The article was first published on Civil Notion. It’s a copy of my newsletter of what’s happening in Washington.
It’s Tuesday the 26th of September and in five days the US government will hang a sign on the door saying “closed for business.” The Republican House conference has been so bollixed up that they all went home after meeting only three days last week.
Standing in the way of even a short-term motion to give themselves more time to work are a handful of ultra-house conservatives who simply refuse to support House Speaker Mcarthy (R-CA) until they get their way. What is their way? It’s not entirely clear. They want budget massive budget cuts in discretionary spending. Meeting their demands would mean going back on the deal that McCarthy and President Biden struck in their negotiations on raising the debt ceiling that also included FY 2024 spending levels.
Representative Jim Clyburn (D-SC) called the situation in the House a case of the “tail wagging the dog.” Senate Democrats may end up saving the day. Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY) has initiated a procedure by which the Senate will vote on a continuing resolution that would keep the government in business for another 30 days. It’s a lean resolution. It just keeps things moving at the current rate. However, it doesn’t include disaster relief funds or the $24 billion for Ukraine that Biden and a large number of Senators—Republican and Democrat–support.
The Democrats have stayed out of things for the most part—letting the dysfunction of Capitol Hill Republicans shine through. Voters will remember come election time. Appropriations legislation traditionally begins in the House. The move by Schumer means there’s little faith in Speaker McCarthy’s chances of acting in the nick of time to avoid the shutdown.
On to Today’s ten.
More than 800 U.S. buildings certified as “sustainable” are at extreme risk of flooding — and may have to be abandoned as the planet continues to overheat.
That’s because the U.S. Green Building Council — an influential nonprofit that works to make buildings more climate-friendly — has for years largely overlooked the impact of extreme weather. Its point-based Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification generally offers new building projects just four points out of a possible 110 for taking steps to protect projects from flooding.
LEED certification is a big deal: It’s subsidized or required by more than 350 local and state governments as well as the General Services Administration, which manages the vast federal building stock.
But the LEED system has a significant shortcoming
The Green Building Council has affixed its coveted three-leaved seal to 830 new buildings in the past decade that have as much as a 50 percent chance of flooding every year, according to an analysis by POLITICO’s E&E News and the First Street Foundation, a nonprofit that models likely climate impacts. (POLITICO)
An oily statistic. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has signed off on more oil and gas leases on federal land during President Joe Biden’s first two years and seven months in office than under former President Donald Trump.
U.S. oil production is expected to hit an all-time high of almost 13 million barrels a day by the end of the year. But gasoline prices in the United States remain high, the result of production cuts in the global oil market.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has signed off on more oil and gas leases on federal land during President Joe Biden’s first two years and seven months in office than under former President Donald Trump.
U.S. oil production is expected to hit an all-time high of almost 13 million barrels a day by the end of the year. But gasoline prices in the United States remain high, the result of production cuts in the global oil market. (POLITICO)
Hand in the cookie jar. Menendez is widely facing calls to resign (Politico). With the allegations swirling, Menendez has suddenly become a wildcard in the 2024 battle for control of the Senate as New Jersey could become a battleground state unless he resigns before the November election. (The Hill)
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Monday told leaders from the 18-member Pacific Islands Forum that he has heard their warnings about the impact of climate change on their region and that his administration is committed to helping them meet the challenge.
Pacific islands leaders gathered Monday for the start of a two-day Washington summit. Many have been critical of rich countries for not doing enough to control climate change despite being responsible for much of the problem, and for profiting from loans provided to vulnerable nations to mitigate the effects.
At the summit’s start, Biden said his administration is requesting Congress approve $200 million in new assistance for the region, including financing to help the islands prepare for climate and natural hazards and improve infrastructure. Biden has put a premium on improving ties in the Pacific at a time of rising U.S. concern about China’s growing military and economic influence. (Associated Press)
With a song in his heart. Oli Frost stands in a cemetery wearing a long, dark coat. With a Transylvanian accent and the backing of a synth-pop beat, he sings, “Of course climate change is a conspiracy, made up by socialist vampires to push policies. A greener, fairer world, that’s our evil plot. Free-range organic humans have the most delicious blood.”
Oli Frost is a climate-change-focused novelty songwriter, and his song “The Vampire Conspiracy” garnered millions of views across platforms like TikTok, Spotify and Instagram last year. It’s a real earworm. Not long after it blew up, Pique Action and Harvard Chan C-Change named him a Climate Creator to Watch in 2023. (Canary Media)
Ford has paused work and will limit spending on the construction of a $3.5 billion electric vehicle battery plant in Michigan until the company is “confident about our ability to competitively operate the plant.” The announcement comes as the automaker remains locked in contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers, while UAW President Shawn Fain added that the announcement was “a shameful, barely-veiled threat by Ford to cut jobs.” (Reuters)
A long way to go. In order to achieve net zero by 2050, the world will have to triple its renewable energy capacity by 2030 and increase green investments to $4.5 trillion a year, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency. The IEA recommended increasing renewable energy capacity to 11,000 gigawatts by the end of the decade, while global investments in clean energy should rise from $1.8 trillion in 2023 to around $4.5 trillion annually by the start of the next decade. (Bloomberg)
Made in the USA. For more than two decades, workers at a factory in Perrysburg, Ohio, near Toledo, have been making something that other businesses stopped producing in the United States long ago: solar panels.
How the company that owns the factory, First Solar, managed to hang on when most solar panel manufacturing left the United States for China is critical to understanding the viability of President Biden’s efforts to establish a large domestic green energy industry.
Some analysts warn that efforts to make solar panels in the United States are misguided. Even in the best of times, the business yields modest profits and does not employ a lot of people. It would be better to import panels from low-cost producers to quickly shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, said Jenny Chase, a solar analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
“Solar panels would have been cheaper,” Ms. Chase said, if policymakers did not insist on domestic manufacturing. “In the United States, even with the manufacturing boom, it will still be expensive.” (New York Times)
Lego my lego. Lego has stopped a project to make bricks from recycled drinks bottles instead of oil-based plastic, saying it would have led to higher carbon emissions over the product’s lifetime.
The move, first reported by the Financial Times, followed efforts by the world’s largest toymaker to research more sustainable materials, as part of a wave of companies reassessing their contribution to global emissions as the climate crisis hits.
The Danish company makes billions of Lego pieces a year, and in 2021 began researching a potential transition to recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), which needs about 2kg of petroleum to make 1kg of plastic. ABS is used in about 80% of Lego blocks.
“It’s like trying to make a bike out of wood rather than steel,” said Tim Brooks, Lego’s head of sustainability, referring to how the non-oil-based material was softer and demanded extra ingredients for durability, as well as greater energy for processing and drying.
The “level of disruption to the manufacturing environment was such that we needed to change everything in our factories” to scale up recycled PET use, he said. “After all that, the carbon footprint would have been higher. It was disappointing.” (The Guardian)