The Energy 202: Democrats disagree on climate policy specifics. But they agree on how to frame it.


The crowded field of White House hopefuls frequently sparred during last night’s Democratic debate over the best way to handle rising global temperatures. But there was one thing they actually agreed on: Climate change is not an isolated challenge but rather impacts nearly every part of the national economy. 

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker summed it up by calling climate change “the lens with which we view every issue.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called climate change “not a singular issue,” but a whole host of ones. “It is health. It is national security. It is our economy,” he said.

And Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, describing her time growing up in Hawaii, said “protecting our environment was not a political issue, it’s a way of life.”

Policy divisions on climate change appeared sharper than ever in Detroit as Democrats sought to attack each other’s plans to address it. But it’s notable that candidates are generally aligned in how they are framing of the looming threat of longer droughts, rising sea levels and more intense storms — as kitchen-table issues that lead to infrastructure improvements and job creation. 

Former vice president Joe Biden linked his climate plan to offshore wind turbines and electric vehicles. “My plan calls for 500,000 charging stations around the country,” he said.

And California Sen. Kamala Harris stressed the potential of an influx of renewable energy workers. “The guy thinks that wind turbines cause cancer, but what in fact they cause is jobs,” she said of President Trump. 

But when candidates did disagree, they most often did so with Biden, who is leading in most polls and who found himself a target on other issues including health care and criminal justice as well. 

Inslee, who has made climate change the focus of his campaign, characterized Biden’s deadline for achieving net-zero carbon emissions — by 2050 at the latest — as insufficient. He invoked the U.N. panel of climate scientists who suggested significant cuts must be made by the end of the next decade. He also challenged Biden to promise, like Inslee has, to end the use of coal to generate electricity in 10 years.

“These deadlines are set by science,” Inslee said. “Mr. Vice President, your argument is not with me, it’s with science.”

Booker also took issue with Biden frequently falling back his commitment to the Paris climate accord, the voluntary agreement between more than 190 nations to cut emissions and stay below 2 degrees Celsius of warming. Biden helped negotiate that agreement during his time in the Obama administration, but Trump has promised to withdraw the United States from it.

“Nobody should get applause for rejoining the Paris climate accords,” said Booker. “That is kindergarten. We have to go to far advances and make sure that everything from our trade deals, everything from the billions of dollars we spend to foreign aid, everything must be sublimated to the challenge and the crisis that is existential.”

But Biden stressed the global nature of responding global warming. “We’re responsible for 15 percent of all the pollution,” he said. “Eighty-five percent of it is something I helped negotiate; and that is the Paris climate accord.”

Yet when asked by CNN moderator Dana Bash whether coal or hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas has any place in his plan, Biden stumbled. 

“No, we would — we would work it out. We would make sure it’s eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those, either — any fossil fuel.”


— Trump Interior nominee under fire: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) placed a hold on the president’s pick to be the top lawyer for the Interior Department because he says Daniel Jorjani may have lied to lawmakers. The Oregon Democrat called on the Justice Department to look into whether Jorjani lied to members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during his May confirmation hearing. “I believe Department documents made public through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show Mr. Jorjani may have knowingly misled members of the Committee about the Department’s adherence to laws meant to ensure transparency and accountability in government,” Wyden wrote in a letter to the acting head of the Justice Department’s public integrity unit. He also called on Interior’s internal watchdog to expand its ongoing investigation to examine Jorjani’s part in creating the agency’s FOIA policy and any information he had about the policy before his confirmation hearing.

—Trump’s pick for managing federal lands doesn’t think the government should have any: Interior Secretary David Bernhardt this week signed an order to tap William Perry Pendley as the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management. It’s a critical appointment at a time when a large majority of the bureau’s staff is set to move out of Washington, and because Trump has not yet named a permanent director to head BLM, The Post’s Steven Mufson reports. Here’s the rub: “By placing Pendley in charge of the agency, Bernhardt has installed a longtime crusader for curtailing the federal government’s control of public lands,” he writes. “In the three decades since serving under Reagan, Pendley has sued the Interior Department on behalf of an oil and gas prospector, sought to undermine protections of endangered species such as the grizzly bear, and pressed to radically reduce the size of federal lands to make way for development.”

— Plan to pump Mojave groundwater gets clogged: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a law to restricing the controversial Cadiz water project revived by the Trump administration from moving forward to pump groundwater from the Mojave Desert for urban Southern California without approval from state land officials. The governor said the law would establish an “independent scientific analysis” to assess whether the transfer of any groundwater would negatively impact the environment. “Water has flowed underneath the Mojave for thousands of years, sustaining the Native Americans, bighorn sheep, the threatened desert tortoise and a variety of other plant and animal life that have made the Mojave Desert their home,” Newsom wrote in a message to the state senate. But the company behind the proposal, Cadiz Inc., called the law “a troubling precedent for infrastructure development.”

— Trump’s farmer bailout helps those at the top: That’s according to a new report from the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) that said the $16 billion bailout for farmers impacted by the U.S.-China trade war will mostly go to wealthy farmers – of the $8.4 billion already doled out in the last year, the analysis found “the top one-tenth of recipients received 54 percent of all payments. Eighty-two farmers have so far received more than $500,000 in trade relief,” The Post’s Laura Reiley reports. “The top 1 percent of recipients of trade relief received, on average, $183,331. The bottom 80 percent received, on average, less than $5,000, EWG said.” And in a year where farmers have seen numerous natural disasters and extreme weather conditions, some could be receiving aid from numerous federal aid programs.

Why that matters: “These programs are designed to give the most subsidy money to the biggest farms, we don’t dispute that,” Anne Schechinger, EWG senior analyst told Laura. “But for these huge farms that are making tons of money each year, is that really something taxpayers should be subsidizing while smaller farmers struggle?”

Greenland is melting: Already the biggest contributor to sea-level rise, Greenland is experiencing one of the biggest melting events ever recorded there — a result of a heat dome that led to record-breaking heat in five countries last week, The Post’s Jason Samenow and Andrew Freedman report. “The Danish Meteorological Institute tweeted that more than half the ice sheet experienced some degree of melting on Tuesday, according to a computer model simulation, which made it the ‘highest this year by some distance,’” they write. “…Already this year, the ice sheet has endured exceptional melting. Between June 11 and 20, the ice sheet lost the equivalent of 80 billion tons of ice, the National Snow and Ice Data Center computed.”

— Another fire at a petrochemical plant in Texas: A fire sparked Wednesday at ExxonMobil’s 560,000 barrel-a-day refining and chemical plant in Baytown, Tex., causing 37 injuries. It’s also the second fire at an Exxon facility in Baytown this year, the Houston Chronicle reports. “Harris County monitors did not show air toxins at a concerning level as of the afternoon. An order that residents in adjacent neighborhoods shelter in place was lifted after a few hours,” per the report. Advocates pointed to the fire as the latest example for why there should be stricter safety enforcement. Exxon’s three plants in Baytown, for example, “have repeatedly been cited for violating regulations, with limited consequences,” the Houston Chronicle adds.

— Climate change will spark a blue crab baby boom: A recent study suggests that as the Chesapeake Bay waters warm leading to the year 2100, blue crabs will thrive with shortened winter seasons. Currently about 75 percent of juvenile crabs survive the winter season – burrowing in mud when the water is cold – but the study findings could mean 100 percent of them service, The Post’s Darryl Fears reports. But Anson Hines, director of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Md. pointed to another finding in the research that will be a downside of the conditions for these crabs: “A warming climate could lure more southern predators that enjoy snacking on blue crabs to the Chesapeake,” Fears writes.



  • The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis holds a field hearing on “Colorado’s Roadmap for Clean Energy Action: Lessons from State and Local Leaders.”


— “The wrong place at the wrong time”: Wildlife photographer Chase Dekker snapped a photo of a moment “so unusual that many marine mammal researchers had never seen it before,” The Post’s Allyson Chiu reports. “The photo shows the surprised-looking sea lion, its mouth wide open, appearing moments away from being engulfed by the roughly 50-foot-long surfacing humpback whale.” Ari Friedlaender, an ecologist at the University of California at Santa Cruz, said the moment was a “a once-in-a-million time that the sea lion zigged when it should have zagged and kind of got taken for a ride,” he said, adding there was “no intent by the whale to eat the sea lion.”

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