US Senate Holds Rare Hearing on Climate Change

by Duane Nichols on March 10, 2019

US Senators generally support corporate interests rather than environmental quality

U.S. Senate Republicans hold rare climate hearing, and more might be coming

From an Article by Mark K. Mathews, E&E News, March 6, 2019

Senators Lisa Murkowski (R–AK, right) and Joe Manchin (D–WV, left), the senior members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, confer during a hearing yesterday on climate change.

It’s been some time since the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has held a hearing on climate change, so naturally its top two lawmakers felt compelled to get a couple of things out of the way during yesterday’s roughly two-hour meeting.

Global warming is “directly impacting our way of life,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska Republican who leads the panel.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the top-ranking Democrat, added, “There’s no doubt that humans have made a tremendous impact on what we’re dealing with.” It’s a baseline of understanding that, by now, seems obvious to most climate scientists. But it was a milestone moment for the Senate panel.

Manchin said yesterday was the first time since 2012 the committee had held a hearing on climate change. (In response, a Republican aide pushed back with the argument that climate change is a frequent topic of discussion on the panel.)

Irrespective of the timeline, Manchin and Murkowski both represent states that lean heavily on the energy industry, and their simple acknowledgement of the climate crisis yesterday was enough to draw small applause from some corners.

“It is significant that we even had the hearing—particularly when you have two leaders on the committee, both of whom come from fossil fuel states,” Sen. Angus King (I-ME) said in an interview afterward. “There were some differences on the level of urgency, but I think the underlying premise is that this is something we have to deal with.”

Melinda Pierce, legislative director for the Sierra Club in Washington, D.C., had a similar takeaway. The “hearing was notable because it actually occurred,” she said. “It is a good day when a Republican-led committee actually listens to experts about real climate impacts, clean energy and innovation.”

But Pierce added this caveat: “This wasn’t revolutionary in terms of setting an agenda for bold action, but it was a start.”

Indeed, the committee mostly skimmed over potential solutions—touching on ideas such as microgrids, carbon capture technology and better energy efficiency for buildings. As the main thrust of the hearing was about climate change and the electricity sector, Murkowski made sure to note also that a reduction in carbon emissions is only part of her committee’s responsibility.

“As more renewables come online … our committee will focus on maintaining grid reliability and resiliency,” she said. “We’ll prioritize keeping energy affordable, [and] we’ll be working to advance cleaner energy technologies that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Manchin wanted to make clear, too, that he was skeptical of efforts to dramatically shrink the United States’ carbon footprint in the near future. “Solutions must be grounded in reality, which requires the recognition that fossil fuels aren’t going anywhere anytime soon,” he said.

At another point in the hearing, he noted the vast reserves of natural gas beneath his home state. “We have an ocean of gas under us in West Virginia—an ocean of gas,” he said.

Neither of these comments is likely to assuage the concerns of climate hawks, but they do suggest there could be a window for Congress to make small changes to energy policy in the short term.

“Responsible Republicans and Democrats are considering realistic, durable solutions to the issue,” said Alex Flint, executive director of the conservative Alliance for Market Solutions in Washington, D.C., which backs the idea of using a carbon tax to fight global warming. “They represent the evolving state of climate change politics.”

It’s unlikely, however, that any recommendation from the Senate committee will approach the scale of something like the Green New Deal, which supporters argue is the only way to head off the worst effects of climate change.

Murkowski said, “We do have a considerable role to play in developing reasonable policies that can draw bipartisan support that I think will be a pragmatic contribution to the overall discussion.”

She specifically cited topics such as new research and energy efficiency. “I think you’ll likely see these as subjects of further discussion,” she added.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dino Grandoni March 10, 2019 at 4:06 pm

The Energy 202: Lawmakers turn up heat in global warming debate on Senate floor

By Dino Grandoni, Washington Post, March 8, 2019

Temperatures aren’t just rising outside. They were also going up this week in the Senate as lawmakers from both parties squabbled over the Green New Deal.

In reality, that nonbinding resolution — it’s not an actual bill — calls for the United States to drive down climate-warming emissions over the next decade while addressing economic inequality.

But in practice, the proposal has become a Rorschach test for lawmakers. And a number of them have spoken at length on the Senate floor over the past few days to trade barbs when describing what they see in it.

For Democrats, especially those running for president, it’s a way of differentiating themselves from the GOP and demonstrating their seriousness in addressing what many young voters — a key Democratic demographic — see as the most important problem facing the country and world.

“Where is the Republican plan? What is their answer? Of course, they don’t have one,” said Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the chief Senate sponsor of the measure.

The Senate should be debating the science of climate change and the solutions of the #GreenNewDeal. Instead, Republicans are on the Senate floor right now repeating Koch Brothers misinformation and not offering a single solution of their own.

For Republicans, it’s a chance to paint their opponents as socialists trying to take away their hamburgers and ice cream all in the name of climate action.

“This is a massive shift,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said. “A shift to the left that goes far beyond anything that Democrats have proposed before.”

President Trump sees a political opportunity in talking about the Green New Deal. “I think it’s really something that they should promote,” he joked Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland.

The only thing that Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on is that the Green New Deal is a good way of rallying their respective bases.

On the Senate floor, Republicans are accusing its supporters of trying to entirely eliminate certain sources of greenhouse gas emissions, such as cattle agriculture and air travel.

But the resolution itself mentions neither planes nor meat patties. Instead Republicans have latched onto a fact sheet accidentally published on the website of the main House sponsor, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), that contained a line about getting rid of “farting cows and airplanes.”

“To put it mildly, the Green New Deal is ambitious,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “To frame it more accurately, it is an unworkable pie-in-the-sky attempt to reshape every aspect of everyday Americans’ lives.”

Grassley added the resolution was “eerily reminiscent of the five-year plans of the former Soviet Union or the ‘Great Leap Forward’ under Chairman Mao of China.”

The elevated rhetoric from Republicans even had some Democrats who have not endorsed the Green New Deal perplexed.

“I just have to say that it’s pretty silly if it wasn’t so serious how the Republican majority and the Republican majority leader is mocking what is probably the most serious issue of our time,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said in her own floor speech that same day.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has told reporters he wants to hold a vote on the Green New Deal resolution in the “next couple of weeks.” His hope is to put Democrats on record on the plan he views as political toxic.

The Senate’s top Democrat, Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), responded with the party’s own set of resolutions, both to create a Senate committee on climate change and defund what Democrats deemed a “fake climate panel” being set up at the White House to challenge the scientific consensus on climate change.


Pema Levy March 11, 2019 at 9:12 pm

Jay Inslee Calls for the Nuclear Option to Combat Climate Change — The crisis demands an end to the filibuster in the Senate, says the Democratic presidential candidate

By PEMA LEVY, Daily KOS, March 11, 2019

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democratic presidential candidate focused on climate change, argued Sunday that the Senate will have to abolish the filibuster in order to tackle the issue. “We’re not going to get anywhere as long as Mitch McConnell has the keys to the car,” he said during an interview at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

Whereas other Democratic candidates are not running for the White House as single-issue candidates, Inslee’s campaign prioritizes the existential threat of global warming. The “first and paramount duty of the next president has to be to tackle climate change,” he said on Sunday.

He warned that progress won’t be made unless the Senate removes the 60-vote threshold for passing legislation known as the filibuster, a long-standing procedural hurdle that requires 60 senators to agree to move legislation to a vote. Inslee, who noted he is the only 2020 candidate who supports ending the filibuster, called on other Democratic presidential contenders to join him.
There was some good news for Inslee in the new Des Moine Register poll out today.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who announced his run last week, also gets a boost. The percentage of those who view him favorably rose by 6 points to 17 percent, though he’s largely unknown. Seventy-five percent do not know enough about him to say whether they like him or not.
Climate Change was Iowa voters number two issue.

Eighty percent of poll respondents say candidates should spend “a lot” of time talking about climate change. Ninety-one percent say they prefer a candidate who supports the “Green New Deal,” which couples government programs to address climate change with support for jobs in the clean energy sector to help address poverty. That includes 65 percent who favor a candidate who supports the “Green New Deal” in full and 26 percent who favor approaching it in steps.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: