with Paulina Firozi
A group of former climate policy staffers for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who during the 2020 presidential race billed himself as the only contender to make climate change his top issue, is trying to revive the ill-fated candidate's comprehensive climate plan with both congressional Democrats and Joe Biden.
For weeks behind the scenes, the former Inslee staffers have made inroads in meetings with those working for several big Democratic players, including Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee; and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), as well several other Senate and House offices.
The staffers have launched a new nonprofit policy and advocacy organization called Evergreen, in a nod to the nickname of the state of Washington.
Its goal is to get Biden and congressional Democrats to adopt pieces of Inslee's sweeping 200-page climate plan as part of both the former vice president's official campaign platform and any forthcoming coronavirus relief package from Congress.
Its latest proposal, published Thursday, is a $1.5 trillion stimulus plan for Congress to help states adopt cleaner forms of energy in response to the economic downturn sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. But the new plan from House Democrats to infuse money into the sinking economy doesn't include many green priorities.
“We recognized, as our campaign came to a close, that there's just enormous energy within the Democratic Party for bold climate solutions,” said Sam Ricketts, an Evergreen co-founder and one of the wonks who wrote Inslee's climate plan.
The group officially launched Thursday, though its members publicly disclosed plans to form the new group last month. Inslee, who is running for a third term as Washington governor, is not involved in the group.
Ricketts is joined by Bracken Hendricks, a co-author of Inslee’s climate plan, as well as Maggie Thomas, who hopped from the Inslee campaign to that of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) last year and will serve as the new group's political director.
The new green group aims to bring policy chops to the burgeoning youth climate movement that helped elevate global warming as an electoral issue.
Activists groups such as the Sunrise Movement helped bring the issue to the fore with high-profile protests in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and elsewhere. Democratic voters in the Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada primaries each ranked climate change second in importance to only health care in 2020 exit polling.
“Activists have managed to get climate change on the agenda,” said Leah Stokes, an assistant professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara and an Evergreen adviser. “Evergreen is actually there with the plan.”
During his presidential bid, Inslee won the praise of youth climate groups and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) for his ambitious climate plan, which the freshman congresswoman called a “gold standard.”
Inslee called for a decade-long, $9 trillion investment that requires electric utilities to get 100 percent of their power from renewable and zero-emission sources by 2035. He also urged creating both a new Justice Department office to prosecute polluters and a new voluntary corps akin to the Peace Corps.
By contrast, Biden's climate plan, released last June, calls for spending about one-fifth that amount over 10 years.
Now pressure is on Biden to step up his climate ambitions.
In March, shortly after Biden defeated Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Super Tuesday contests, the former Inslee staffers began discussions with Biden's campaign and shared with it a memo outlining Inslee's ideas for clean energy standards, among other policies.
The next month, the ex-staffers began circulating in Washington a policy paper outlining a distilled version of Inslee's massive climate plan.
With the nomination in the bag, Biden is trying to win over young, climate-minded voters who backed other candidates in the primaryIn accepting the endorsement last month of the League of Conservation Voters, the former vice president signaled he is willing to adopt activists' ideas and set “new, concrete goals” for combating climate change before the end of the decade.
“In the months ahead, expanding this plan will be one of my key objectives,” Biden said in a statement, without offering specifics.
And on Wednesday, Biden drafted Ocasio-Cortez, as well as former secretary of state John F. Kerry and Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash, to serve on a climate policy panel that the former vice president created as part of a larger effort to win over Sanders's supporters.
Evergreen has not officially endorsed Biden, but co-founder Ricketts had kind words about the candidate, noting the economic recovery bill Biden helped negotiate in 2009 that put $90 billion toward promoting clean energy.
“Those investments have catalyzed enormous growth in American clean energy industries,” Ricketts said. “We need to do that, but much bigger, this time. And the vice president has some experience in that space."
Energy secretary says there’s no more aid to oil firms planned.
Energy chief Dan Brouillette told Axios the administration is not planning any specific moves to provide a financial boost to struggling oil producers during the pandemic.
The latest remarks follow Brouillette’s interview with Bloomberg TV this week in which he said the administration “worked very closely with the Federal Reserve” to make adjustments to its lending program to allow oil firms to access aid.
“For the time being, the first steps we’ve taken are going to be what we do. I’m not anticipating any broad strokes here beyond what we’ve already done,” Brouillette told Axios. “We’re not contemplating, as I sit here today, a specific second or third step. It may come if the results of the plan aren’t panning out the way we had hoped.”
The United States has lost about 600,000 clean-energy jobs.
The clean-energy industry has seen a 17 percent drop in its workforce, nearly 600,000 jobs, as a result of stay-at-home-orders, according to a new report from BW Research Partnership. And the research firm said there are still more losses to come for the sector that had been growing rapidly before the pandemic hit.
“While they represent a tiny fraction of the nation’s total job losses during the period, the clean energy industry’s fall in employment has exceeded estimates,” Reuters reports. “After a similar study last month, BW Research had projected 500,000 job losses sector-wide by the end of June. It now expects 850,000 job losses, about a quarter of all clean energy jobs, in that time.”
California county said Tesla can restart vehicle production.
The Alameda County Public Health Department said the electric carmaker’s Fremont, Calif., facility can restart its vehicle production on Monday if it abides by agreed-upon safety protocols.
“It wasn’t clear from a news release whether Tesla would face any punishment for reopening last Monday in defiance of county orders,” the Associated Press reports. “ … The release said Fremont police would verify whether Tesla was holding up its part of the agreement. The deal requires that public health indicators have to remain stable or improve for the factory to stay open.”
Behind Tesla chief Elon Musk’s effort to reopen is a drive to compete with automakers in Michigan.
“For Tesla, one of the competitive risks from remaining shut while Detroit and others reopen is being able to quickly satisfy demand in an economic rebound,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Rivals would be able to stock dealerships with new vehicles while Tesla rebuilt inventory.”
Two more national parks partially reopen.
Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks will begin gradually reopening on Monday, the Interior Department announced, after both parks shuttered in late March.
“Many of their services will remain closed, but visitors will get access to some of Yellowstone’s most popular spots, including Old Faithful, and recreation sites across Grand Teton,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “ … Grand Teton is in Wyoming, and Yellowstone is largely in Wyoming with small parts in Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone’s three Montana entrances will remain closed after consultation with Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, an Interior spokesman said.”
New safety protocols will be in place at the parks. For example, the parks will hire additional contractors for cleaning and disinfecting, and will install Plexiglass panels at entrances and visitor centers.
America’s beaches continue to reopen, too.
Beaches in Los Angeles County have reopened after being closed for six weeks.
Limited activities, including running, walking, swimming and surfing will now be allowed, the Los Angeles Times reports. Group activities and things such as sunbathing will still be banned, and parking lots, bike paths and boardwalks will remain shuttered.
“Face coverings will be mandatory for anyone on the sand but not for people in the water. Beachgoers will be required to practice social distancing by staying at least six feet away from other groups,” the L.A. Times adds.
Numerous powerful sectors in California want state regulators to postpone or reverse air-quality and climate rules amid the pandemic.
“The trucking industry wants to stall new emissions-reduction rules. Oil companies want looser enforcement of existing regulations,” the L.A. Times reports. “Port and shipping interests are pushing to delay rules on ocean vessels as they become Southern California’s largest source of smog-forming pollution.”
“The breadth of requests presents a conundrum for regulators who, even in eco-minded California, have been open about the need to grant some measure of relief from environmental requirements in response to the pandemic,” the report adds. “While officials say their commitment to fighting climate change and air pollution remains unshaken, they are nonetheless postponing compliance deadlines and delaying pollution-reduction rules.”
Kate Gordon, Gov. Gavin Newsom's (D) senior adviser on climate, told the newspaper that some of the industry requests “are very understandable and really have to do with the fact of the current crisis, and in some cases they’re regulations that had already been a kind of a thorn in the side to certain industries and they just are using … the moment to try to dispute them.”
Stockpiles of crude oil in the United States dropped last week for the first time since January, according to the Energy Information Administration.
“U.S. crude stockpiles have risen by more than 100 million barrels since mid-January, with builds accelerating in March as the coronavirus pandemic took hold and during a brief price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia,” Reuters reports. “The drawdown this week was in part because imports fell to a record low at less than 2 million barrels per day, and U.S. production dropped.”
The demand for fuel bounced back in the past week, even as it was still 23 percent below the year-ago average in the past four weeks.
Global warming watch
Electricity generated from renewable energy is on track to surpass coal-generated power for the first time this year.
That’s according to projections from the Energy Information Administration that signal the pandemic has had some impact on the shift toward renewables, the New York Times reports, citing EIA projections. The coronavirus-related shutdowns have meant more trouble for struggling coal producers.
“It is a milestone that seemed all but unthinkable a decade ago, when coal was so dominant that it provided nearly half the nation’s electricity,” per the Times. “And it comes despite the Trump administration’s three-year push to try to revive the ailing industry by weakening pollution rules on coal-burning power plants.”
April was the second-hottest April ever recorded on Earth.
With an average global temperature of 1.91 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1.06 degrees Celsius, above the 20th century average, last month was the second-hottest recorded April after April 2016, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It also marked the third month in a row that ranked as the second hottest on Earth in 141 years of record-keeping.
The year-to-date (Jan. through April 2020) global land and ocean surface #temperature was 2nd warmest on record: 2.05°F (1.14°C) above average per @NOAANCEIclimate https://t.co/peGbmPbFjZ #StateOfClimate pic.twitter.com/tXDPzzWpqp— NOAA (@NOAA) May 13, 2020
Deforestation of the Amazon has continued during the pandemic.
The destruction of parts of the Amazon rainforest has surged during the pandemic, according to an NBC News analysis of satellite images.
“Environmentalists, who have also warned about the deforestation, said the pandemic has provided cover for the operations, and they blamed Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for what they see as his tacit approval of the deforestation,” per the report. “ … Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon soared by 55 percent in the first four months of the year compared to the same period last year, according to Brazil's National Institute for Space Research. Destruction in April was up by 64 percent from the same month a year ago.”
In other news
One option for getting rid of all the plastic polluting the oceans? Vacuum it all up.
The creators of contraption called FRED, or the floating robot for eliminating debris, hope to produce by next spring a design for a 50-foot vessel that can autonomously suck up trash on open bodies of water.
For now, a version was launched by about 20 engineering students for a test run last month in Mission Bay in San Diego, Hugo Kugiya reports for The Post.
“Grand, maybe unrealistic, hopes ride on FRED, whose baptism last month was only a first test for the students and a small start-up called Clear Blue Sea,” Hugo writes. “Like other emerging ventures around the world, the nonprofit group is trying to help solve one of the planet’s most daunting problems: oceans littered with plastic.”