"The Climate Thing"

Right now, we have both hell and high water


This newsletter is named Hill Heat because its primary beat is Congressional action on climate. So let’s check: how is that going?

The House of Representatives is planning to start work next week; officially, the Senate is working right now. With Covid, a snowstorm, and a funeral for a climate-science denier, however, not much has happened. Of course, many if not most of the Senate’s members (average age 65.3) don’t want to accomplish anything,1 certainly not in the vein of voting reform, climate action, or giving parents money for childcare. Because, as Hill Heat friend Joe Manchin warns, they’ll spend that money on drugs. Rather than what parents should be doing, which is helping their children make money selling drugs.

On Tuesday, there was talk. Now that much of the Build Back Better plan has been stripped away, there’s still hope that the not-inconsiderable clean-energy (broadly defined) tax credits and incentive packages remaining will get through at some point. The League of Conservation Voters organized a “yes we can, someday” conference call:

  • “We’re going to get this done come hell or high water. And right now, we have both hell and high water.… We’ll get this done as soon as we have the votes, and if that’s tomorrow morning, that’s when we’ll do it. If it’s Feb. 7, that’s when we’ll do it.” — Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)

  • “We are in a code red moment for climate. This is our moment to deliver. We cannot let it pass us by.” Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.)

  • “We’re facing having to go through this again and again across the country. And it is ridiculous that we still are willing to avoid what is a scientific truth… and turn away and subject cities and towns and communities all across this country to the same agony the Marshall Fire has caused over these holidays.” — Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.)

As readers may remember from yesterday’s post, what Hickenlooper is now calling “ridiculous” pretty much defines his fracking-fueled career.

Joe Manchin would like us to know he is still holding the football for Charlie Brown to kick: “I think that the climate thing is one that we probably can come to agreement much easier than anything else.” All he wants, he says, is for the rest of the Democrats to drop the child tax credit and some further hostages to be named later.

Meanwhile, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) reminded reporters that Build Back Better is on the back burner: “We’re focused on voting rights, as we should be. And I think the White House is joining us in that effort. And clearly we’ll return to ‘Build Back Better’ as soon as that is done."

I can’t fault Durbin and Schumer for working on voting reform right now; as this date of January 6 is a good reminder, our democracy is more than a bit fragile. Of course, what matters is whether this new scheduling pays off. (Indivisible has been working hard on winning this fight.)

A home burns Dec. 30 in Louisville, Colo. Credit: Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

Major kudos to the Washington Post’s Sarah Kaplan, who managed what so few journalists seem capable of these days: actually explaining who is to blame for the climate crisis.

In the country that has generated more greenhouse gases than any other nation in history, global warming is expanding its reach and exacting an escalating toll. Steadily rising temperatures heighten the risk of wildfires, turbocharge rain storms, exacerbate flooding and intensify drought. Yet planet-warming pollution, primarily from burning fossil fuels, surged to near-record highs last year.

The piece, written with data journalist Andrew Ba Tran, is a harrowing overview of the fast-rising catastrophe in our nation and around the world, caused by the unchecked burning of oil, gas, and coal.

A great read from Dorothy Slater: President Biden has the power to transform our nation’s largest public utility, the Tennessee Valley Authority, from a GOP-coal backwater to a climate powerhouse.

JOB NEWS: Virginia’s new governor, climate-denier vulture-capitalist Glenn Youngkin, has brought on Andrew Wheeler, the coal lobbyist who served as one of Trump’s EPA administrators, as his Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources. On the other side of the coin, Naomi Klein and Candis Callison are hiring for a research manager to help launch the new University of British Columbia Centre for Climate Justice. New York Renews is seeking a communications director. And the amazing Jacqui Patterson is hiring a full team to help launch the Chisholm Legacy Project for Climate Justice.

Under the Obama administration, the Department of Energy poured more than a billion dollars into carbon capture and storage (CCS), money allocated by Congress under the 2009 stimulus bill. . . . Not a single coal-plant CCS project that DOE invested in is still operating today. Only one of the eight projects it funded was ever completed, and that one was shut down last year. 

If you’ve been sitting on the fence about becoming a paid subscriber to Hill Heat, now’s a great time to jump off. @climatebrad

1. I am being unfair here: much of the Senate is working on the 2024 coup.

Subscribe to Hill Heat

Climate science, policy, politics, and action

Join the conversation

or to participate.