In the midst of a global pandemic, the Trump administration continues to disregard science by sharply cutting the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards negotiated by the Obama administration. The rollback is both the most impactful and heedless environmental deregulation of Trump's presidency.
The cuts are the most impactful because the transportation sector is the single greatest source of the greenhouse gases (GHGs)responsible for Earth's warming, e.g., CO2. They are heedless because the action exceeds a target the auto industry has readily admitted they are prepared to meet. Worst of all, the rollback maintains the element markets most abhor--uncertainty.
The Trump administration’s Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule requires automakers to increase fleet efficiencies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 percent a year through model year 2026. An amount roughly equal to 40 miles per gallon (mpg). This as compared to the five (5) percent year-over-year increase mandated by the Obama administration. The 5 percent target is roughly equal to 54 mpg[i].
Initially, the administration had proposed freezing the CAFE standard at the 2020 level of 41+/- mpg. Why it adopted the slightly more stringent standard in its final order is not entirely clear. Trump and company may believe the bump-up will protect them in court as it gives the appearance of heeding the warnings of peer-reviewed climate studies. Given three years of conservative judicial appointments—including two Supreme Court justices—they may be right.
This country was founded by geniuses, but it's being run by a bunch of idiots.
Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-LA)
Quickly now, when I say coronavirus pandemic and a federal response, what's the first thing that pops into your head? I bet whatever it was didn't have anything to do with climate change.
Well, think again—as I try to explain why Democrats and the clean energy and climate defense sectors proposed a series of climate-related initiatives as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the Cares Act or Act) which will be signed into law within days. The connection between climate change and stimulus legislation intended to respond to the coronavirus pandemic is not as tenuous as it might seem at first blush.
Greening the stimulus bill was neither the first nor only matter to which Democrats turned their Cares Act attention. They thought the original sum proposed by the White House--$850 million—was not nearly enough to accomplish the immediate tasks at hand, e.g., protecting workers who were losing their livelihoods and providing funds to hospital for needed equip-ment and protective gear. Moreover, they wanted to prevent companies receiving assistance from using federal dollars to buy back company stock or to pay multi-million dollar executive salaries.
The green initiatives Democrats in Congress talked about for inclusion in the Act were an extension of the solar and wind energy tax credits, turning the tax credits into direct payments, and making economic assistance to the airline industry contingent on its lowering its carbon emissions by 2050. The proposals did not make it into the final bill; however, we've not heard the last of them.
Politics is not a game for the faint of heart.
It’s said that if you want a friend in Washington--
buy a dog. It’s best to buy one willing to hunt.
These are trying times. For Bernie Sanders, they may be the most trying of his political career.
The Vermont senator is said to be considering whether to stay in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. After Tuesday’s losses in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona, it’s a race all but impossible for him to win.
Pressure to retire from the field of competition, before the next round of primaries in April, is predictably being brought to bear on Sanders by a host of Democrats with one thing on their minds—getting behind a single candidate and focusing all their resources and efforts on the defeat of Donald Trump.
As he did following his wins the week before, Biden reached out to Sanders’s supporters after his victories in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona--
Let me say especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Senator Sanders: I hear you.
Senator Sanders and I may disagree on tactics, but we share a common vision - for the need to provide affordable healthcare for all Americans, reduce income inequity that has risen so drastically, to tackling the existential threat of our time - climate change.
In a brief statement that sounded more like a negotiating tactic than a concession speech, Senator Bernie Sanders announced he's staying in the race for the Democratic nomination for president—at least for a few more days. The statement followed bruising primary losses in states like Michigan, Texas, and Virginia that he needed to win to prove his electability.
Sanders qualified his remaining in the race at least through the head-to-head debate with former Vice President Biden scheduled for Sunday, March 15th. The debate is in advance of the St. Patrick's Day primaries in four states critical to a Democratic victory in November. Together, Ohio, Florida, Illinois, and Arizona, account for 577 delegates—over a quarter of the 1991 votes needed to win the nomination on the first ballot.
The Senator has no illusions about his probable defeat at the hands of Biden and the Democratic establishment. His willingness to engage Biden in the Sunday debate and forewarn him of what he intends to debate him about is, for all intents and purpose, an attempt to negotiate consolation prizes for the progressive wing of the Democratic party in a very public forum.
Sanders is right--he will never be in a better position to impact the Democratic platform on which Biden and the party will run in the 2020 elections. Although Sanders's socialist democratic agenda should find favor in each of the four upcoming primary states because of demograph-ics, he handily lost to Clinton in all of them in 2016.
The Republic died today. Or maybe yesterday, I can’t be sure[i]. I had thought that the U.S. was going to be able to survive the reign of Donald Trump. Now, I wonder.
What changed my mind was the decision of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of the House Committee on the Judiciary v. Donald F. McGahn, II (House v. McGahn or McGahn). The facts of the case are straightforward.
McGahn, a former White House counsel, was ordered by Trump not to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on the matter of Russia’s interference into the 2016 presidential election and the Special Counsel’s findings of fact concerning potential obstruction of justice by the President. (emphasis added)
The Committee, after months of negotiations, subpoenaed McGahn, who continued his refusal. The Judiciary Committee petitioned the U.S. District Court of D.C. to compel McGahn’s appearance.
The administration argued in court that a duly authorized committee of Congress acting on behalf of the House of Representatives could not invoke judicial process to compel the appearance of senior-level aides of the President to receive sworn testimony.
The administration further maintained that a federal court cannot exercise subject-matter jurisdiction over any such subpoena-related stalemate between the Legislature and the Executive branch, on separation of powers grounds. (emphasis added)
The establishment, which I guess I’m a part…knows as much about electability as a donkey knows about calculus. We always get it wrong. . .The voters are going to tell us who’s electable.
— Steve Rosenthal
History will recall that 2020 was the year climate issues finally mattered enough to voters to guide their hands when it came time to mark their ballots. Will history also record that the 2020 election resulted in the break-up of the Democratic party and that an underlying cause of the separation was the rise of the youth climate movement around the Green New Deal (GND)?
The battle for the Democratic nomination is a battle for the party itself, and it’s something of an age thing--OK? Ironically, a septuagenarian piper is at the forefront of a generational change in Democratic politics, while a 38-year-old former mayor is a moderate whose policy positions are more in keeping with the Democratic establishment. In between are a couple of billionaires, two senators, and a former vice president.
Unlike the 2016 election, climate change has become a prominent and distinguishing feature of the Democratic party’s message to voters. Although differing in degrees, every contender for the Democratic nomination has made the defense of the environment and the transition to a low-carbon economy a priority—one they vow to act on from their first day in office to their last.
House Minority Leader McCarthy (R-CA) has gone on record warning conservative Republicans that they are in danger of losing the support of voters under the age of 35 over the issue of climate change. To counter the Democrat’s talk of the Green New Deal and the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act released by Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Minority Leader called upon Republican House members to show they too care about the future of the planet by introducing their own brand of climate-related legislation.
The first tranche of McCarthy’s promised legislation has now been announced. Although modest by comparison to the magnitude of the problem and the Democrats’ CLEAN Future Act, the mere mention that Earth’s warming poses a problem is extraordinary given the denialist position of McCarthy and other Congressional conservatives just a few short months ago.
McCarthy and several House Republicans have led off their defense of the environment with a suite of proposals focused on carbon capture. Carbon capture is a natural or artificial process by which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and held in solid or liquid form.
History is likely to show that 2020 is the year climate issues finally mattered enough to voters to guide their hands when it came time to mark their ballots.
Recognizing that it is no longer prudent or wise to continue playing the denial card Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has been attempting to bring House Republicans in from the cold on climate change. It appears that his closed-door discussions with certain members of the caucus have begun to pay dividends. The Minority Leader, along with allies like Represent-atives Graves (R-LA) and Westerman (R-AR), is promising to release a Republican strategy for responding to the climate crisis over the next several weeks.
McCarthy’s change of heart is most likely attributable to polling numbers that show Republicans vulnerable on climate matters than to a sudden immaculate conversion. His pitch to colleagues has been “for a 28-year old, the environment is the Number 1 and Number 2 issue.” There are hard numbers behind the claim.
Frank Luntz, a well-respected Republican pollster, circulated a memo to congressional Republicans last summer telling them that 55 percent of young GOP voters are very or extremely concerned about the party’s position on climate change. Luntz also noted that 69 percent of all GOP voters are concerned that the party's stance is “hurting itself with younger voters.”
It’s much too early to predict the outcome of the November balloting—but is it too late to be worrying about the Democrats blowing themselves up before they have a chance of blowing the election?
Should Democrats mortally wound themselves during the nominating process and lose to Trump in November, any chance for aggressive federal climate action will be lost for at least the next decade. Moreover, if either of these two events happens, it is likely that progressive climate activists will have played a pivotal role—just as they would play an important part in defeating Donald Trump.
I’ve been repressing a nagging feeling about the 2020 elections for weeks now. It all came rushing to the surface as I happened upon an article that Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib (D) booed former Secretary of State Clinton during a live Sanders campaign event in Iowa.
The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge
or jury in a public nuisance case[i].
If ever there was a case that called out for judicial intervention and a court to answer the call, it is Juliana v. US and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. And yet, after four and a half years of filings, a divided three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals told the 21 young plaintiffs in Juliana, they didn’t have standing to pursue their case. All three judges on the panel were ap-pointed to the federal bench by President Obama.
Over the past two decades, the number of climate-related law cases has been on the rise. Why is not difficult to discern.
The failure of political leaders—particularly at the federal level—to heed the growing body of scientific evidence that demands aggressive action to stem the rise of global temperatures has forced climate activists to seek judicial intervention. The courts are proving difficult to convince, however, for reasons having nothing to do with the science. In fact, the opposite is true. Most of the judges who have heard Juliana and other recent cases, as described below, have expressed a solid belief in the causes and consequences of Earth’s warming and the urgent need to defend against it.
Juliana is one of a group of novel theory law cases. The suits vary in the redress requested and the legal strategies employed. For example, cases like Juliana look to expand the public trust doctrine and make a habitable environment a protected right under the due process clauses of the US Constitution.
Joel B. Stronberg
Joel Stronberg, MA, JD., of The JBS Group is a veteran clean energy policy analyst with over 30 years’ experience, based in Washington, DC.