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"When our nation faces clear and present danger"

Trying to kick the Great Ship United States down the road


Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has handed the elusive climate football back President Joe Biden. The question climate lobbyists now face is whether Biden is Charlie Brown or Lucy van Pelt — that is to say, is Biden interested in kicking the football or is he holding out false hope?

It certainly would be nice if the leadership of the United States was on Team Livable Climate!

On visit yesterday to a decommissioned Massachusetts coal plant being converted to an offshore wind manufacturing facility, on Biden claimed dire urgency, while kicking the can down the road on meaningful action:

As President, I have a responsibility to act with urgency and resolve when our nation faces clear and present danger.  And that’s what climate change is about.  It is literally, not figuratively, a clear and present danger. . . . So, let me be clear: Climate change is an emergency.  And in the coming weeks, I’m going to use the power I have as President to turn these words into formal, official government actions through the appropriate proclamations, executive orders, and regulatory power that a President possesses.

Afterward, Biden told reporters this explanation for why he hasn’t made a formal national emergency declaration: “I’m running into traps on the totality of the authority I have.  I will make that decision soon.”

He just needs more time! Because, apparently, he hasn’t investigated the possibility of such a declaration until now.1

If I may switch metaphors in midstream, Captain Biden of the Great Ship United States has made the announcement that we’re steering straight for an iceberg and is now considering options on how and whether to change course.

The response from our nation’s climate lobbying groups offers an opportunity to discern their distinct approaches to the captain’s announcement. I encourage you to decide with approach you find preferable.

Response A: Criticize Captain Joe for Steering toward Disaster

Food and Water Watch’s Wenonah Hunter called out Biden’s current course of “promoting cleaner energy while still advancing new fossil fuel projects,” saying “President Biden has failed to meaningfully act on climate.”

Oil Change International’s Collin Rees was similarly critical, saying “we’re in desperate need of bold leadership, not tinkering around the edges while the world burns.”

They both called for Biden to declare a national climate emergency and end fossil fuel projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline and offshore drilling, instead of overseeing a fracking boom.

Response B: Ignore the Inaction and Call for a Course Change

A second contingent of groups want Biden to change course, but avoided criticizing Biden’s lackadaisical captaincy directly. “The Biden administration must build on today’s announcements,” the Sierra Club’s Melinda Pierce said, “to ensure their actions meet the strength and boldness of the President's rhetoric.”

“As dangerous, record breaking heat blankets the U.S. and the world, we need our leaders to do everything in their power to protect people and the planet,” League of Conservation Voters’s Tiernan Sittenfeld said. “Action on climate can’t wait.”  

“Today, President Biden promised the American people that he won’t take no for an answer on climate action,” Evergreen Action’s Jamal Raad said. “It’s time for him to back that up with ambitious, accelerated executive action––starting now.

Like Food and Water Watch and Oil Change, the Sierra Club, LCV, and Evergreen Action offered a detailed list of policy actions Biden needs to take to end the fossil-fuel era.

Response C: Go Team Biden!

The third type of response was a straightforward cheerleading of the White House. Climate Power’s Lori Lodes: “If Joe Manchin refuses to produce cheaper American-made renewable energy, President Biden will.”

““President Biden’s announcement today that he’ll take executive actions to encourage the development of clean energy and increase funding for cooling centers is welcome news and a positive step forward,” the Climate Action Campaign’s Margie Alt responded.

“President Biden painted a picture of a clean energy future that creates jobs while acknowledging the realities of the worsening crisis,” the Center for American Progress’s Christy Goldfuss said. “We expect that this is just the beginning of sustained action and attention from the administration to protect the American people from the undeniable impacts of climate change.”

Unsurprisingly, these climate lobbying groups are the ones most strongly tied to the Democratic Party.

Manchin will—maybe—finally move forward the nomination of Laura Daniel-Davis to be the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management, more than a year after she was tapped for the position. As I wrote in January, her nomination has been held up for months by Republicans like Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) who are concerned she won’t let mining companies do whatever they want.

At that hearing, Manchin’s committee will also discuss a large backlog of legislation, including Republican bills to fast-track logging on federal lands and streamline oil and gas drilling permits.

The fastest-growing cities in America are growing unlivable as we turn up the heat on our gas-fired planet.

Biden’s office for climate health risks is broke—the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity within the Health and Human Services Department remains unfunded by Congress.

The U.S. Postal Service, still led by Trumpist Louis DeJoy, has begun to buckle under public pressure for its plan to replace its mail fleet with gasoline-powered trucks. It announced yesterday that of the 84,500 vehicles to be purchased, it now plans that more than 40% will be electric. Advocates continue to push for 100%.

Bloomberg’s Nat Bullard relates news that I expect will soon turn Matthew Yglesias into a tedious battery maximalist:

On July 15, California’s battery fleet charged during the morning. Beginning around 6 p.m., solar generation began dropping and batteries, in turn, began rapidly delivering electricity to the grid. From 7:25 to 7:55, batteries supplied more to the grid than the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.

Hearings on the Hill:

The final word today comes from Joanna Thompson:

In a very unusual fossil, scientists have found one of the first examples of sexual anatomy in the fossil record: a small pair of grasping appendages that let the male trilobite hold the female close during mating.

Thanks for subscribing and spreading the word. DMs are open@climatebrad

1 Biden’s lack of a plan for climate following the long-obvious collapse of negotiations with Manchin parallels his lack of plan for a response to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which had been leaked months earlier.

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