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GOP thrusts gas stoves, Biden's green agenda into the culture wars

The Climate 202

Good morning and welcome to The Climate 202! Today we’re bringing you updates on a heated debate that’s no longer on the back burner, with tensions simmering and coming to a boil. (Apologies for all of the gas stove puns. We just needed to vent.) 

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Republicans thrust gas stoves, Biden’s green agenda into the culture wars

Republican lawmakers are claiming that the Consumer Product Safety Commission wants to take away people’s gas stoves, in what they say is the latest example of the Biden administration’s regulatory overreach, Maxine reports.

In reality, the commission is not going to snatch anyone’s stove. It is merely considering regulations that would seek to curb pollution from new gas stoves on the market, rather than existing appliances inside people’s homes. 

Yet the gas stove furor is emblematic of Republicans’ broader efforts to thrust President Biden’s environmental agenda into the nation’s ongoing culture wars. With the GOP taking control of the House, these efforts could increase pressure on federal agencies as they race to finalize climate regulations over the next two years, experts say.

In particular, the Securities and Exchange Commission could succumb to political pressure to water down its landmark proposal to require big businesses to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and the risks they face from climate change, according to experts on sustainable investing.

“There is a significant danger when science and markets get so politicized that even deliberation of commonsense health or climate measures gets turned into a political football,” Ivan Frishberg, chief sustainability officer at Amalgamated Bank, said in an email to The Climate 202.

Here’s what to know about the gas stove controversy — and the challenges it could foreshadow for Biden’s climate agenda:

‘Recipe for disaster’

The controversy was ignited when Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr., a Democrat, said in an interview Monday that the agency will consider regulations on indoor air pollution from gas stoves, adding that a ban on the appliances is a possibility.

The commission chair, Alexander Hoehn-Saric, walked back Trumka’s comments in a statement Wednesday morning but reiterated that the agency will look at possible ways to curb gas stoves’ emissions. Research has linked their pollution to childhood asthma and other respiratory problems, along with climate change.

“Research indicates that emissions from gas stoves can be hazardous, and the CPSC is looking for ways to reduce related indoor air quality hazards,” Hoehn-Saric said. “But to be clear, I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so.”

Yet the flame was already lit. Trumka’s comment prompted loud complaints from Republicans, with Rep. Ronny Jackson tweeting that the “maniacs in the White House” would need to pry his gas stove from his “cold dead hands.”

The backlash was bipartisan. Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a conservative Democrat, tweeted that a ban on gas stoves would be a “recipe for disaster,” adding that “the federal government has no business telling American families how to cook their dinner.”

From one commission to another

The SEC has also faced intense backlash from conservative lawmakers and businesses over its proposal to require all publicly traded companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and climate-related risks.

  • Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee are gearing up to grill Gary Gensler, the Democratic chairman of the SEC, about the rule, which Chair Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.) says is part of a “far-left social agenda" and others see as part of “woke capitalism.”
  • Meanwhile, some businesses have pushed for the SEC rule to omit “scope 3” emissions, or those generated by suppliers and customers, such as drivers filling up their cars with gasoline.

As a result, Witold Henisz, faculty director of the ESG Initiative at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, told The Climate 202 that he expects the SEC to exclude scope 3 emissions when it finalizes the rule as soon as next month.

While GOP opposition may carry real risks for the SEC, however, Henisz said the Republican gripes about gas stoves seem more like political theater intended to rile up the party’s base.

“Whether there was really any intent to ban gas stoves, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “It makes for good headlines.”

‘No planet to waste’

At the Environmental Protection Agency, meanwhile, polluting industries have argued against tougher restrictions on soot, a deadly air pollutant, and are likely to challenge the new standards.

Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), one of Congress’s most vocal climate advocates, called on the EPA and other agencies to resist the fossil fuel industry’s efforts to weaken environmental rules following the passage of Democrats’ landmark climate law.

“Now that we’ve passed the most significant climate and clean energy legislation in history, Big Oil and Big Gas and their astro-turf allies are preparing to wage a historic battle at federal agencies to delay, defang and deregulate,” Markey said in a statement to The Climate 202.

“The Biden administration must stand up to this corrupt campaign and swiftly execute ambitious rules and regulations that will unleash the full, transformational potential of the Inflation Reduction Act in communities across the nation,” he said. “We have no time and no planet to waste.”

On the Hill

House Energy and Commerce Committee adds new GOP members

As the 118th Congress gets underway, the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday announced that nine new Republicans have gained a spot on the panel. 

They include Reps. Rick Allen (Ga.), Randy Weber (Tex.), Troy Balderson (Ohio), Russ Fulcher (Idaho), August Pfluger (Tex.), Diana Harshbarger (Tenn.), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (Iowa), Kat Cammack (Fla.) and Jay Obernolte (Calif.).

The committee, chaired by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), will play a key role in Republicans' efforts to pass energy legislation and conduct oversight of President Biden's climate agenda.

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Wednesday said the House will vote Thursday morning on the Protecting America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve from China Act, Politico’s Joshua Siegel reports. If approved, the bill would bar the Energy Department from sending oil from the nation’s strategic reserve to China. 

Republicans have argued that the Biden administration’s releases of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, while intended to lower gasoline prices, have helped the nation’s adversaries. However, the GOP has acknowledged that the bill would do little to lower energy prices —  a top priority for the caucus.

Pressure points

White House climate office brings on Senate staffer

Mary Frances Repko will become deputy national climate adviser and deputy assistant to the president within the White House’s Climate Policy Office starting Tuesday, according to a White House official. 

She currently serves as the Democratic staff director for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where she helped write several pieces of environmental legislation, including provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan infrastructure law. 

“Her experience in the trenches writing the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, combined with her regulatory expertise, particularly with the Clean Air Act, make her the perfect fit for the job,” national climate adviser Ali Zaidi said in a statement.

On the committee, Repko will be replaced by Courtney Taylor, who most recently served as senior vice president at ML Strategies. She previously worked on policy at the Environmental Defense Fund and as a lawyer at the Interior Department and the Justice Department, among other roles.

Oceans surged to another record-high temperature in 2022

The amount of excess heat stored in the Earth’s oceans reached a record high last year, according to research published Wednesday in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences that drew on information dating to the late 1950s, The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis report. 

That breaks the ocean heat record set in 2021 — which broke the record set in 2020, which broke the one set in 2019. And it helps explain why the world has seen cascading extreme weather events in recent years, since warmer waters fuel larger and more intense systems. Rising ocean temperatures also pose a risk to marine ecosystems by making water saltier and unable to hold sufficient amounts of oxygen in certain areas.

International climate

Police evict climate activists from German village slated to become coal mine

Climate activists have been fortifying the west German town of Lützerath for about two years, hoping to prevent it from being razed to expand an open-pit coal mine that has already taken over more than 20 other villages, The Post’s Loveday Morris reports. 

But on Wednesday, security forces began dismantling treehouses and detaining dozens of demonstrators even as they fought back, in what police described as a “particularly challenging” operation. 

Although the German government has pledged to exit coal by 2030, the war in Ukraine has squeezed energy supplies across Europe, prompting officials to argue that the coal at the site is essential. But activists say the government should prioritize the long-term risks of climate change rather than the current energy crunch.

“It’s unbelievable that it will be knocked down for this huge coal mine,” said activist Zora Fotidou, 21. “We can have electricity and warmth without destroying people’s lives.”

In the atmosphere

Viral

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