Capitol Light/Climate Politics
Congress is out until September and the absence of the hot air off of Capitol Hill—in the hottest month ever recorded—is appreciated by all.
The Senate is expected back on the 5th, while the House won’t return until the 12th, leaving precious few days to pass something—either appropriations bills or a continuing resolution—to keep the government open. The signs are not good. Much will depend upon what members hear from their constituents.
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For the moment the culture wars look to continue, as reflected by Senator Tuberville’s (R-AL) continuing to hold up the promotions of over 200 military personnel and the Defense Department stops paying for until the pay for abortions. Turns out, too, that the senator doesn’t really live in Alabama—he’s now being referred to by some in the media as “Florida’s third senator.”
Tuberville is not alone in stonewalling congressional colleagues over needed appropriations wanting to get on with the business of governing. Representative Mace (R-SC) and other Republican moderates and establishment conservatives are getting worried about what voters in swing districts think of the hold ups in Washington and their impact in November 2024.
Questions concerning the Biden administration’s climate and energy policies are bubbling up with greater regularity. Not all the complaints are coming from the fossil fuel industry. Environmentalists are beginning to express their frustration and feelings of betrayal as the president continues to auction off federal leases for fossil fuel exploration and extraction.
Biden’s announcement of the creation of a new national monument in Arizona—his fifth in ten months—isn’t going to be enough to offset the administration’s continuing support for fossil fuels. There is—or should be—concern on the parts of Democrats about the participation of younger Americans in the coming elections.
The risk isn’t so much whether young climate activists will vote for Biden and the Democratic ticket once they’re in the booth. The real risk their not showing up at all.
On with today’s ten.
Yes, it is hot enough for me. Global air and ocean temperatures soared to a record high in July, according to the EU’s climate change service Copernicus, deepening concern among climate scientists at a time when a spate of heat records suggest the planet has entered uncharted territory.
July was found to be a whopping 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than the average for the 1850-1900 period and 0.33 degrees Celsius warmer than the previous warmest month of July 2019.
Meanwhile, global average sea surface temperatures continued to rise in July, the EU’s climate monitor said, after a long period of unusually high temperatures stretching back to April. For the month as a whole, the planet’s average sea surface temperature was 0.51 degrees Celsius above the 1991 to 2020 average. (CNBC)
Are farmers ready to go green? President Joe Biden’s Agriculture Department is pulling off a feat unimaginable a mere decade ago: gaining wide support within the conservative farming industry for a program to fight climate change.
The winning formula involves paying farmers to test out green practices, rather than forcing them to pay for excessive carbon emissions.
Biden officials are hoping their $3 billion initiative — which began doling out money this spring — will lay the groundwork for long-term buy-in for green farming from rural voters and American agribusiness, not to mention future investment from Congress and Wall Street. But they still need to prove it actually has an environmental impact and isn’t just a giveaway to Big Ag, as some climate activists fear. (POLITICO)
Is the Grass-ley greener? Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa says he doesn’t anticipate the Senate marking up its version of the 2023 Farm Bill until after the current legislation expires in September.
During his call with reporters on Tuesday, Grassley said for the first time since the 1990’s the Senate Appropriations Committee has moved all 12 appropriations bills out of committee with bipartisan support.
The House, however, adjourned for its August recess before voting on the Ag Appropriations bill. (Brownfield Ag News)
That’s cold, bro’. It largely doesn’t matter what Mike Pence’s plans for the presidency are, given that his odds of being elected to that position next year are just a bit better than your odds of winning Powerball. Pence on Sunday did offer a useful articulation of the right’s climate policy — an articulation that recent polling reinforces.
Instead, he offered a greasy-spoon diner’s menu of distractions. During “our” administration (that is, when he was serving as Donald Trump’s vice president) there was $2-a-gallon gas, he said — a state of affairs that depended on the cratering of the economy from the coronavirus pandemic. Trump (who must be annoyed every time Pence adopts administration successes as his own) backed the country out of the Paris climate accord, but the nation might hit those goals anyway. (Washington Post)
How much longer will they put up with it? Moderate Republicans and those in competitive districts have largely lined up behind Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and other GOP leaders as they have acquiesced to the evolving demands from hardline conservatives, The Hill’s Emily Brooks reports, but their patience is wearing thin. Democrats have already jumped on swing district Republicans for going along with some of the more controversial votes spearheaded by the party’s rightmost flank. Perhaps adding insult to injury, many of the messaging provisions they’ve been forced to take votes on are unlikely to make it into the final version of the bill approved by the Senate.
“If we keep members in swing districts — we put them on the plank every single week, we’re gonna have huge problems. And it may be too late for that,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) said. “There’s only so much people can take before they say enough is enough.” (The Hill Morning Report)
Let the chips fall where they may. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) is outlining his latest demands in the fight over appropriations and government spending, issuing an ultimatum to the Biden White House in exchange for his support on the must-pass legislation: the ouster of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
In a Dear Colleague letter sent out to lawmakers on Tuesday, Roy listed a number of demands the Texas Republican said must be met in order for him to support legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security or to vote for a continuing resolution ahead of the looming Sept. 30 deadline. Those demands include measures to tighten security at the southern border, which Roy argues is a “national crisis.”
“Enacting a CR would unacceptably mean continuing the funding level and policies of the disastrous FY 2023 omnibus, which Speaker [Kevin] McCarthy correctly argued perpetuates the border crisis,” Roy wrote. “Passing a full-year DHS appropriations bill without forcing the significant change necessary to secure the southern border is equally objectionable, even with some policy riders.” (Washington Examiner)
Line by line. After approving changes to help connect wind and solar to the grid, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission faces another daunting task: getting more power lines built.
The agency is weighing a rule that would ensure planning for transmission lines keeps pace with a changing energy resource mix — while helping to settle who should pay for lines that cross multiple states.
If finalized, the plan could spur the development of more large power lines near renewable energy, from remote locations in the sunny Southwest to offshore wind farms on the East Coast. Building more transmission is also key to helping the United States transition to a carbon-free grid by 2035 in line with Biden administration goals, according to the Department of Energy. (E&E News)
A monumental decision. President Joe Biden is expected to announce the creation of a new national monument in Arizona, making it the fifth monument designated by Biden in the last 10 months. The monument will encompass almost a million acres of land surrounding the Grand Canyon and will prohibit new uranium mining claims in the region. (Politico)
The Biden administration is expected to announce this month the first grant winners of a multi-billion dollar competition to speed the development of a new clean technology industry: massive facilities that remove carbon dioxide from the sky.
Those awards for so-called direct air capture hubs could define the future of the nascent DAC (direct air capture) industry in the United States as well as the broader CO2 removal sector, experts say. Along with steep emissions cuts, large-scale carbon removal will be essential in the coming decades to avoid dangerously overheating the planet, according to climate scientists.
“This is a big deal. It’s going to be a lot of people’s first introduction to large-scale, technological carbon removal deployment,” said Sasha Stashwick, the director of tech policy at Carbon180, an advocacy group that’s involved in a feasibility study for a direct air capture project led by the University of California, Berkeley. (E&E News)
Out of thin air. U.S. power plant owners warned the Biden administration on Tuesday that its sweeping plan to slash carbon emissions from the electricity sector is unworkable, relying too heavily on costly technologies that are not yet proven at scale.
Top utility trade group the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for revisions of the proposed power plant standards, which hinge on the widespread commercial availability of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and low-emissions green hydrogen, adding the agency's vision was "not legally or technically sound." (Reuters)
Slash but don’t burn. The U.S. government’s most ambitious plan ever to slash planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles faces skepticism both about how realistic it is and whether it goes far enough.
The Environmental Protection Agency in April announced new strict emissions limits that the agency says are vital to slowing climate change as people around the globe endure record-high temperatures, raging wildfires and intense storms.
The EPA says the industry could meet the limits if 67% of new-vehicle sales are electric by 2032, a pace the auto industry calls unrealistic. However, the new rule would not require automakers to boost electric vehicle sales directly. Instead, it sets emissions limits and allows automakers to choose how to meet them.
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