 10 years, more than 4 in 5 said they were considering them as a way to lower their electric bills.

Despite widespread interest, many consumers without solar panels said upfront installation costs are keeping the energy systems out of their reach.

Lowering the upfront costs of solar panel installations will drive faster adoption of rooftop solar systems. As consumers become more aware of funding opportunities through agencies like the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, which are already working to fund projects that will help lower those costs, more solar adoption is likely to follow.

A lack of respect. Indigenous groups say huge project in northern Nevada threatens environmental, cultural and historical destruction

The rugged and beautiful Thacker Pass in the desert mountains of northern Nevada has long been a sacred site for Native American tribes in the region.

It has witnessed bloody and terrible history. On 12 September 1865, US federal soldiers in the 1st Nevada cavalry committed a massacre of Native Americans, the Numu, across Thacker Pass, named Peehee Mu’huh – Rotten Moon, in the Numu language. Thirty to 50 Native Americans are believed to have been killed, including women and children.

The pass is also the site of the largest known lithium deposit in the US and one of the largest in the world, and Native people and their supporters say another tragedy is now unfolding there.

A mining project on the site by Lithium Americas, fast-tracked at the end of the Trump Administration, started construction earlier this year. For its proponents, the mine is an essential component for the US’s shift to a greener future. For its critics, the mine threatens irrevocable environmental and historical destruction to the area. (The Guardian)