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Climate Politics/Capitol Light

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Climate, Politics/Capitol Light©, is a service of The JBS Group and Civil Notion

January 16, 2020

Congress Rules—

Impeachment and the pending Senate trial are understandably sucking most of the oxygen out of Capital City. Senate committee chairs are still deciding if hearings are feasible once the trial starts. Rules are that Senators must sit in their seats for the entire time. They won’t be allowed their cell phones, or to talk to their neighbors, or read any material not directly associated with the proceeding.

The hearings are expected to go into February. Trump will likely be giving his State of the Union address while the trial is still going on. It should be interesting to see how he will handle facing 230 of his accusers in Speaker Pelosi’s House.

It appears that House Republicans are meeting to discuss putting together their own climate crisis package in response to the CLEAN Future Act that was put together by Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (See here for a detailed discussion) Although they won’t admit it, it does seem they are worried about having no response to the Democrats in an election year.

As reported in The Hill: GOP lawmakers active in the energy sphere said the plan would likely build upon a package of a dozen pieces of legislation that House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans organized as part of their 2020 agenda.

It’s a sign of the times that Republicans and Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are meeting separately to come up with the legislative proposals. It reflects how the committees have operated in a hyper-partisan atmosphere. It’s not as if the two-sides have any real intention of coming together to work out their differences.

Maybe the Senate’s trial rules should be applied Congress-wide? Committee members must stay in their seats, no gum chewing, no cell phones, no materials not germane to the proceedings, no spit balls, and they must pay attention to each other.

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The Rock. BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, joined Climate Action 100+ last week, becoming part of a network of companies pushing businesses for more transparency and aggression in cutting emissions. JPMorgan Chase, meanwhile, has pledged to source 100% of its energy from renewable sources by this year and plans to provide $200 billion for clean energy and other sustainable projects through 2025. (New York Times)

Hot enuf for you? A study published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences found that 2019 was the warmest year on record for oceans, a finding that comes a week after a European climate agency reported that last year was the Earth's second-warmest year on record. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, one of the study's authors, said 2018 was the second-warmest year for oceans, and 2017 was third. (The New York Times)

Will they, though? China has agreed to purchase more than $50 billion in energy products from the United States over two years as part of the countries' phase-one trade deal signed in Washington on Wednesday, according to a source briefed on the deal. However, traders and analysts raised skepticism about China's ability to purchase the energy products, which would include crude oil, liquefied natural gas and imports of petrochemical raw materials. (Reuters)

Where climate really matters. Three major energy and environmental issues debated in the Democratic-controlled House—climate change, offshore oil drilling, and “forever” chemicals—are starting to surface in the 2020 fight for the majority.

While they will likely again take a back seat in voters’ minds to health care and the economy, and the presidential election will undoubtedly be a significant factor in down-ballot races, Bloomberg Environment has identified seven races in which green issues could become wedges on the campaign trail as the election year progresses. (Bloomberg)

What’s driving them? The U.S. power sector is undergoing a fundamental transformation and has been for some time. But what are the biggest trends to watch in 2020? (Utility Dive)

Landowners’ right? Federal judges should seize an opportunity to reverse a "fundamentally flawed" precedent that keeps pipeline opponents out of court until it's too late to halt a project, lawyers for landowners and environmentalists said in new court filings. (Bloomberg)

Pipe dream. Michigan's Department of Natural Resources is demanding records from Enbridge Inc. that appear geared toward bolstering the state's case to shut down oil and gas lines that lie across the Straits of Mackinac connecting the state's Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

Money, money. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. agreed to buy $200 million in loans from Loanpal, the nation's largest provider of financing for rooftop solar panels.

It won’t save them.  Those who remember promises public officials in West Virginia have made about the future of the coal industry are skeptical of a new initiative Gov. Jim Justice announced to research alternative uses for the fossil fuel.

During his State of the State address at the West Virginia Capitol Wednesday, Justice, a Republican and coal company owner, announced that the Wyoming-based company Ramaco Carbon would be opening a research facility in West Virginia focused on turning coal to carbon fiber.

Won’t it just? Sustained effort will be required, including multiple strategies, because emissions-intensive coal is still a dominant source of power in Asia, International Energy Agency executive director Fatih Birol said in a presentation Saturday.

"A host of policies and technologies will be needed across every sector to keep climate targets within reach, and further technology innovation will be essential to aid the pursuit of 1.5 degrees [Celsius global temperature] stabilization," Birol said in Abu Dhabi. (S&P Global)

In their sights. Climate change activists are sharpening their campaign against Wall Street banks and top insurers, aiming to convince financial giants like JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway to cut off the flow of money supporting investments in oil, natural gas, and coal. (Politico)

A different kind of weather report. The Weather Channel will talk with several 2020 candidates about environmental justice as the second part of its "2020: Race to Save the Planet" special.

Conversations with Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn), former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg , and businessmen Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer will be featured, according to a statement from the channel. (The Hill)

EV Outlook. This year's forecast includes new analysis on how shared mobility will impact vehicle sales patterns, on the long-term demand for freight, and on how electrification will play out in the commercial vehicle market. We have also included our latest analysis on the outlook for battery prices and battery chemistry. (Bloomberg)

Publish or …? It took a lawsuit, but the Department of Energy (DOE) published the first new national appliance efficiency standards since 2017. The new standards, finalized under the Obama administration in December 2016 but withheld from official publication by the Trump administration, will cut energy waste for four product categories: portable air conditioners, commercial boilers, uninterruptible power supplies, and industrial air compressors.  It’s an eclectic bunch of products, but the savings really add up.

DOE estimates that the new standards will save consumers and businesses about $8.4 billion and cut climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 100 million metric tons over 30 years.  That’s roughly equivalent to taking 21 million cars off the road for a year. (ACEEE)

Is it? After “missed opportunity” in solar, the Trump administration wants a domestic supply chain for energy storage. Is that realistic? (GreenTech Media)

Not good.  A new coalition aims to garner support for President Trump's plans to overhaul the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a major environmental law.

GOP operative Phil Cox is the chairman of the coalition, named Building a Better America. The former executive director of the Republican Governors Association also led Trade Works for America, a pro-trade group that pushed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. (The Hill)

Keeping ‘em alive. A new United Nations proposal calls for national parks, marine sanctuaries, and other protected areas to cover nearly one-third or more of the planet by 2030 as part of an effort to stop a sixth mass extinction and slow global warming.

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity released the proposed targets on Monday in a first draft of what is expected to become an update to the global treaty on biodiversity later this year. It aims to halt species extinctions and also limit climate change by protecting critical wildlife habitat and conserving forests, grasslands, and other carbon sinks. (ICN)

Water, water. The Trump administration is reportedly preparing to release its proposed replacement for the Obama-era Waters of the U.S. rule as soon as Sunday, when President Donald Trump and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler are scheduled to attend the American Farm Bureau Federation's convention in Austin, Texas. While the exact details of the proposal or the timing of its release have not been made public, the Trump administration's 2018 revisions called for removing about half of the country's wetlands and millions of miles of streams from environmental protections. (Politico)

Bernie sez. Senator Sanders emphasized his strong opposition to the revamped North American trade deal on the Democratic presidential debate stage Tuesday night because it lacks measures to curb climate change. (Washington Examiner)

Classical gas. Access to cheap natural gas has helped displace coal and cut greenhouse gas emissions. But it's also incentivized a massive buildout of fossil-fuel infrastructure along the U.S. Gulf Coast that one study says could increase carbon emissions by half a billion metric tons a year. (Bloomberg)

Green gas. Power plants that run on hydrogen could be cost-competitive with those using fossil fuels by the middle of the century if governments double the cost of carbon pollution. (Bloomberg)

Top 5. The world's business leaders and politicians are sounding the alarm on climate change, citing environmental-related issues as their most significant concerns in the coming decade that could wreak costly economic and societal havoc.

For the first time, climate-related issues dominated the top-five likely risks over the next decade, according to the World Economic Forum's (WEF) new annual "Global Risks Report," which ranks the most urgent risks currently facing the globe.

According to a survey of 750 business leaders, politicians, and academics, they're most worried about extreme weather damaging infrastructure and property and killing people. The report also cites fears of businesses and governments failing to mitigate climate change, human-caused environmental disasters like oil spills and radioactive contamination, biodiversity loss, and major natural disasters. (Yahoo Finance)

A man and his plan. The morning after being left off the debate stage, Michael Bloomberg released a plan setting a target of making all new buildings zero-carbon by 2025.

Bloomberg would also push for energy efficiency upgrades in existing homes and buildings through federal incentives and standards.

Buildings are responsible for 12% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. He would achieve his goals by creating a new “Bucks for Boilers” program that encourages people to trade in oil and gas boilers, heaters, and other equipment for all-electric options.

2nd fastest. U.S. coal-fired power plants shut down at the second-fastest pace on record in 2019, despite President Donald Trump's efforts to prop up the industry, according to data from the federal government and Thomson Reuters. (Reuters)

Job losses.  The Northeast’s carbon trading program for power plant pollution could harm employment and production, underlining the challenge that proponents face in enacting similar policies at the national level. (Washington Examiner)

A new report circulated by the National Bureau of Economic Research Monday highlights the challenge of so-called “leakage” from carbon pricing schemes.

Leakage occurs when companies subject to a carbon price move their operations elsewhere; in this context, to another state, that does not have a similar policy. (Washington Examiner)

Corn on the mob. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has accepted a request from corn state lawmakers to review the Environmental Protection Agency's granting of 31 exemption waivers in the 2018 compliance year from biofuel blending requirements, according to a GAO letter. The request was submitted by Reps. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) (Reuters)

Hard at work. On the surface, House Democrats have diligently stressed their commitment to the environment. They have held more than 120 hearings, championed legislation meant to curb planet-warming emissions, and created a select committee on climate change. (New York Times)

Double down. Governments should double the total investment in solar, wind, and other green technologies over the next decade to achieve "a pathway to climate safety," the International Renewable Energy Agency said. (Bloomberg)

The best and worst. It’s not surprising that the 2020 Democratic hopefuls have gotten their acts together and want to be sure they are firm on climate as a top priority. They all agree with the U.N. consensus that warming must max out at 1.5 degrees Celsius before the end of the century. This will require achieving net-neutral carbon emissions by 2050.

Morning Consult offers its take on the Democratic contenders.

Nasty stuff.  Project Drawdown is a research organization that focuses on solutions to climate change. Refrigerant is so shitty for the environment that the organization lists refrigerant management as the number one thing that can be done to curb climate change—more than switching to electric cars, more than building wind farms, more than any other single thing.

It is a much bigger problem than just cars. HVAC systems in homes and office buildings, refrigerators, vending machines, and anything that is designed to cool things down (and sometimes to heat things up) has refrigerant in it. (Jalopnik)

Lumped together. A group of US environmental activists engaged in non-violent civil disobedience targeting the oil industry has been listed in internal Department of Homeland Security documents as “extremists” and some of its members listed alongside white nationalists and mass killers, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.

The group has been dubbed the Valve Turners, after closing the valves on pipelines in four states carrying crude oil from Canada’s tar sands on 11 October 2016, which accounted for about 15% of US daily consumption. It was described as the largest coordinated action of its kind and for a few hours, the oil stopped flowing. (The Guardian)

Joel Stronberg's picture

Thank Joel for the Post!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 16, 2020 5:39 pm GMT

Will they, though? China has agreed to purchase more than $50 billion in energy products from the United States over two years as part of the countries' phase-one trade deal signed in Washington on Wednesday, according to a source briefed on the deal. However, traders and analysts raised skepticism about China's ability to purchase the energy products, which would include crude oil, liquefied natural gas and imports of petrochemical raw materials. (Reuters)

Another great example of politicians securing what they can tout as a win with pretty minimal accountability in actually delivering. Will be interesting to see what the outcome actually is though

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