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It seems like just yesterday that Bernie Sanders was blasting Hillary Clinton for taking campaign cash “from those who would profit off the destruction of the planet.” We saw a different Sanders take the stage last night: one who didn’t dare utter the word “fracking.” In endorsing Clinton for president at the Democratic National Convention, the senator from Vermont didn’t exactly walk back his attacks on her — he avoided the topic altogether.
Instead, he limited his remarks on energy to the Democratic safe space that is climate change, calling it “the greatest environmental crisis facing our planet.” He does get points, though, for reducing Clinton’s energy policy to, basically, believing in science. In differentiating Clinton from Republican nominee Donald Trump, Sanders praises her for “listening to the scientists who tell us that” climate change is real. He then dismisses Trump for “rejecting the science.”
Enough With This “Climate Change” Stuff
Republicans and Democrats who want to tackle climate change agree on one thing: talking about it may not be the best way to gain public support for policy changes they want. At a Bloomberg Government luncheon in Philadelphia yesterday, Michael Brune of the Sierra Club said it’s not necessary to focus on how much the general public cares about climate change. Voters care about jobs, national security and clean air, and solar and wind power can also create jobs, lift energy independence and cut pollution, he argued.
“We think of clean energy as an opportunity to seize,” Brune, the group’s executive director, said.
Brune’s comments are similar to those from the meeting with the self-dubbed eco-right last week. Representatives from Evangelicals for the Environment and the Christian Coalition said they could pull on those same threads — national security and jobs — to raise support for rooftop solar panels or renewable power on public lands.
We pressed Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who is running for the Senate in Maryland, about whether Congress is set to take up legislation that would put a price on carbon: “Clearly we have a challenge,” he said. “The public is ahead of where the climate debate is in Congress.
Van Hollen mentioned everyone’s favorite deus ex machina for how a carbon tax could become a reality: “There is a lot of interest in Congress on tax reform,” and Republicans are more open to user fees than to new taxes, he said.
“We are looking for partners on the Republican side,” Van Hollen said.
The tax reform dream is more likely to become reality if Donald Trump wins in November, ClearView Energy’s Kevin Book says. So, if Hillary Clinton takes office, what’s the secret weapon to cut carbon emissions? Infrastructure. Clinton wants to spend billions of dollars on new roads, bridges and power lines, and “we need to make sure that’s done in a smart way,” Gene Karpinski of the League of Conservation Voters said.
Debating Rob Portman
In Cleveland last week, Jay Faison criticized the League of Conservation Voters for supporting Democrat Ted Strickland in the Senate race in Ohio. Rob Portman, who is the lead sponsor of the energy efficiency measure that bears his name, is the kind of Republican deserving of support if environmentalists want to gain a partner across the aisle, Faison argued. That’s nonsense, Karpinski of LCV said yesterday. Portman has supported parks funding and the efficiency bill, but he voted against the Clean Power Plan each time it came up in the Senate, and that’s the LCV’s top issue, Karpinski told the luncheon.
Senate Battle-Lines Drawn on Nukes and Corn
For Senate Republicans fighting to hold their seats this fall, nuclear energy may trump fossil fuels as the number one energy policy issue to watch, according to Clearview Energy. Seven of eight at-risk Republicans represent 36 percent of 2015 U.S. nuclear generation, so they may be sympathetic to the industry’s recent struggles, Clearview points out in its “Year Eight Update.” While state plans to comply with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan could help the struggling nuclear industry, the fuel’s viability amid gas-rich electricity markets is a pressing matter for generators.
Clearview also highlights corn as a make-or-break issue for Republicans, noting that seven of eight at-risk Republican senators represent 30 percent of 2015 corn production.
Laura Curtis heads to Philadelphia to cover Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta at an event hosted by the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, the NRDC and Nextgen Climate. The discussion, dubbed “Winning on Climate Together,” will center on the Democratic party platform and the importance of climate change in this election. Billionaire Democratic funder and Nextgen Climate founder Tom Steyer and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee will also attend. After the paltry showing of “togetherness” at the convention’s opening last night, we’ll see if climate can bring the party together. That’s at 2:30 p.m.
“My view with relation to fracking is we need to regulate it, zone it, tax it,” Senate candidate Katie McGinty told a Pennsylvania delegation in Philadelphia yesterday. McGinty, who’s trying to unseat Republican incumbent Pat Toomey, added: “We can move the ball forward on the environmental side, whether it is closing the Halliburton loophole, whether it is in making sure there is not air pollution from these activities. Those are things we can tackle.”
Clear View Energy Partners forecasts “strong odds” that Congress will clear comprehensive energy legislation this year, though its analysts say passage isn’t likely until after November elections.
Chart of the Day
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication
The anti-fracking, pro-environment protesters that descended on Philadelphia Sunday are expected to remain a vocal presence throughout the convention — but they’re hardly representative of the American public, according to data from Yale and George Mason University. A July report that groups Americans’ views on climate change into six categories finds that only 17 percent of respondents are “alarmed” by the threat of global warming. Another 28 percent are “concerned about it.” As pictured above, Hillary Clinton is the preferred candidate among both groups.
Donald Trump received the most support from those who are “doubtful” or “dismissive” of climate change. Some 34 percent of respondents fell somewhere in the middle, the data showed: They see the issue as irrelevant and don’t feel strongly about it either way.
Inside the Beltway
EPA Rules That Aircraft Emissions Should Be Regulated Under Clean Air Act The agency has not yet defined what those emissions limits will be.
Outside the Beltway
EON to Build Solar And Battery Storage for Arizona Utility A 10-megawatt battery storage system for Tucson Electric Power aims to help the Arizona utility manage increasing amounts of renewable energy on its grid.
EPA Air Office Readies Rule to Address Cross-State Decision The agency is working on a rule that would address a 2015 federal appeals court ruling on the legality of state-specific emissions budgets for the utility sector. It would affect Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas.
Environmental Groups Seek Vote on Delayed New York Offshore Wind The Sierra Club joined more than 30 other organizations asking New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to push the Long Island Power Authority to reschedule a vote on the project.
A Thunderstorm Just Drove New York Power Prices Above $1,000 Spot electricity catapulted to $1,042.37 a megawatt-hour at 3:25 p.m., from less than $50 earlier in the day. The agency that oversees New York’s power system issued an alert in advance of the storm that cut the amount of electricity allowed to be carried across transmission lines feeding the city, energy data provider Genscape Inc. said.
Oil, Gas and Coal
Keystone’s Death Means Record Oil Revival for Canadian Railways Now that Keystone XL is dead, the railways are going to make not just a comeback, but transport more oil than ever before. In a sign of what’s coming, exports by train rose 23 percent in April, the biggest year-on-year jump since September 2014, according to Canada’s National Energy Board. That’s just the beginning. Next year, with about a half dozen new projects and expansions in the oil sands, rail exports could double by the third quarter to a record.
BLM Launches Review for ConocoPhillips’ Alaska Oil Project U.S. regulators are beginning an environmental analysis of ConocoPhillips’ plans for new oil drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. If approved, it would be the second oil and gas development project authorized on federal lands in NPR-A.
This U.S. Coal Miner’s Getting Paid to Buy Assets in Appalachia James Booth has done it again. In September, his Booth Energy coal group bought a collection of Appalachian mines from a Florida utility for nothing beyond liabilities. On Monday, it acquired two sites in West Virginia — this time, from Consol Energy Inc. — for nothing beyond liabilities, and Consol will pay a Booth Energy unit $27 million at closing and $17 million more over four years, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Monday.
Such is the state of U.S. coal markets that Consol, which is looking to expedite its transition from mining coal to exclusively producing natural gas, is willing to part with non-core assets for, well, nothing. For Booth and others, coal’s bust is yielding bargains. Last winter, West Virginia’s Jim Justice paid $5 million — and assumed liabilities — to buy back mines he’d previously sold for $568 million.
Up for Debate: Climate Change is a Uniter, Not a Divider
By Alicia Prevost, director of Defend Our Future
Although you wouldn’t have guessed it based on the speakers at last week’s Republican Convention, there is one issue in which the political parties are starting to come together: climate change. According to a YouGov poll conducted last week, a bipartisan majority of Americans acknowledge that climate change is a serious problem, that it will have an impact on them in their lifetime, and that we need to do more to develop solutions. And a recent poll conducted by George Mason and Yale Universities shows that the number of conservative voters who say climate change is real has almost doubled in the past two years.
This shift is evident on college campuses nationwide. The youth outreach campaign I lead for Environmental Defense Fund, Defend Our Future, works with student leaders across the political spectrum — Republicans, Democrats, independents — and among our politically diverse students, they are clearly united on the need to do more to address climate change.
That’s why Defend Our Future went to the Republican Convention last week to meet with young conservatives who want to change the views of their party’s leaders on climate issues. We were joined by young conservative activists who are optimistic about the ability of their generation to turn the tide. Rachel Lamb of the Young Evangelicals for Climate Action explained that to her, climate change is a moral issue “that is negatively impacting people, as well as the environment, which we’re called to take care of by God.” Angel Garcia of Young Conservatives for Energy Reform and Cade Marsh of the College Republican National Committee agreed that there is widespread support for investing in clean energy, especially among young people.
What we see in these polls, what we hear on college campuses, and what we heard at our event at the Republican convention, is that young people care deeply about climate change and they want to see our economy transition to clean energy, regardless of their political affiliation. To young people, climate change should not be a partisan issue. It’s a human issue, a moral issue, a personal issue that should transcend politics.
When Defend Our Future launched its campaign in Colorado in 2014, we recruited young Democrats, young Republicans, and lots of young people who didn’t want to affiliate with either political party – but who all agreed that we need to do more to address climate change. Republican Senator Cory Gardner seemed to have noticed: He embraced clean energy in his campaign that year.
This election year we are challenging young people of all political persuasions to let their voices be heard – online, on their campuses, in their communities and at the polls – by telling candidates and elected officials that they want climate solutions, not more false arguments about whether it’s even happening. By engaging young people from both political parties, we are trying to move the conversation past the old partisan divides and toward a purposeful discussion about how we can solve this, together. We think that by showing that young people are united in demanding action on this issue, we can help the next president and Congress move quickly to put forward sensible and meaningful federal policies to address climate change.
As we just saw with the Brexit vote in Great Britain, young voters staying home can have tremendous consequences at the polls. But a motivated electorate can have even more influence. Millennials now outnumber Baby Boomers, and that shift will only become more pronounced in elections to come. They can determine the outcome of an election, and the priorities a new President and Congress will pursue. It is my sincere hope – and my campaign’s mission – to empower them to do just that, no matter what their political affiliation.