Shaking my head

Biden goes gas tax holiday, face mites, stopping Louis DeJoy, fruit salad


It’s Bad Idea Wednesday! President Joe Biden has chosen today to call for a three-month suspension of the federal gas tax, a wildly stupid idea that will force Democrats in Congress up for reëlection to choose between killing or passing Biden’s bad plan—giving Big Oil and their Republican allies either a giant political or a financial windfall. Climate hawk Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) had the right response:

“I'm shaking my head. Oil companies and gas stations will pocket most of the money and won't even send President Biden a thank you card. Consumers will get no meaningful relief from this, it will just starve our highway trust fund of revenues. I had hoped better ideas would prevail — like consumer rebates or vouchers for free public transit.”

On that front, Zipcar founder Robin Chase has a webinar this afternoon on the future of transportation, which should be chock full of good ideas.

In another win for Big Oil, outgoing California Assemblymember Jim Cooper spiked California’s Fossil Fuel Divestment Act (Senate Bill 1173) yesterday, by refusing to let it be heard in his committee. Cooper has reported $36,350 in Big Oil campaign contributions from this election season alone. He’s been elected Sacramento County Sheriff.

California’s gigantic public pension funds have over $684 billion in assets, with a huge amount in invested fossil-fuel companies: CalPERS has over $27 billion in fossil fuel investments, while CalSTRS (the state teacher pension fund) has over $15 billion.

Tuesday was President Biden’s good idea day: he nominated Dr. Arati Prabhakar, the first woman to receive an applied physics Ph.D. from CalTech, to lead the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. The White House also announced that the base salary of federal wildfire firefighters would double.

In related news, Forest Service chief Randy Moore released a major report on the New Mexico wildfires sparked by his agency’s (un)controlled burn, which found the Forest Service has been unprepared for changes wrought by global warming: “Climate change is leading to conditions on the ground we have never encountered.”

Fires are outpacing our models and, as the final report notes, we need to better understand how megadrought and climate change are affecting our actions on the ground.

Here’s another good idea for Biden: how to stop Louis DeJoy from buying gas-powered mail trucks instead of an electrified fleet. The Revolving Door Project, in collaboration with dozens of other groups, is calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to use its review powers to rein in rogue federal agencies controlled by Trump appointees:

We, the undersigned organizations, urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revive the use of its authority to refer environmentally destructive federal projects to the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and specifically call on the EPA to refer recent decisions made by the Tennessee Valley Authority and the United States Postal Service. 

The Cannes Lions Festival advertising industry awards extravaganza was interrupted by former winner Gustav Martner, who returned his prize to protest the festival’s continued embrace of the fossil-fuel industry: “Since the Paris Agreement at least 300 awards have been given out at Cannes Lions to adverts promoting air travel, to oil companies that greenwash and to ads that make cars with polluting combustion engines more desirable.”

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell is testifying before the Senate this morning and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell testifies this afternoon. EPA chemical safety official Michal Freedhoff is testifying on the continued failure of the Toxic Substances Control Act in the wildly underfunded Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention before Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) is chairing a hearing to mark up Sen. Ed Markey’s (D-Mass.) extreme heat illness bill (S. 2510) and ocean pollution legislation (S. 4321) from Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), as well as approving Dr. Michael Morgan’s nomination to be the top National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official for its satellites and instrument systems.

In the House, the big work is on FY 2023 appropriations. The full appropriations committee tackles top-line numbers and the $761 billion defense budget this morning, at the same time that the armed services marks up the detailed defense authorization bill. This afternoon, subcommittees mark up the State Department budget and the budgets for the Departments of Justice and Commerce. Most of the Commerce Department’s budget is for NOAA.

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) is chairing a hearing to receive testimony on legislation to improve our energy infrastructure, including higher efficiency standards for water heaters and a weatherization grant program. In other hearings, dairy farmers go before House Agriculture, and the House Science Committee has scientists investigating the nature of matter, energy, space, and time.

Hearings on the Hill:

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