Overnight Energy & Environment

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats play defense, GOP goes on attack after Biden oil comments | Energy Dept. exempts quick dishwashers from existing efficiency standards | Ocasio-Cortez says having Green New Deal would have helped handle COVID-19 pandemic


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DEBATES HAVE CONSEQUENCES: Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s comment in Thursday night’s presidential debate that he would “transition” away from oil could compromise his carefully laid pitch to voters in Pennsylvania, a key swing state. 

The former vice president quickly sought to clean up the comments, telling reporters after the debate that “we’re getting rid of the subsidies for fossil fuels, but we’re not getting rid of fossil fuels for a long time.”

On Friday the Biden campaign said his plan does not call for the total elimination of oil and gas.

But the Trump campaign quickly seized on the remarks, saying it capped the best online fundraising day for Trump. Campaign manager Bill Stepien told reporters the comments would “put the nail in the coffin” for Biden in Pennsylvania and possibly Ohio and Minnesota. 

Biden and Trump are also locked in a tight race in Texas, a state Democrats have long dreamed of taking but one where the comments could prove damaging.  

Vice President Pence is campaigning in Ohio and Pennsylvania on Friday, jumping on Biden’s comments at a rally in Swanton, Ohio. 

And less than 24 hours after the debate, the Trump campaign unveiled a new advertisement airing in Pennsylvania that features Biden’s remarks on oil. In the ad, a fracking technician claims that a Biden administration would “end fracking” and be “devastating” to the state. Biden’s climate plan does not call for an end to fracking.

A key point here: Biden’s comments at the debate aren’t out of step with what his climate plan calls for. 

His plan aims to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, expanding the reach and reliability of renewable energy to provide an alternative to fossil fuels. He has said that natural gas and other fossil fuels will be needed as part of a transition to renewable energy.

Biden has stopped short of backing proposals from more liberal Democrats on climate change, such as the Green New Deal. 

“The New Green Deal calls for the elimination of all nonrenewable energy by 2030 — you can’t get there. You’re going to need to be able to transition,” he said at a town hall last week, adding that the country would still need to use fossil fuels in the meantime. 

Still, the remarks give new fodder to a Trump campaign that has previously drilled down on fracking but struggled to attack a climate plan viewed favorably by two-thirds of voters. 

Tim Murtaugh, Trump’s communications director, told reporters late Thursday that Biden “accidentally told the truth tonight.” 

“It is impossible to campaign in places such as Pennsylvania and try to be both things at once. You cannot be Joe from Scranton who cares about American workers’ jobs, people who work in the fracking industry, and have AOC writing your climate change policy at the same time,” Murtaugh said, referencing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). 

A new turn on Friday:

Biden’s campaign argued Trump’s campaign was taking the remarks out of context.

“It’s not true. He would not get rid of fossil fuels, but he would get rid of the subsidies they receive. And part of his strategy to transition to net-zero emissions is to make significant investments in carbon capture and sequestration,” which could capture emissions from the oil industry, Biden campaign spokesperson Bill Russo said in a statement.

Let’s hear from the strategists…

-“I do think that’s going to be used in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan,” Basil Smikle, a political strategist and lecturer at Columbia University, told The Hill. “He will have to do a lot of work to clean that up in the next couple of days.”

-Bryan Lanza, a former Trump campaign official, said the debate represented a victory for Trump because he was able to coax errors from Biden.

“I think that’s a huge unforced error,” he said of the oil comments.

“If Texas was ever moving purple this moved it right back to red,” Lanza said. “In Pennsylvania, it reinforces the fears that they’ve had about this guy.”

Read more on the campaign repercussions here

But there was another revealing moment at the debate…

MIND ON MY MONEY AND MY MONEY ON MY MIND: President Trump at Thursday’s presidential debate claimed low-income and minority voters who have been affected by environmental rollbacks under his administration are “making a lot of money.”

The Trump administration has rolled back a suite of environmental laws protecting air and water, as well as the process that allows communities to object to pollution projects slated for their neighborhoods. 

The issue was raised at the debate by the moderator, NBC News’s Kristen Welker.

“President Trump, people of color are much more likely to live near oil refineries and chemical plants. In Texas, there are families who worry the plants near them are making them sick. Why should these families give you another four years in office?” asked Welker, the first woman of color to moderate a presidential debate since 1992.

“The families that we’re talking about are employed heavily, and they’re making a lot of money — more money than they’ve ever made,” Trump responded, rattling off employment statistics.

Biden responded that money shouldn’t be the focus, accusing Trump of opposing restrictions on pollutants from plants often built in low income and minority neighborhoods.

Read more on environmental justice at the debate here

WASH THOSE STANDARDS AWAY: The Energy Department on Friday finalized a rule that exempts dishwashers that clean and dry in an hour or less from existing energy and water efficiency standards.

The rule places quick-cleaning dishwashers in a separate category from dishwashers with a “normal” cleaning time.

The final rule doesn’t set efficiency standards for the new class of dishwashers, saying instead that the agency will carry out a separate rulemaking to set them. 

The finalized rule comes days after President Trump appeared to tout his administration’s dishwasher efficiency rollback during a campaign stop in Nevada. 

“The dishwashers, they tend to have a little problem, they didn’t get enough water, so people would run them 10 times, so people end up using more water, and the thing’s no damn good,” he said last weekend.

“We freed it up. Now you can buy a dishwasher, and it comes out. It’s beautiful, go buy a dishwasher,” he added. 

Both energy efficiency advocates and some consumer groups have expressed opposition to the change. 

“At best this rule is unnecessary because most consumers already have access to 1-hour or quick-wash cycles on their dishwashers,” said a statement from David Friedman, vice president of advocacy at Consumer Reports. 

“What this rule really does is adds unnecessary regulations and undermines existing rules that have been providing consumers with well-performing and efficient dishwashers,” added Friedman, who also served as acting assistant secretary at the Energy Department under the Obama administration. 

The move follows a request from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative group whose members include Myron Ebell, a climate change skeptic who advised the Trump Environmental Protection Agency transition team.

The group argued that under the efficiency standard, dishwasher cycles have become longer and consumer satisfaction has dropped. 

Read more about the standards here

NOT JUST A CLIMATE PLAN: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said Friday that having a Green New Deal would have helped the U.S. through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asked by actor and activist Jane Fonda on Friday whether she believed that having the Green New Deal would have made the coronavirus easier to contain and the country’s health care system more resilient, the lawmaker responded, “I absolutely think so.”

“If we had passed a Green New Deal by January of this year, that would mean that we had a political establishment that respects science, that is willing to mobilize and make major investments to protect the American people and frankly our global population,” Ocasio-Cortez said. 

“With those mechanisms in place, then I do believe we would have been better off. We would have respected the science early, we would have listened to scientists,” she added later.


Virginia releases sweeping plan to prepare for sea level rise, increased flooding, The Virginian Pilot reports

East Troublesome fire explodes to 170,000 acres, forcing evacuations, The Denver Post reports

Study reveals why buyers shun EVs, E&E News reports

ICYMI: Stories from Friday (and Thursday night)…

Energy Dept. exempts quick dishwashers from existing efficiency standards

Biden: ‘We’re not getting rid of fossil fuels for a long time’

Biden: ‘I would transition from the oil industry’

Communities hit by pollution rollbacks ‘making a lot of money’ under Trump, president says

Democrats play defense, GOP goes on attack after Biden oil comments

Scientists find first-ever ‘murder hornet’ nest in Washington state

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Bill Stepien Donald Trump Joe Biden

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