THE LIGHTBULB

Temperatures aren't just rising outside. They were also going up this week in the Senate as lawmakers from both parties squabbled over the Green New Deal.

In reality, that nonbinding resolution — it's not an actual bill — calls for the United States to drive down climate-warming emissions over the next decade while addressing economic inequality.  

But in practice, the proposal has become a Rorschach test for lawmakers. And a number of them have spoken at length on the Senate floor over the past few days to trade barbs when describing what they see in it.

For Democrats, especially those running for president, it's a way of differentiating themselves from the GOP and demonstrating their seriousness in addressing what many young voters — a key Democratic demographic — see as the most important problem facing the country and world.

“Where is the Republican plan? What is their answer? Of course, they don't have one,” said Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the chief Senate sponsor of the measure.

 

For Republicans, it's a chance to paint their opponents as socialists trying to take away their hamburgers and ice cream all in the name of climate action. 

“This is a massive shift,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said. “A shift to the left that goes far beyond anything that Democrats have proposed before.”

President Trump sees a political opportunity in talking about the Green New Deal. “I think it’s really something that they should promote,” he joked Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland. 

The only thing that Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on is that the Green New Deal is a good way of rallying their respective bases. 

On the Senate floor, Republicans are accusing its supporters of trying to entirely eliminate certain sources of greenhouse gas emissions, such as cattle agriculture and air travel.

But the resolution itself mentions neither planes nor meat patties. Instead Republicans have latched onto a fact sheet accidentally published on the website of the main House sponsor, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), that contained a line about getting rid of “farting cows and airplanes.”

“To put it mildly, the Green New Deal is ambitious,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “To frame it more accurately, it is an unworkable pie-in-the-sky attempt to reshape every aspect of everyday Americans’ lives.”

Grassley added the resolution was “eerily reminiscent of the five-year plans of the former Soviet Union or the 'Great Leap Forward' under Chairman Mao of China.”

The elevated rhetoric from Republicans even had some Democrats who have not endorsed the Green New Deal perplexed.

“I just have to say that it’s pretty silly if it wasn’t so serious how the Republican majority and the Republican majority leader is mocking what is probably the most serious issue of our time,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said in her own floor speech that same day.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has told reporters he wants to hold a vote on the Green New Deal resolution in the “next couple of weeks.” His hope is to put Democrats on record on the plan he views as political toxic.

The Senate's top Democrat, Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), responded with the party's own set of resolutions, both to create a Senate committee on climate change and defund what Democrats deemed a "fake climate panel" being set up at the White House to challenge the scientific consensus on climate change. 

POWER PLAYS

— White House lobbies automakers on fuel standards rollback: The White House wants the auto industry to get on board with plans to roll back vehicle fuel standards and has launched an “intense lobbying campaign” to line up support from automakers, The Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report.

“In two separate discussions in less than three weeks, according to several participants, the White House has urged major auto companies to endorse the administration’s plan to freeze fuel standards for cars and light pickup trucks between Model Year 2020 and 2026. But domestic and foreign automakers have continued to raise concerns about the proposal, dubbed the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles rule, because California and other states plan to require vehicles in their states to meet tighter emissions limits.”

— “Was that disruptive?”: A hearing held before a House Natural Resources subcommittee on the threat seismic testing poses to North Atlantic right whales featured a wild scene when one member, Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.), blew an air horn. “As committee members engaged in a predictable debate along typical party lines — Republicans in support of testing and President Trump’s energy agenda, Democrats against it — Cunningham reached for the air horn [and] put his finger on the button” The Post’s Darryl Fears writes.

“Was that disruptive?” Cunningham asked after blasting the horn. Another congressman jumped in to add that a pregnant aide "informed him that when the air horn sounded, her baby kicked."

Why he did it: Cunningham had heard Chris Oliver, Trump's assistant administrator for fisheries, testify that while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had given five companies permission to do the tests, he insisted commercial air guns fired underwater to determine the location of oil and gas deposits wouldn’t harm the whales.

— Changes coming to an EPA office: The Environmental Protection Agency is planning a reorganization for the Office of Research and Development, which is the agency's largest, the Washington Examiner reports. The restructuring also will merge the Office of Science Advisor with the Office of Science Policy to create a new united bureau “meant to reduce bureaucracy and boost efficiency,” per the report. Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, acting science adviser and the current head of ORD, told the publication the reorganization will not result in any job losses.

But the White House still wants to cut another big science office: The Trump administration’s 2020 budget request will reportedly include major cuts to the Energy Department’s division for renewable energy research, Bloomberg News reports. In the budget set to be announced Monday, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see a 70 percent cut to its current $2.3 billion budget, leaving $700 million for the division that doles out grants for clean energy and finances renewable technology research.

That likely won't happen: In back-to-back years, lawmakers have rejected two similar proposals from the administration. Congress is now even less likely to go along with such an effort now that Democrats controlling the House.

— Corn wars: In new court documents, a biofuel trade group is alleging the EPA changed its process for assessing requests for waivers from the nation’s biofuel law in a way that helped profitable refiners get those exemptions. The exemptions saved the oil industry hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Reuters. “The new documents, part of a lawsuit that began last year, could provide the most complete explanation to date of how the Environmental Protection Agency vastly expanded the number of small refinery hardship biofuel waivers under former Administrator Scott Pruitt, including by granting exemptions to oil majors Exxon Mobil and Chevron,” Reuters reports.

THERMOMETER

— “There is no reason for people to die in their home during a tornado”: Even though Sunday’s tornadoes in Alabama were forecast days in advance, prompting shelters to open hours before they hit, 23 people were still killed. That's more than have died in tornado-related incidents in the United States in the past two years, The Post’s Sarah Kaplan and Frances Stead Sellers report.

“Places like Beauregard — low density areas where many residents live in mobile homes — face serious challenges in trying to prevent such fatalities There is one designated shelter in this rural community of 10,000,” they write. And the community has dealt with storm issues before. It received a federal grant to build shelters after deadly tornadoes in 2011, and it has an outstanding application for more federal aid for shelters. But officials in the state said the process for building shelters is difficult.

“Homeowners must pay for the shelters up front — which typically cost several thousand dollars — and can only get reimbursed for up to 75 percent of the price,” they write.  

“I’ll tell you what, your life may be in danger”: Josh Johnson, the chief meteorologist at the NBC affiliate in Montgomery, anchored coverage during those deadly tornadoes — and his broadcast “probably proved lifesaving for many Alabama residents, and it blew away veteran broadcast meteorologists with its clarity, thoroughness and calm-yet-serious tone,” The Post’s Matthew Cappucci reports. “In the coverage, Johnson calls out specific roads, announcing when the circulation would arrive at each …“I’ll tell you what, your life may be in danger,’ says Johnson, pointing to streets downwind of the monster tornado. ‘Rather, your life IS in danger.’ ”

— There may be plastic particles in your athleisure: The latest target of concern from environmental groups is the synthetic material found in clothing, like sportswear and fleece jackets, that can make its way into the ocean and into drinking water.

“Each year, more than a half-million metric tons of microfibers — the equivalent of 50 billion plastic water bottles — enter the ocean from the washing of synthetic textiles,” the Wall Street Journal reports, citing the Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Synthetic textiles aren't biodegradable and conventional washing machines won’t necessarily trap them. The amount that ends up in the ocean is expected to rise as clothing demand increases, too.

DAYBOOK

Today

  • The Energy Department's Bioenergy Technologies Office's 2019 Project Peer Review continues.
EXTRA MILEAGE

— Another fight over the Green New Deal: This one was on Twitter. Bobby Berk, one of the stars of the show “Queer Eye” criticized Meghan McCain's questioning of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democratic 2020 contender, about the Green New Deal on "The View." When Berk charged that McCain had been “everything wrong w/ journalism,” McCain shot back that she did not consider herself a journalist. And the spat continued from there: