Environment featured

The view from Washington this week

September 21, 2023

The drama in Washington is all about the looming end of the federal fiscal year. All eyes are focused on House Speaker McCarthy and whether he can deliver enough votes to keep the government open come October 1st. The short-term target of Congress and the White House is the passage of a continuing resolution to give them more time to come up with a longer-term solution—which is likely to be another continuing resolution. Congress has not been good at passing the 12 separate appropriations bills for the past quarter century.

McCarthy has a tough row ahead of him. The far-right members of the Republican conference are digging their heels in wanting to add to any short-term resolution several of their legislative priorities, including immigration policy, no further aid for Ukraine, and reduced budgets for defense.

Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has threatened McCarthy with a motion to vacate the chair. Passage of the motion would remove the speaker. Gaetz was one of the last to vote for McCarthy and like others in the House Freedom Caucus believe he made promises he’s now not keeping. To his credit, the speaker told him to bring it on.

The track record of the House Freedom Caucus is pretty impressive when it comes to bucking moderate leadership. These populists quite literally chased former speakers Boehner (R-OH) and Ryan (R-WI) out of Congress. They too had trouble with far-righters and became frustrated by the inability to get much done. Why McCarthy might think he can do what his predecessors couldn’t is something of a mystery.

The UN meetings on climate and sustainable development goals has brought out hundreds of thousands of demonstrators worldwide. Many have Biden in their sights over his continuing to open federal lands and oceans to oil and gas and companies—among other things.

The message of climate activists is focused on stopping the use of fossil fuels—NOW. They’re right to say that successfully combating climate change means no more fossil fuels. The longer we wait the harsher will be the options for responding to a warming climate. The problem, of course, is getting policies passed that are significantly farther reaching than even the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

The hyperpartisanship that now dominates American politics means passing the needed policies just isn’t going to happen. Republican ideology is that climate change isn’t that much of a problem and is part of progressive socialist agenda. It is important, too, to understand that implementing new policies will a take a fair amount of time. New regulations would need to be written and finalized. Agencies would have to staff up and develop program guidelines.

The Biden administration’s experiences with the IRA are an example of the difficulty of implementation. Trump caused many senior and experienced government executives to leave their agencies. Even now agencies are understaffed. Could the administration’s efforts be improved? They could, but the fact remains that implementation of any new policies will take years not months.

Joel Stronberg

Joel B. Stronberg, Esq., of The JBS Group is a veteran clean energy policy analyst with over 30 years of experience, based in Washington, DC. He writes about energy and politics in his blog Civil Notion (www.civilnotion.com) and has recently published the book Earth v. TrumpThe Climate Defenders' Guide to Washington Politics based on his commentaries. He has worked extensively in the clean energy fields for public and private sector clients at all levels of government and in Latin America. His specialties include: resiliency; distributed generation and storage; utility regulation; financing mechanisms; sustainable agriculture; and human behavior. Stronberg is a frequent presenter at conferences and workshops.

Tags: American energy policy, American environmental policy, American politics