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The Climate 202

Climate advocates fear that Manchin's bipartisan energy push is 'all smoke and mirrors’

The Climate 202

Good morning and welcome to The Climate 202! Dino Grandoni, a climate reporter at The Washington Post, helped report the top of today's newsletter. 

Climate advocates fear that Manchin's bipartisan energy push is ‘all smoke and mirrors’

A new push from Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) to launch bipartisan talks on an energy and climate bill could waste precious time that would be better spent striking a deal on President Biden's stalled climate and social spending agenda, environmentalists and some Democrats warned on Tuesday.

Securing 10 Republican votes for ambitious climate policy could be a tall order, they said, and could slow negotiations over the bold climate provisions in Biden's stalled spending bill at a crucial juncture ahead of the midterm elections.

“There are not 10 Republican votes for anything substantial on climate that would stave off the worst effects of the climate crisis, period,” Jamal Raad, executive director of the environmental group Evergreen Action, told The Climate 202. 

“I don't believe Republicans are serious about this,” he added. “I think this is all smoke and mirrors and that we need to get on to the work of the president and [Senate Majority Leader Charles E.] Schumer directly engaging with Manchin to see if we can strike a deal.”

Manchin shook up the climate debate on Capitol Hill yet again on Monday evening, when he and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) organized a bipartisan meeting to explore the possibility of a bipartisan climate and energy security package. 

The West Virginian subsequently huddled with Schumer on Tuesday morning to discuss using a party-line reconciliation bill to raise taxes on the wealthy and address inflation.

Manchin insisted after the meeting with Schumer that his bipartisan energy discussions did not mean that climate provisions would be left out of any reconciliation bill that can advance. 

“No, no, no,” he told reporters, adding that climate would be a “big factor” as Democrats assemble party-line legislation.

‘Prime Minister Manchin’ courts Republicans

Manchin and Murkowski invited 16 senators — eight from each party — to their meeting Monday night. But Sen. Kevin Cramer (N.D.) was the sole Republican to attend the meeting in person, with others citing scheduling conflicts.

“As I like to call him, Prime Minister Manchin, what he did is he called some people together from both parties,” Cramer said on Fox Business on Tuesday. “I just happened to be the only one from my party that showed up — not because they were disrespectful of Joe's ideas, but just because they had other priorities.”

Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), co-chair of the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus, was not invited to the meeting, his spokesman confirmed to The Climate 202. 

“I think it says something that only one Republican came to that meeting: Republicans are not serious about coming together for a bipartisan energy package,” Melinda Pierce, legislative director at the Sierra Club, told The Climate 202. 

“Any time and energy that's spent pursuing what is likely a dead end … is time and energy taken away from a reconciliation deal that's out there to land,” Pierce added.

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, also expressed skepticism that Republicans were serious about the bipartisan effort.

It's a little bit like a Russian promise of a humanitarian corridor, Huffman said, referring to Ukraine's accusations that Russia has been shelling a humanitarian corridor out of Mariupol, a southern Ukrainian port city that has been besieged for much of the war.

'There was no oxygen'

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), deputy whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, also attended the Monday meeting organized by Manchin and Murkowski. 

When asked by a reporter on Tuesday about concern that the bipartisan push is sucking the oxygen out of reconciliation talks, Khanna responded, “There was no oxygen” — a reference to the fact that reconciliation discussions have fizzled out since Manchin came out against the measure in late December.

“One of the reasons I’m engaged in this is I think it’s the highest priority to get climate done for the midterms,” Khanna added. “And if we don’t do that, it’s a disaster.”

Still, Khanna offered few details on what specific climate and energy policies could attract 10 Republican votes. Cramer, for his part, told reporters Tuesday that the talks should focus on energy production and transmission, excluding the tax credits for clean energy and electric vehicles that Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has described as the “linchpin” of the reconciliation bill's climate provisions.

Inside the White House, many officials privately worry that they could fail to reach a deal with Manchin on the reconciliation bill altogether, The Post's Jeff Stein reported. Some officials view July 4 as a crucial deadline for action.

Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters, emphasized that time is of the essence.

“There's no time for endless, months-long discussions,” she said. “The time for the Senate to act on the climate crisis is right now.”

International climate

Russia cuts off gas to Poland, Bulgaria, stoking tensions with E.U.

Russia’s state-controlled gas company, Gazprom, said Wednesday it had shut off the supply of natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria, signaling a significant escalation in the economic tension between Moscow and the West over the war in Ukraine, The Washington Post's Reis Thebault and Bryan Pietsch report.

Gazprom said in a statement that it had shut off the gas supply to Poland’s PGNiG gas company and Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz because they had not complied with an order from Russian President Vladimir Putin to pay in rubles.

The European Union is heavily reliant on Russian natural gas, and officials and experts have long feared that the relationship could be weaponized. The two countries targeted by Gazprom are especially vulnerable: Poland gets more than 45 percent of its natural gas from Russia and Bulgaria more than 70 percent, according to E.U. data.

Pressure points

Outside the Supreme Court, a life of purpose and pain ends in flames

Wynn Bruce, 50, a dedicated Buddhist known by many for his sincerity and who survived a deadly accident as a teenager, set himself on fire on Earth Day in what his father believes was a climate change protest, The Post’s Ellie Silverman and Ian Shapira report. 

“I agree with the belief that this was a fearless act of compassion about his concern for the environment,” said Douglas Bruce, 78. 

The fire consuming Bruce’s body raged Friday in front of the Supreme Court for 60 seconds — during which he didn’t scream or struggle — before it was extinguished by police and a helicopter took him to a hospital, where he died of his injuries. 

Learning of his death, people on social media wrote that they understood his anguish about the planet’s future and described his act as selfless. They argued that if the world ignores warnings from scientists about the actions needed to curb global warming, millions more people will die by fire.

In his own post commemorating the late renowned Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who spoke often of self-immolation, Bruce cited the quote: “The most important thing, in response to climate change, is to be willing to hear the sound of the earth’s tears through our own bodies.”

On the Hill

House Democrats question ConocoPhillips over Alaska gas leak

House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) led a letter on Tuesday questioning ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance over a month-long natural gas leak at the Alpine Oil Field in Alaska. The letter raises concerns over the company’s preparedness for its controversial Willow project.

“The ongoing leak and ConocoPhillips’ response raises a number of troubling questions, including how your company would respond to similar leaks at your proposed Willow project inside the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska,” Grijalva wrote along with Reps. Katie Porter and Alan Lowenthal, both Democrats representing California. 

The gas leak, which was detected March 4, prompted residents to flee and released more than 7.2 million cubic feet of natural gas into the atmosphere because of a faulty well. 

Asked for comment, ConocoPhillips spokesman Dennis Nuss said in an email to The Climate 202 that the company has received the letter and is reviewing it to determine a response. In the meantime, Nuss said that “there is no ongoing gas release” and that the company “will incorporate learnings from this event in future projects.” 

Agency alert

Energy Dept. phases out incandescent light bulbs, citing climate

The Energy Department on Monday finalized two rules that will require manufacturers to sell energy-efficient lightbulbs, phasing out older incandescent ones, Anna Phillips reports for The Post. The new rules reverse a Trump-era policy that said phasing out the old-fashioned lightbulbs was “not economically justified.” 

The Biden administration, which aims to complete 100 energy-efficiency actions this year, estimates that the new measures will save consumers $3 billion and cut annual carbon emissions by 222 million metric tons over 30 years — roughly equivalent to what 28 million homes generate annually.

Corporate commitments

Big banks vote to keep financing fossil fuels

Shareholder resolutions proposing that banks stop financing fossil fuel development were rejected at the annual general meetings for Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo on Tuesday morning, Kate Aronoff reports for the New Republic. Bank of America and Wells Fargo received an 11 percent vote in favor of eliminating fossil fuel financing, while Citigroup's resolution garnered a 12.8 percent vote. 

Despite the setback, supporters of the resolutions viewed the tallies as a win. They noted that any resolution that gets more than 5 percent of votes is eligible to be refiled the next year, and that altogether the votes for the resolutions represented $65 billion in capital — a sign that a small but significant portion of Wall Street is turning away from fossil fuels.

In the atmosphere


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