The climate fallout from McCarthy chaos

Barring any miracles tonight, Kevin McCarthy is still struggling to flip enough of his hard-line critics to clinch his bid to be House speaker. And that raises a question that has bedeviled Washington for days: If not McCarthy, then who?

The outcome has implications for the House’s debates on energy and climate policy, as POLITICO’s E&E News reports, with conversations around the Capitol focusing on options such as Republican House members Steve Scalise, Elise Stefanik, Brian Fitzpatrick and even ex-Rep. Fred Upton.

Republicans are mostly aligned on energy and climate policies, of course — including their support for fossil fuel production, calls for cutting regulations and opposition to President Joe Biden’s new climate law. Their strategy under McCarthy was expected to include aggressive oversight of Biden’s clean energy spending and a focus on voters’ frustrations with high gasoline prices.

But if someone besides McCarthy becomes speaker, the choice could at least affect the tone that House leadership brings to these issues.

Who could these candidates be? Let’s take a closer look:

The establishment: Scalise, the incoming majority leader and No. 2 House Republican, is one obvious choice. The Louisiana congressman and Energy and Commerce Committee veteran has long been a fierce oil and gas advocate — but also has drawn attention for casting doubt on the reality of human-caused climate change. In 2019, for instance, he said the Earth “gets warmer and gets colder, and that’s called Mother Nature.”

Another option from leadership is Stefanik, the House Republican Conference chair. The GOP lawmaker from New York has bucked her party and taken votes to rejoin the Paris accord, limit methane pollution, and block drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and eastern Gulf of Mexico — while also embracing former President Donald Trump.

A unity choice: The anti-McCarthy bloc has made clear it’s not interested in leadership candidates. That leaves possible compromise choices such as Patrick McHenry, who has served in Congress for nearly 20 years. The North Carolina lawmaker has said climate change is a serious issue best addressed with nuclear power. He helped lead the GOP effort against the Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed climate disclosure rules.  

Coalition government? An overt coalition between McCarthy supporters and Democrats is probably a long shot, even if Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has been floating the idea. Still, Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) has come up as a moderate who could garner Democratic support.

Fitzpatrick has introduced a carbon tax proposal for the past three Congresses, even as his GOP colleagues have lined up in opposition to the idea.

What about a non-House member? Yes, some people have even floated Trump’s name, noting that you don’t have to be a sitting member of Congress to be elected speaker. But Upton, a Michigan Republican who retired last year, also keeps coming up in conversations about this option.

Having served as Energy and Commerce chair from 2011 to 2017, Upton would bring an unprecedented level of energy expertise to the speaker’s post.

The downside: Upton has already shot down the idea, calling it an “intriguing proposal that I have rejected.”

Thank goodness it’s Friday — thank you for tuning in to POLITICO’s Power Switch. I’m your host, Arianna Skibell. Power Switch is brought to you by the journalists behind E&E News and POLITICO Energy. Send your tips, comments, questions to [email protected]

Today in POLITICO Energy’s podcast: Cat Morehouse explains why Biden’s pick of Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Willie Phillips as interim chair is controversial.

While House Republicans are stuck in a rut, the Biden administration is plowing ahead with pollution and climate proposals.

The White House issued a policy directive today that aims to spur clean energy development and fulfill Biden’s pledge to strengthen the green economy, writes Kelsey Brugger.

It tells federal planners to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions “to the greatest extent possible” when surveying the impacts of projects like highways, pipelines, transmissions, bridges and renewable energy ventures.

The administration is also toughening regulation of a particularly dangerous air pollutant for the first time in a decade. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan hailed the agency’s planned strengthening of airborne soot standards as “a strong proposal,” though environmental and public health groups say it does not go far enough, writes Sean Reilly.

Biden appointees are also making public appearances to spread the word on the administration’s clean energy policies — including Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, whose appearance tonight at the CES tech conference in Las Vegas is expected to include shoutouts to home solar power, distributed wind, electric vehicles and the new climate law.

Global emission trends
Experts say 2023 could be the start of a greenhouse gas emissions plateau, as the world’s largest polluters experience slow growth and invest more in renewable technology, writes Benjamin Storrow.

But uncertainty reigns — especially on whether the world can begin the emissions dive necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

FERC harmony?
A constant at Federal Energy Regulatory Commission meetings last year was infighting between former Chair Richard Glick and Commissioner James Danly, writes Miranda Willson.

Now, those types of public squabbles may be a thing of the past as Willie Phillips settles into his new role as acting chair, a job Biden gave him this week.

Oil battles
The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is poised to have another starring role as a partisan cudgel in national politics this year, writes Nico Portuondo.

House Republicans have made clear that one of their top energy priorities will be restricting drawdowns. That has Democrats rolling their eyes.

Public health: A new study found that one in eight cases of asthma in U.S. kids is caused by gas stove pollution.

Clean tech: Coming soon: Smart homes where the electricity isn’t so dumb.

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Connecticut enacted a law mandating climate education for public schools, firing a shot across the bow of climate change skeptics and deniers.

The Biden administration is moving ahead with a flood of contentious energy regulations designed to crack down on greenhouse gas emissions and safeguard the electric grid.

California is on alert for floods and mudslides as powerful storms hit the state with heavy rain and wind.

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!


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