Saturday February 1st… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing post will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials)😉
Main Topic: Democratic Part Of Congress Is Hard At Work Mitigating Climate Change
Dear Diary. Welcome to February. The last few months it has often been said that Congress has taken up too much time and effort on what will be a failed attempt to impeach and remove Trump, not taking care to go about the business of improving our lives. In truth the Democrats have proverbially walked and chewed gum at the same time, trying to pass bills ranging from those in association with infrastructure, health, and yes climate. Unfortunately Republicans have blocked nearly every effort including, of course, getting to the truth of what happened in association with Ukraine by blocking witnesses in the impeachment trial.
Today I will point out some recent efforts by members of Congress on behalf of trying to mitigate the Climate Crisis. First from Senator Bernie Sanders:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) this week introduced a bill that aims to ban hydraulic fracking.
The bill was introduced on Tuesday and is titled “a bill to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing, and for other purposes,” according to the Library of Congress, though the text of the legislation was not available on the site.
Sanders has called for a ban on fracking while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, as has Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Sanders tweeted about the bill, which he said was also worked on by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Darren Soto (D-Fla.) on Thursday. Merkley was listed as a co-sponsor.
The tweet included a video of actor Mark Ruffalo talking about a potential federal ban fracking.
“Mark Ruffalo just spoiled Bernie and AOC’s bill to ban fracking,” the video said.
However, the announcement of the bill drew criticism from those in the oil industry.
“Banning a safe, successful method of developing energy would erase a generation of American energy progress and in the process destroy millions of U.S. jobs, spike household energy costs and hurt farmers and manufacturers,” said Bethany Aronhalt, American Petroleum Institute spokeswoman.
Second, the House of Representatives has offered up a big infrastructure bill with the climate crisis in mind. Here are more details:
Democrats to offer $760B infrastructure plan with big climate theme
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to announce the package Wednesday morning after meeting with the House Democratic caucus.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo
By TANYA SNYDER
01/28/2020 07:19 PM EST
Updated: 01/28/2020 07:34 PM EST
House Democratic leaders are set to roll out their vision for a $760 billion, five-year infrastructure proposal that places a major emphasis on climate change, seizing on an issue that has become a growing concern for their party’s activists and presidential hopefuls.
The framework — coming two years after President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan sank without a trace on the Hill — comprises a hodgepodge of transportation and water legislation that Congress renews periodically, according to details confirmed by POLITICO. But Democrats are putting a green tint on each element of the proposal, checking boxes on their climate goals while attempting to show that they are steering away from impeachment talk and toward legislating on big issues.
House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) says the planwill be a radical departure from highway-focused transportation bills and will put clean energy and climate “resilience” at the center.
“It’s going to be a definitive departure from our last 70 years, since Eisenhower, and it is going to set a path for the 21st century to defossilize transportation, which is the single largest contributor [of greenhouse gas emissions],” DeFazio told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “We’re looking at every sector under my jurisdiction and attempting to meet the goals of the Green New Deal.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to announce the package Wednesday morning after meeting with the House Democratic caucus. The total price tag of the package was not immediately available, but Democrats are promising a “significantly increased investment” in the portion devoted to highways, rails and transit.
The climate plan, according to DeFazio, will include everything from making federal buildingscarbon-neutral to transitioning to renewable fuels for aviation. He also wants to improve rail and transit options “as a more efficient way to move passengers than short-haul airlines and automobiles” and use more climate-friendly building materials, like concrete with coal ash that “actually absorbs carbon.”
House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Committee Republicans have indicated they’re interested in working together on the surface bill, including on climate elements — “they’re saying, ‘don’t count us out,’” DeFazio said. Yet on Tuesday, theyissued their own statement of infrastructure principles absent any mention of climate priorities.
Climate resiliency, which involves protecting communities from the worst effects of climate change, could be a palatable entry point for Republicans, DeFazio said, “especially people from really vulnerable areas.” Those could include Transportation Committeeranking member Sam Graves of Missouri and key Republican committee member Garret Graves of Louisiana.
“We’ll see what they think about an ambitious electrification program, but they shouldn’t have any objection to new, more climate friendly materials that are actually going to save the taxpayers money,” DeFazio speculated. “I think there’s a lot of things we could agree on.”
Sam Graves told POLITICO he hadn’t seen the proposal but that he’s expressed to DeFazio that he’s “interested in working on anything.”
“I would call it climate change, but in deference to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, we’ll just call it extreme weather events,” DeFazio added.
The plan Democrats announce Wednesday will be their attempt to reboot an infrastructure effort they began last spring in concert with the White House. Democrats emerged jubilant from their first meeting with Trump on the subject because the president bid the Democrats up from $1.2 trillion to a $2 trillion price tag.But the entire effort fell apart in May after Trump threw Pelosi and other Democrats out of his office, following Pelosi’s comments earlier that day accusing the president of perpetratinga “cover-up” and stonewalling congressional investigations.
Talking to reporters about the new infrastructure push two weeks ago, Pelosi expressed disappointment that “so far [Republicans] have not come on board.” But she expressed hope that the bipartisan cooperation on a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada would lead the White House to “be interested in cooperating in other ways.”
The Democratic infrastructure push, though little more than an amalgamation of existing legislative efforts, is part of the Democrats’ 2020 plan to run on legislative achievements on issues most important to their voters. In the case of a green infrastructure package, they get to tout progress on climate as well as jobs, along with old-fashioned public works like fixing highways and making the trains run on time.
“What’s happening this week is a political statement as much as anything,” said an industry source familiar with the plan. “It’s not like it’s coming to the floor.”
“The focus here is reconnecting with the Obama/Tump voter in a, no pun intended, concrete way,” he went on.
The package Democrats will announce centers on a bill to authorize federal highway, rail and transit programs, which ismeant to replace an existing $305 billion, five-year transportation package that expires Sept. 30. Besides climate change, DeFazio has said key parts of the bill would include local control, safety and keeping existing infrastructure in good repair.
DeFazio’s committee has been working closely with the Energy and Commerce Committee on wastewater and drinking water issues as well as a pipeline safety effort. Energy and Commerce is also expected to contribute a section on broadband. Other committees have been working on legislation dealing with schools, housing and parks, but it’s unclear whether those will move together.
So far, Democrats haven’t produced any way to pay for the bill. Funding would be a conundrum even without the extra money they’re promising, as the Highway Trust Fund has been running dry for years because of the reduced purchasing power of the federal gasoline and diesel tax, which Congress last increased in 1993. DeFazio has proposed a plan to issue infrastructure bonds and pay them back by increasing fuel taxes and indexing them to inflation, but leadership has not yet endorsed that plan.
The absence of a concrete and politically palatable proposal on funding could doom this plan to the same fate as other campaign promises from every politician from Barack Obama to Trump. Raising the gas tax is a non-starter with both parties. The tax-writing Ways and Means Committee is holding a hearing Wednesday, just hours after the infrastructure plan announcement, to discuss funding options.
The Republican-controlled Senate already has a surface transportation bill that has been approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. That bill also has a climate title, for the first time ever.
Sam Mintz contributed to this report.
So where will all of these proposals and legislation leave young voters, some of whom come from conservative, Republican families? Again, please read this article:
House Republicans caught between Trump and young voters on climate change
By Zack Colman, Anthony Adragna and Eric Wolff, Politico
•January 26, 2020
House Republicans know they face a growing vulnerability with young voters on climate change — but their attempts to craft a greener message are running headlong into their allegiance to President Donald Trump.
Unlike Trump, the chamber’s GOP lawmakers have largely stopped scoffing at the scientific evidence that human-caused global warming is contributing to intensifying wildfires and extreme weather.
As the Democrats that control the House prepare to launch a broad legislative package of climate measures, Republican leaders are putting together their own more modest set of climate policies that their party can rally behind, one centered on planting a lot of trees, reducing plastic waste and encouraging clean energy technologies.
But those GOP proposals don’t aim to begin to wean the U.S. off fossil fuels, as scientists say is needed, and the lawmakers still support Trump’s moves to roll back the Obama administration’s regulations and burn more coal, oil and natural gas. And their attempts at striking a more moderate tone on the environment risk being drowned out by the president, who just this week derided the “prophets of doom” on climate change during a speech in Davos, Switzerland.
The result is a perhaps intractable quandary for Republicans who can read the poll results showing that climate change is a prime issue for younger voters. And some GOP allies outside Congress acknowledge that the steps they’re proposing would be too little to head off the disastrous effects of climate change.
“I feel like a parent whose child just took its first step and hear someone say, ‘That’s a really slow kid,’” said Alex Flint, executive director with the Alliance for Market Solutions, a group trying to persuade Republicans to support taxing carbon emissions.
“I respect those who have been working for years to make incremental progress with Republicans. That is an important step,” he added. “It is an inadequate step.”
The emerging GOP framework largely sidesteps confronting the primary driver of climate change: the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, primarily caused by decades of burning oil, gas and coal. The competing “Green New Deal” championed by progressive Democrats aims to take those sources head-on, calling for an aggressive – and expensive – effort to move the U.S. off fossil fuels in the coming decades.
Instead, legislation expected to be unveiled in the coming months by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is expected to lean on Republican standbys: chiefly, planting more trees, curbing plastic waste and boosting innovation and exporting cleaner, U.S.-made technology to help other countries address their share of the global problem. One of the top priorities will be the “promotion of cleaner, more efficient fossil fuels to meet global demand,” according to slides presented to a closed-door GOP conference meeting last week.
“We’ve got to actually do something different than we’ve done to date,” McCarthy said in an October interview with the Washington Examiner. “For a 28-year-old, the environment is the No. 1 and No. 2 issue.”
The GOP framework is nowhere near what some Republicans were willing to support as recently as 2008, when Republican presidential nominee John McCain backed a sweeping cap-and-trade proposal. Eight House Republicans voted for a major cap-and-trade bill the following year; just one — Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey — is still in Congress.
“We’re still working our way back up” to credibility on climate change, said Bob Inglis, a former GOP House member from South Carolina who lost his reelection bid in 2010 to a Tea Party-backed primary opponent, despite voting against cap-and-trade. He said the party “can’t claim to have a vision” on climate change because the proposals amount to only “incremental progress.”
“Republicans lost the House in districts like Barbara Comstock’s,” Inglis added, referring to a Republican who lost her Northern Virginia seat in 2018. “You can’t win suburban districts with retro positions on climate.”
Inglis now runs RepublicEn, which advocates for a border-adjustable, revenue-neutral carbon tax.
Trump gave a nod to the new agenda at this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he agreed to join a global initiative aimed at planting one trillion trees by 2050, an effort designed to reverse the 10 billion trees lost every year to deforestation, in hopes of taming carbon dioxide emissions. But he dismissed more serious warnings about climate change, a top concern at the conference.
“This is not a time for pessimism, it is a time for optimism. Fear and doubt is not a good thought process,” Trump said in a speech Tuesday. “To embrace the possibilities of today, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse. They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers.”
The House GOP policy meeting McCarthy convened last week marked the beginning of an information gathering process for a final product on climate change, though it’s not certain whether that results in one sweeping bill, a package of legislation or merely a framework, two House GOP aides said.
The House Republican aides noted that global fossil fuel consumption is expected to rise for decades, particularly in poorer Asian countries, and that the U.S. should invest in developing cheaper, next-generation technologies — fossil fuel and clean — that could be deployed abroad while ensuring U.S. firms reap the economic benefits.
In the short-term, House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans have settled on 12 bills they say should make up an immediate package to address climate change. But most of the measures have been introduced and advanced in prior Congresses without mentioning climate change, and several passed with minimal Democratic support. They have not yet reached out to Democrats about the new effort, one aide said.
“The GOP needs to have a Republican position on climate change. I would say it’s our hope that what we table would attract bipartisan support,” the aide said. “We haven’t had a coherent message in some time.”
Environmentalists say the ideas the Republicans are considering are way too weak to address the global climate crisis.
“All they can come together on is useful, but really tiny stuff like tree planting and energy R&D,” said David Doniger, senior strategic director for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate and clean energy program. “Those are just not going to meet the climate crisis, which requires that we cut the pollution that’s driving this.”
Republicans have refused to embrace any specific timeframe for reducing emissions or specify how much to cut them. And senior GOP lawmakers continue to oppose proposals for economy-wide carbon pricing, such as a carbon tax, or so-called dividends that have attracted some support from prominent Republicans and oil companies.
“I’m certainly not patting them on the back,” said Ted Halstead, chairman and CEO of the Climate Leadership Council, a group backed by Republican elder statesmen like former Secretaries of State George Shultz and James Baker and oil giants like BP and Royal Dutch Shell. Halstead said the proposals are at least a “stepping stone.”
“That’s been an issue for us — the over-regulation, the over-taxation,” Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the ranking member of the House E&C Committee, said last week. “It’s something I don’t think we’d find common ground on when there are so many other opportunities to come together.”
Hanna Bogorowski, a spokesperson for McCarthy, said: “House Republicans will continue to build and roll out proposals through the spring.”
The White House declined to comment on the Republican package, but there’s little daylight between House Republicans and Trump on actions to upend some of the nation’s most aggressive emissions-fighting rules. Most have cheered Trump’s regulation-slashing swagger, including an expected softening of vehicle fuel efficiency rules.
While Republicans are calling for beefed up energy efficiency, the Department of Energy has dragged its feet on updating existing efficiency standards as required by law, and last week it implemented a new policy that will make it more difficult to create future efficiency rules. And while an expansion of credits for carbon capture technology passed under the last Congress passed easily, the IRS has yet to issue critical guidance industry needs to access that tax credit, stalling new projects.
The administration also has shown little interest in congressional efforts to drive what Republicans call the “innovation agenda.” Trump has proposed slashing the budgets of DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office — the prime funder of new and applied science for renewable energy — in each of its budgets, including a proposed 70 percent reduction last year. Congress has typically increased the funding in final appropriations.
Republicans contend some Trump moves will aid combating climate change. A proposal earlier this month imposing deadlines for environmental reviews, for example, could ease construction for renewable energy and transmission lines to carry clean power. The American Wind Energy Association welcomed the proposal to update the National Environmental Policy Act regulations, pointing to “unnecessary costs and long project delays” under the current approach.
Many Democrats say it is not enough for Republicans to stop denying the scientific consensus on climate change.
“They’re evolving too slowly and a lot of it is fake,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) told POLITICO. “Inevitably, [their solution] comes down to new ways to extract more fossil fuel and sell fracked gas. When they do these things, they’re actually talking about making the climate problem worse, not better. We just have to be real about that because we don’t have time for fake solutions.”
So, you see here really what must be done to break this logjam. Before it’s too late we need a Democratic Congress with overwhelming numbers and a Democratic President. We need a Democratic “landslide” election much like what happened in 2008 when Obama was elected. Only this time the next Democratic President must call for a national emergency to implement programs already proposed on today’s post. I’ll be keeping tabs on the Democrat’s chances of having a landslide as 2020 continues.
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Here is some more weather and climate news from Saturday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity.)
Starting out with more record heat or “ET’s” from Australia and New Zealand:
(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.)
Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”