To those waiting for Republicans to take any legislative step toward mitigating the effects of man-made climate change: There's good news and bad news.
First, the good news: On Monday, a House Republican will finally put forward a piece of legislation designed to discourage the burning of fossil fuels. The measure from Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida does so by placing a price on emitting carbon dioxide, which is the sort of measure most economists see as the most cost-effective way of reducing the buildup of the key greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.
“I understand that the onus is on Republicans to step up and show that we're willing to tackle this issue in a meaningful way,” Curbelo said in an interview Thursday.
And the bad news? On that same day, 222 of Curbelo's GOP colleagues voted in favor of a resolution by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) declaring any such carbon tax would be “detrimental to the United States economy.”
The overwhelming success of the anti-carbon tax gesture shows the party led by President Trump — who personally rejects climate science — is far from ready to enact any measure to stem the release of more of greenhouse gases.
Representing a portion of South Florida already seeing frequent flooding, Curbelo has emerged as a lone voice with the GOP caucus trying to push his party toward embracing “market-based solutions” to a problem many Republicans refuse to even acknowledge.
But Curbelo is trying to make things less lonely for himself. He, along with fellow Floridian Rep. Ted Deutch (D), founded the Climate Solutions Caucus two years ago to commit a bipartisan group of House members to addressing climate change. At least at the surface, the results are encouraging for environmental advocates. So far, 43 Republicans have joined the caucus.
But environmentalists are less encouraged when they take a look at caucus members' voting records. On Thursday, only six GOP representatives broke with the party and voted against the resolution declaring carbon taxes detrimental. (One Republican Climate Solutions Caucus member voted present.)
It is “astounding that House Republicans would pass an anti-climate resolution with outrageous and factually dubious claims that rejects outright one viable option for addressing climate change,” Deutch said Thursday. “Every member of Congress, especially Climate Solutions Caucus members, should keep all options available.”
Still, some others saw progress. “The fact that six Republicans voted 'no' on an anti-carbon tax resolution is an indication that there are cracks in the wall separating Democrats and Republicans on climate change,” said Mark Reynolds, executive director of the Citizens' Climate Lobby, a grass-roots environmental group that helped organize the caucus. “When a similar resolution came up in the previous Congress, every Republican voted for it.”
Among those Republicans who switched sides on the nonbinding resolution was Curbelo himself.
“I understand for a lot of colleagues when you ask the question in a vacuum, as this resolution did, any tax hurts economic growth.” Curbelo said walking from the floor Thursday after the vote. “But once you put it in a broader context, it can make sense.”
The Florida Republican said while he did not have “a formal whip operation” on the anti-carbon tax resolution, “we did engage members” of the caucus.
He regarded the timing of the resolution from the actual House whip as “a defensive move.” Scalise's office said the timing of his resolution was coincidental.
Curbelo's bill would repeal the federal gasoline tax and replace it with a tax on carbon dioxide levied directly against energy companies and some manufacturers. In turn, the Environmental Protection Agency would be prohibited from regulating carbon dioxide emissions.
Revenue from the carbon tax would go toward housing low-income people, mitigating coastal flooding, researching alternative energy and assisting displaced coal workers.
But the bulk of it would go toward building new infrastructure. “This bill, in addition to being responsible policy, does attempt to capture the political energy of the moment,” Curbelo said.
“Perhaps the only one” of Trump's agenda items, Curbelo added, “that was popular across the American electorate was infrastructure investment.”
Curbelo's bill has earned the support of some environmental organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, whose senior policy adviser Jason Albritton called it “a pretty thoughtful approach to the issue.”
Conservative donors who twist the arms of Curbelo's fellow Republicans quickly dismissed his proposal. “The mere thought of a carbon tax is tantamount to throwing a wet blanket on an economy ignited by tax reform,” said Brent Gardner of Americans for Prosperity, the main political organizing arm of billionaire oilman Charles Koch's donor network.
At the beginning of Trump's presidency, a group of senior Republican statesmen, including former secretaries of state James A. Baker and George P. Shultz, pitched a similar “carbon fee and dividend” to the White House. Under that plan, the federal government would tax carbon but would redistribute the revenue directly to taxpayers. Gary Cohn, then head of Trump’s National Economic Council, heard Baker and his team out.
The White House ultimately did not embrace the plan.
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— Zinke’s calendar is missing details, too: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s official calendar appears to omit some information from about a dozen various meetings, CNN reports. The network and the Center for Western Priorities both reviewed Zinke’s calendars and found several examples of Zinke "not including a full list of attendees or agenda items,” after comparing the calendars to emails between Zinke and schedulers, per the report. Former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt also kept a “secret” calendar hiding details about certain meetings.
Meanwhile: Zinke visited the command center in charge of the ongoing Ferguson Fire efforts near Yosemite National Park alongside Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.). “We have improved on being more joint, having the [U.S. Interior Department] and the Department of Ag work with Cal Fire and the Mariposa County Sheriff's Department,” Zinke said, according to a local KSEE24 report. As of Sunday evening, the fire had burned more than 32,000 acres as 3,000 fire personnel continue to battle the blaze that’s threatening more than 200 structures, the Los Angeles Times reports.
— “Purge” of Pruitt folks: White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly approved a “purge” of EPA staffers who were loyal to Pruitt, The Daily Beast reports. The departures, which The Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis reported on earlier this month, included spokesman Jahan Wilcox, longtime aide Lincoln Ferguson and White House liaison Hayley Ford. The Daily Beast reports all three officials were pushed out, noting Ferguson had planned to leave before Pruitt resigned from the EPA, but the White House expedited the move.
— Big Oil pushes back against Russia sanctions: Democrats in Congress want to revive a bill that would enable swift sanctions against Russia for future election meddling, but the U.S. oil and gas lobby is pushing against further sanctions that could be a detriment to U.S. investments, Reuters reports. When asked what position the energy industry have taken on his bill, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said "a range of issues need to be discussed including ... ones related to U.S. and European energy projects,’” according to Reuters.
WATCH: Scott Wagner callously dismisses voter as "young and naive" for caring about climate change: pic.twitter.com/muVKmjxoPP— PA Democratic Party (@PADems) July 19, 2018
— “Are we here to elect a governor or elect a scientist?": Last week, Scott Wagner, Pennsylvania's Republican candidate for governor, called an 18-year-old activist “young and naive” when she asked about donations to his campaign from fossil fuel companies. “You've said that climate change is a result of people's body heat, and are refusing to take action on the issue,” Rose Strauss, an activist the with environmental group Sunrise Movement, said to Wagner during a town hall in Pennsylvania. “Does this have anything to do with the $200,000 that you have taken from the fossil fuel industry?”
“Well, I appreciate you being here," Wagner responded, according to the York Daily Record. "You're 18 years old. You know, you're a little young and naive. But are we here to elect a governor or elect a scientist?"
— Climate kids suit can continue... A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Friday rejected the Trump administration’s request to stop the lawsuit from 21 youths suing the federal government for failing to act to combat climate change, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The administration has already requested that the Supreme Court stop the suit.
...and another city joins climate fight: Baltimore became the latest city to file a lawsuit against major oil and gas companies in an effort to hold them accountable for their contribution to climate change. The lawsuit filed Friday follows a federal judge's dismissal of a similar lawsuit by New York City. Baltimore’s city solicitor Andre M. Davis told the Baltimore Sun he was “undaunted” by the results in New York as well as in California. “The 26 defendants in Baltimore’s lawsuit include companies that transport fuels through the Port of Baltimore, including BP, Citgo and CONSOL Energy,” the Baltimore Sun reports. “Others market their fuels at gas stations around the city and state, including ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil and Hess Corp.”
— Man, it’s a hot one: Scorching temperatures in both Texas and California are wreaking havoc on the states’ power grids and natural gas supplies, Bloomberg News reports. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the grid broke a 93-year-old record on Thursday after hitting 108 degrees. In Houston, utilities are calling on residents not to use certain appliances such as clothing dryers and dishwashers in the afternoon to avoid blackouts. And in California, the state has become the United States' costliest natural gas market, per the report.
— Trade war hits Pence’s hometown: An Indiana company with a longtime connection with Vice President Pence is now being threatened by the Trump administration’s tariffs. Tom Linebarger, the chief executive of Cummins Inc. in Columbus, Ind., met with the president in January to try to urge him against introducing steel and aluminum tariffs, The Post’s Gabriel Pogrund reports. Linebarger’s is just one of the businesses in the Columbus area that makes it the most export-reliant region in the country, according to the Brookings Institution. “Now the aggressive pursuit of foreign trade that made this city a recession-busting economic miracle has made it decidedly vulnerable, with businesses already canceling projects and mulling the depth of job losses,” Pogrund writes.
— California wants to reinvent the power grid: California state leaders are proposing a plan for a single power grid that would manage power for most or all of the western states, a proposal that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has pushed for as his time in the state Capitol winds down. California’s electric grid is the largest of the 38 grids in the West. The New York Times reports critics of such a proposal to instead operate entirely under one electric grid manager will “cost consumers and may even increase, not reduce, greenhouse gases… They worry that the proposal will actually increase the use of coal and natural gas at a time when California and hundreds of cities across the country are working toward producing 100 percent of their electricity without carbon emissions.”
— The road ahead for Tesla:
- Analysts are predicting that about one in every four Model 3 electric sedan orders are being canceled, CNN reports, even as the automaker finally hit its production targets. A spokesman for Tesla denied refunds were exceeding deposits for the electric car, according to the report, and according to Axios the company said “reservation counts were still near 420,000 at the end of the second quarter and nearly 30,000 vehicles have been delivered.”
Tesla sent a memo to some of its suppliers last week asking them to return a portion of what the company has spent since 2016, the Wall Street Journal reports, as the automaker continues to try to become profitable. “Tesla declined to comment on the specific memo. But it confirmed it is seeking price reductions from suppliers for projects, some of which date back to 2016, and some of which haven’t been completed,” per the report.
Meanwhile, J.P. Morgan analysts predict the automaker’s shares will decrease dramatically before the end of the year, dropping more than 40 percent in part because other companies will “price their electric cars aggressively,” CNBC reports.
- The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources holds a hearing on assessing uses of coal on Tuesday.
- The House Science, Space and Technology Committee holds a hearing on urban air mobility on Tuesday.
- The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy holds a hearing on “Legislation to Authorize a Pilot Project to Commercialize the Strategic Petroleum Reserve” on Tuesday.
- The House Oversight Subcommittee on the Interior, Energy and Environment holds a hearing on preserving opportunities for grazing on federal land on Tuesday.
- The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs holds a legislative hearing on Tuesday.
- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a business meeting on various pending nominations on Tuesday.
- The Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee holds a hearing to examine factors that impact global oil prices on Tuesday.
- The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds an event on the EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2018 on Tuesday.
- The House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on “Management Crisis at the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and Implications for Recovery” on Wednesday.
— Watch the Yosemite fire double in size: