THE LIGHTBULB

President Trump's speech to the United Nations General Assembly will be remembered less for what he said and more for how his fellow world leaders reacted to it.

At various points, the diplomats chuckled at Trump when he issued boasts about himself or slights toward other countries.

One of Trump's inadvertent punchlines came at the expense of Germany and concerned a new pipeline being built from Russia to the European nation. 

Trump is not the first U.S. leader to chastise Berlin for pursuing the construction of a new natural gas conduit from Russia called Nord Stream 2.  Both his and Barack Obama's administration worried about increasing Europe's dependence on fuel from Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putinl. In the past, Putin has imposed his will on neighbors such as Ukraine by threatening to cut off gas supplies.

Trump re-articulated those concerns in his U.N. speech on Tuesday. 

“Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course,” Trump said.

To that, the German delegation responded by snickering, according to reporters on the scene and those watching the telecast:

Berlin-based Washington Post reporter Rick Noack added: “German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas could be seen smirking alongside his colleagues.”

The pipeline project beneath the Baltic Sea remains one of the few points of criticism Trump is willing to raise regarding Russia. But more often than not, Trump's barbs are aimed not at Putin but at German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

During a NATO summit in July, for example, Trump said that Germany was “captive to Russia” because of its natural-gas imports. And during another meeting with Baltic leaders in April, Trump said: “Germany hooks up a pipeline into Russia, where Germany is going to be paying billions of dollars for energy into Russia. And I’m saying, ‘What’s going on with that?’ "

Some experts disagreed with the sweeping nature of Trump's remarks at the United Nations.

“I can see some case for concern about excess dependence on Russian gas within the gas market,” said David Victor, an international relations professor at the University of California at San Diego. Noting that Germany's intake of fuel delivered by ship in the form of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, is on the rise, he said that “what matters is diversity and flexibility of supply.” 

“What he is saying is completely wrong,” Victor added.

During his U.N. speech, Trump also decried his own nation's dependence on the Middle East for oil.

Trump re-upped criticism of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which include U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar, for “ripping off the rest of the world” by supposedly inflating the price of oil while simultaneously allowing the U.S. military to protect them.

“We defend many of these nations for nothing, and then they take advantage of us by giving us high oil prices,” Trump said. “Not good.”

But French President Emmanuel Macron pinned some blame for high global oil prices — with the international benchmark Brent grade of crude oil hovering around $80 per barrel — on Trump himself. Macron responded to Trump's speech by saying the price of oil would be lower today had the U.S. president not scrapped the nuclear-arms deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions on the OPEC member.

“If he goes to the end of his logic, he’ll see that it’s good for the oil price that Iran can sell it,” Macron said, according to Reuters.

To boot, OPEC does not have a monopoly on current oil production — and therefore does not independently set the price of oil.

Indeed, as Trump himself noted in his speech, the United States has become an increasingly important supplier of fossil fuels abroad, with the U.S. Energy Information Agency projecting the nation will become a net energy exporter by 2022.

“The United States stands ready to export our abundant, affordable supply of oil, clean coal and natural gas,” Trump told other world leaders.

POWER PLAYS

— Carmakers plead for flexibility at auto-emissions hearing: At the second of three hearings on the Trump administration’s proposed easing of auto emissions standards, auto-industry officials gathered in Dearborn, Mich. to register their concerns about meeting existing standards. Meanwhile, environmental groups continued to push the administration to reverse course on its plan to roll them back, the Associated Press reports. "Industry officials said they don’t support a full freeze on the standards,” the report added.

— EPA puts children's health leader on leave: The Environmental Protection Agency has placed the head of its Office of Children’s Health Protection on administrative leave, the New York Times reports, in a move some say “appeared to reflect an effort to minimize the role of the office.” The office, created by President Bill Clinton in 1997, is meant to ensure agency regulations and programs consider vulnerabilities of children, babies and fetuses and their potential for exposure to toxins and chemicals. “Several people within the E.P.A. or who work closely with the agency said that Dr. Etzel’s dismissal is one of several recent developments that have slowed the work of the children’s health office,” per the report. An EPA spokesman responded by saying children’s health is still a “top priority” for the administration.

THERMOMETER

 — “That’s a lot of water”: Hurricane Florence was the second rainiest storm in the nation in seven decades, according to Ken Kunkel, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and North Carolina State University. Kunkel’s preliminary analysis of the rainfall, which scientists say was likely boosted by climate change, found an average of more than 17.5 inches fell over five weather stations across 14,000 square miles of the eastern Carolinas, according to the Associated Press. That’s compared with the average of 25.6 inches that fell during the No. 1 rainiest storm during that period — last year's Hurricane Harvey.

— Two storms later, a slow payout in North Carolina: In the two years since Hurricane Matthew, the state of North Carolina has doled out block grants for rebuilding to just 53 of more than 1,000  families that have filed applications for one, the New York Times reports. And now, the aftermath of Florence promises to further complicate the issue. “North Carolina — hampered by internal bureaucratic problems, staff shortages and trouble meeting a myriad federal environmental and contracting requirements imposed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development — has had an especially hard time distributing money earmarked by Congress to help low- and moderate-income homeowners,” per the report.

— Sinking island off Virginia’s Eastern Shore will get some federal help: A small sinking island in the Chesapeake Bay will get a new jetty that is meant to keep clear a navigation channel and protect a harbor that are both important for the seafood and tourism industries, The Post’s Laura Vozzella reports. Tangier Island, a 1.2-square-mile island off Virginia’s Eastern Shore, has been sinking into the bay at an average of eight aces per year, Vozzella writes. But many of the 460 mostly politically conservative residents of the island reject an assessment from scientists that pins part of the blame on climate change. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission will share the cost of designing and building the $2.6 million, nearly 500-foot jetty.

— This weather is making us sad: D.C. residents, it’s not in your head. Researchers say the area's recent gloomy weather may be “making you sad and lethargic at best, dejected and hopeless at worst,” The Post’s Angela Fritz reports. “The body’s circadian rhythm, its daily cycle that most obviously manifests in the form of waking and sleeping, is almost entirely controlled by lightness and darkness,” she writes. “Weeks of overcast skies — during which even the fleeting hint of sunshine can feel like a cruel joke — alter the chemistry in the brain and dull the circadian rhythm." The official name for the condition is, appropriately, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, and arrives most often in fall and winter but is not limited to any time of year.

Just how much water has there been? The Post’s Jason Samenow puts it this way: This year, Washington has seen more than twice the rainfall of Seattle and London, two particularly gray and rainy destinations.

OIL CHECK

— A potential no-win choice: The owners of the last nuclear power reactors under construction in the nation continued Tuesday to try to come up with a deal on whether to finish the project, but the Wall Street Journal notes even moving forward comes with its own risks. If the expansion of the Georgia power plant continues, there could be “unforeseen financial risks on a project already billions over budget and years behind schedule.”

But if the three partners, Southern Co., Oglethorpe Power Corp. and the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, decide not to move forward, “they face a political storm over who should pay for the massive sunk costs of the project,” which could force customers to pay higher rates to foot the bill with no new electricity generation to go with it, per the report. Even more, if the expansion falls through, it would also mean there are no new nuclear plants in the works anywhere in the nation, a consequence that worries politicians.

— OK, Google, what’s our emissions rate?: Google will begin estimating greenhouse-gas emissions from electricity and transportation for individual cities, The Atlantic reports. The search giant has so far started with estimates for five cities, but will “expand the program gradually to cover municipalities worldwide,” according to The Atlantic, though further details have not yet been released. “Google has framed the new project, called the Environmental Insights Explorer, as a way for leaders to focus and improve local climate programs,” per the report.

DAYBOOK

Today

  • The House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on a series of amendments to the Endangered Species Act.
  • The Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on cleaning up ocean trash.
  • The Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing on the impact of tariffs on the U.S. auto industry.

Coming Up

  • The House Science subcommittee on energy holds a hearing on advancing nuclear power on Thursday.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy holds a hearing on DOE Modernization on Thursday.
EXTRA MILEAGE

— Far from home: A beluga whale was spotted in Britain’s River Thames on Tuesday, far from its typical Arctic environment.