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Capitol Light/Climate Politics
Today's ten tidbits
The B-word. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is urging House Republicans to vote against a proposal from Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO) this week.
Some Republican officials expect the motion to worsen relationships in the Republican Party, and McCarthy is asking the legislators to vote down the proposal when it reaches the House floor.
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Boebert announced the motion on Twitter on Tuesday, citing Biden's handling of the U.S.-Mexico border as the reason behind the articles of impeachment. (Newsweek)
Comment: As if the House under Republican rule was not already dysfunctional enough, GOPers are now after each other. As reported by The Daily Beast, Marjorie Taylor Greene, the other maven of the far-right Republican caucus, called Boebert (R-CO) a “little bitch” to her face on the floor of the House chamber. Greene was pi*sed that her colleague copied her earlier call to impeach the president.
Missing ingredients. Auto firms race to secure non-Chinese graphite for EVs as shortages loom. (Reuters)
Comment: Supply shortages are plaguing the transition to low-carbon economies. Whether one supports or opposes “globalism” the fact is that nation’s are in competition with each for scarce natural resources beyond their borders.
The greening of red states. Auto giant Ford has won a conditional commitment for a $9.2 billion Department of Energy loan to build three factories to make batteries for electric vehicles. The loan is one of the largest ever to come out of the Department of Energy's loan program's office, a department that previously funded Tesla, and is part of the Biden administration's effort to kickstart an American EV manufacturing wave.
The DOE offered the loan to BlueOval SK LLC, a joint venture between Ford and Korean EV battery maker SK On. The funds will be used to build three factories (two in Kentucky and one in Tennessee) that will churn out batteries for Ford and Lincoln-branded EVs. The DOE says the funds will create 5,000 construction jobs, and 7,500 operating jobs. (Axios)
Comment: A lot of federal climate-related monies are flowing into red states that are often opposed to federal climate and clean energy policies. Both Tennessee and Kentucky, for example, have enacted anti-ESG legislation. Will the funds and jobs created make these and other red states more supportive of the Biden administration’s efforts to speed the transition to a sustainable environment? The odds aren’t favorable in the near term.
XXX. The Senate failed to override Biden’s veto of Sen. Deb Fischer’s resolution of disapproval to cancel EPA’s heavy-duty vehicle emissions rule. The vote was an even split 50-50. (Washington Examiner)
Comment: The resolution required a two-thirds majority to pass. Concurrent resolutions to override a federal regulation require a two-thirds majority. Moreover, they can be vetoed by the president. As long as there’s a split in control of Congress and the White House, these types of resolutions are more messaging than anything else. Should one or the other party control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue that can change.
Money talks. Budget Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) held his 10th climate change-related hearing of the Congress this morning as he shapes the committee into the Senate’s fossil fuel watchdog.
Whitehouse has been using the committee’s jurisdiction over budgetary matters to scrutinize oil and gas companies’ business and political strategies, carrying over the “dark money” themes he has explored on other committees, including on Judiciary with respect to the nomination of judges.
“Collectively, fossil-fuel aligned trade organizations and dark money groups have spent tens of billions of dollars—again, that we know of—on ads, lobbying, campaign contributions and dark money front groups,” Whitehouse has said that the spending by fossil fuel interests is delaying decarbonization around the world and increasing climate-related economic risks to the U.S. budget. (Washington Examiner)
Comment: The chairman ain’t wrong about how fossil fuel groups are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat clean-energy measures. Money talks.
There’s no insuring the future it seems. Droves of Americans moving out West and to Gulf Coast states are putting themselves at risk of becoming uninsurable.
More extreme wildfires, hurricanes, and other climate-fueled disasters, combined with the rising costs of building materials, are straining property-insurance providers in California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas — with some companies pulling out of select states altogether.
“We're in a perfect storm of market conditions,” Carole Walker, the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Association, which represents property and casualty insurers in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, told Insider. “We’re seeing escalating catastrophe risk, a historic rise in inflation. And the cost to recover and rebuild homes is increasing.” (Business Insider)
Comment. Other insurance companies are following suit. How serious is the problem? In Colorado, three of every four insurers shrank the number of homeowners on their books between 2021 and 2022, while premiums had jumped by an average 52 percent from early 2019 to late 2022.
There’s always been a certain lunacy to insurance payouts that are used to rebuild properties in areas that keep flooding or burning. The lack of insurance may turn out to be the biggest motivator for aggressively combatting Earth’s warming.
That’s some extension cord. A 732-mile power line broke ground in Wyoming this week, paving the way for the country’s largest onshore wind project to send zero-carbon energy to California, Arizona and Nevada.
While the $3 billion TransWest Express Transmission project marks a win for the Biden administration, it took nearly two decades to green-light, writes Jason Plautz.
The delay (which is now old enough to vote) highlights a major challenge for grid projects: permitting. The process is complex and time-consuming, even for projects backed by the administration.
Transmission lines that are powerful and big enough to transport energy from solar fields and wind farms to urban centers often cross federal, state, county and private land, necessitating approval from the government at each level. That can take years, to say nothing of cost. (Politico Power Switch)
Comment. We must find ways to shorten the time for the deployment of needed infrastructure, while still reasonably protecting the environment. The simple fact is there are tradeoffs that are necessary if the transition is to a low carbon economy is to happen at the speed and scale needed to combat climate change.
In the summertime. This could be the first summer in which virtual power plants—networks of small batteries that work in tandem to function like power plants—are large enough to make their presence felt by helping to keep the lights on during the hottest days.
After years of pilot projects, utilities and battery companies now have networks with thousands of participants in California, Utah and Vermont, among others. The batteries in virtual power plants add megawatts of capacity to the grid when electricity demand is at its highest. And most of the electricity from the batteries is generated by rooftop solar. (Inside Climate News)
Water, water, nowhere. The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled against the Navajo Nation over claims that the federal government has failed to assert the tribe's desperate need for water access.
The justices, divided 5-4, said a lawsuit the tribe filed against the federal government must be thrown out. Writing for the majority, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said that a 1868 treaty with the Navajo Nation did not require the U.S. government to take active steps to secure water access. "And it is not the judiciary's role to rewrite and update this 155-year-old treaty," he added. (NBC News)
Comment: Perhaps the greatest surprise in the court’s decision was Justice Neil Gorsuch breaking with his five conservative colleagues and joining the dissent of the three liberal justices.
Will their demands be met? Representing a coalition of more than 255 climate justice and other progressive groups as well as more than 50,000 supporters, campaigners on Wednesday digitally delivered a petition demanding the U.S. Department of Justice end its efforts to block a lawsuit filed eight years ago by 21 youth plaintiffs over the harm done to children across the country by the government's continued support for fossil fuels.
The People vs. Fossil Fuels coalition—including Food & Water Watch, Sunrise Movement, and 350.org—delivered the petition to the DOJ and Attorney General Merrick Garland, with coalition steering committee member John Beard saying the young plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States "have the right to be heard by their nation's courts."
Comment: Three administrations—Obama, Trump, and Biden—have opposed the efforts of the youthful plaintiffs to have their cases heard by a court. What all three have in common is their contention that the cases raise political questions and that a court’s decision would blur the lines of separation between the three branches of government.
Image courtesy of Robin Canfield and Unsplash
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