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Architect of the Capitol / aoc.gov

A couple things happened late last week that feel worth mentioning, to kick off this week on a hopeful note.

First, in a bit of legislative wonkery, the House of Representatives voted against an amendment that would have prevented the Department of Defense from studying how climate impacts threaten national security.

A couple things happened late last week that feel worth mentioning, to kick off this week on a hopeful note.

First, in a bit of legislative wonkery, the House of Representatives voted against an amendment that would have prevented the Department of Defense from studying how climate impacts threaten national security.


To express that in a way that doesn’t double up on negatives, let’s unpack it. The National Defense Authorization Act is the annual bill to fund the Department of Defense. This is considered a “must-pass” bill so everyone tries to slip in amendments, hoping that the bill’s size and scope means they pass without notice.

One of these amendments, proposed by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa), would have cut funding for a DoD study of how climate change will impact national security over the next 20 years. The military is already dealing with climate change, so it’s prudent that they are able to study what sorts of impacts are coming down the line.

Perry argued that there are plenty of other agencies looking at climate change, so the military shouldn’t. But in a relatively impressive display of intelligence, 46 Republicans joined Democrats to vote down Perry’s amendment, preserving the funding for the DoD study.

That 46 Republicans were willing to side with science is impressive, and in part a function of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. This group has come under some scrutiny (perhaps rightfully so) for their general inaction and specifically failing to criticize Trump’s Paris pull-out.

But now, by voting down Perry’s amendment, they’ve done something—that’s good news! In their defense, the fear of getting “Bob Inglis’d” (where a Republican takes a reasonable position on climate change then gets primaried from the right by a Koch-supported candidate), is understandable.

Bob Inglis brings us to the other flicker of light in these dark times. Buzzfeed’s Zahra Hirji reported on Friday that Rep. Lamar Smith took a quiet trip to the Arctic to tour science facilities in the melting North. Yes, the same Lamar Smith who spent a year harassing climate scientist Tom Karl went to learn from climate scientists about their work. Oddly, he refused to talk about it with Buzzfeed afterward, canceling a call two minutes before it was supposed to start.

Considering that it was a trip to Antarctica that inspired Inglis’s conversion to climate reality, one can hope that seeing the ice melting for himself will have a similar effect on Smith.

Either way, the Defense vote shows that the House may be moving in the right direction, if admittedly at a glacial pace. Whether or not it continues, we’ll just have to wait and Larsen C.

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Gone are the fevered dreams that Ivanka's moderating influence or Elon's persuasive position as an economic advisor will amount to anything beyond optics for Trump on the Paris agreement. Replacing it is the knowledge that our commander-in-chief will gladly shoot us in the collective foot if it means appeasing Presidents Bannon and Putin.

So we can stop pretending that maybe Trump would be responsive to facts and figures on the economic reality of the energy transition, like the 1.2 million clean energy jobs in states that voted for him (the only ones anyone ever thought he would even remotely value). We can stop imagining a world where Trump's one constant—lies—will work in our favor (he broke so many other campaign promises, why not this one?). We can stop living in denial and entertaining the possibility of a presidential pivot on climate.

Gone are the fevered dreams that Ivanka’s moderating influence or Elon’s persuasive position as an economic advisor will amount to anything beyond optics for Trump on the Paris agreement. Replacing it is the knowledge that our commander-in-chief will gladly shoot us in the collective foot if it means appeasing Presidents Bannon and Putin.


So we can stop pretending that maybe Trump would be responsive to facts and figures on the economic reality of the energy transition, like the 1.2 million clean energy jobs in states that voted for him (the only ones anyone ever thought he would even remotely value). We can stop imagining a world where Trump’s one constant—lies—will work in our favor (he broke so many other campaign promises, why not this one?). We can stop living in denial and entertaining the possibility of a presidential pivot on climate.

Now, the climate community can start the full-throated backlash. First up is a twitter storm today at Noon (ET), where folks will rally digitally to demand we #ActOnClimate. An emergency rally on the north side of the White House is set for 5 p.m. After that, we can expect further statements from New York City and California that despite federal inaction, local governments remain committed to emission reductions.

And, of course, lawsuits. Lots of lawsuits. (An approach already showing some progress on energy efficiency regulations).

Internationally, countries can stop treating Trump like the president of an allied country, and instead consider him one of the petrostate autocrats with whom he got along so well. China and the EU have already started, with a joint summit and statement coming Friday that “will take revenge on Trump,” according to a headline from Euractiv.

That attack is well-warranted: If Trump pulls out of Paris, the U.S. will be even worse on climate action than ExxonMobil. Wednesday, while we were all banging our heads against our desks, Exxon shareholders voted to force the company to be more transparent about the risk it faces from climate change and how its business model aligns with the world’s efforts to meet the Paris goals.

But what about coal? Surely this will be a boon the coal industry, the one group that pushed Trump to leaveNope. Coal stocks fell on news of the possible pull-out.

Paris is a global potluck, where every nation decided what it could bring to the party. But instead of bringing the burgers Obama promised, Trump’s decided to show up empty-(small) handed.

Though maybe that’s better than if he brought Trump steaks and covfefe

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Politico's Morning Energy reported Wednesday that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has assigned 110 staffers to meet a court-ordered July 1 deadline to produce a study of the agency's impact on coal jobs.

This many staff on the job may be overkill, particularly since a recent Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy report already quantified the impact of EPA regulations on coal.

Politico’s Morning Energy reported Wednesday that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has assigned 110 staffers to meet a court-ordered July 1 deadline to produce a study of the agency’s impact on coal jobs.


This many staff on the job may be overkill, particularly since a recent Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy report already quantified the impact of EPA regulations on coal.

While President Trump and Scott Pruitt have always been eager to blame the EPA for the fall of coal, the folks at Columbia Center found regulations for a scant 3.5 percent of the industry’s decline. The biggest winner in the so-called War on Coal has been, as we and others have said, natural gas. Per the Columbia Center report, natural gas is responsible for half of the coal industry’s decline, while reduced demand (thanks to energy efficiency) is responsible for a quarter and renewables 18 percent.

We’re guessing these findings are not what the Trump administration wants to hear, so it will be interesting to see how the EPA report lines up with Columbia Center’s.

Let’s take a look at what stats the oil and gas lobby are propping up. A new post and graphic from the Koch-funded American Enterprise Institute (AEI) purports to prove that it takes 79 solar workers to produce the same amount of energy as one coal employee (or two natural gas workers). In other words, AEI is trying to argue that fossil fuels are better because they provide less employment—not quite as silly as it may seem in the context of Trump’s incessant “coal jobs” drumbeat.

Before you get too excited about slamming AEI and praising solar’s 80x job creation benefit over coal, remember the parable of the broken window. You can break windows and hire people to fix them, but that doesn’t really grow the economy since that money could have been spent on anything else without having destroyed the windows. Solar is certainly creating lots of jobs, but that doesn’t mean you should buy into AEI’s framing. Jobs don’t exist just for their own sake, it’s the value they create over the long term that really matters to the economy.

That’s not to say that AEI is right in its criticism (and no, we don’t think solar jobs are a broken window-type issue). What’s more, even if you were to accept AEI’s premise, it didn’t even get the numbers right. Peter O’Connor at the Union of Concerned Scientists checked the math and found AEI’s figures to be wrong by roughly half (so only 35-50 solar workers to one coal job, instead of 79).

But there’s an even bigger problem with AEI’s comparison. A solar worker installs a solar panel that will then produce power for decades, whereas coal labor is measured on an annual basis. Factoring in this crucial distinction cuts the figure down considerably. By O’Connor’s rough estimate, it’s actually only two solar jobs per coal job.

There’s more! O’Connor continues by pointing out that because of the incredibly risky nature of coal jobs and the fact that even unsubsidized solar is now cheaper than coal, solar is making a more efficient use of materials and labor, which is a more economically valid metric.

So while the Trump administration seems to be intent on going back to a time when coal was the undisputed king, the data clearly shows that there’s no coming back for the industry.

We’d suggest Republicans update their talking points ASAP to reflect this new reality, but given the stream of highly concerning leaks that have been Russian out of the White House, we’ll “let this go.” (At least for now…)

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