McConnell Pushing Green New Deal Vote to Put Democrats in Corner

Ed Markey and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announce Green New Deal legislation in February.
Ed Markey and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announce Green New Deal legislation in February.Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is commandeering the Democrats’ Green New Deal in an attempt to expose theiConnellr divisions and force some of the party’s leading 2020 presidential candidates into an awkward vote.

The Green New Deal — mostly a collection of goals for mitigating climate change rather than a fully formed plan of action — has been a favorite punching bag for McConnell and Republicans since it was rolled out with fanfare by freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey.

“I could not be more glad that the American people will have the opportunity to learn precisely where each one of their senators stand on this radical, top-down, socialist makeover of the entire U.S. economy,” McConnell said Monday, ahead of a planned vote that could come as soon as Tuesday.

The resolution has more than 100 congressional Democrats as co-sponsors, including the six senators running for president. While Democrats are united on the need for significant action to stem climate change, they don’t agree on the specific prescriptions.

When McConnell puts the resolution on the Senate floor most Senate Democrats will be voting “present” to protest what they see as a sham vote forced by the majority leader, said Senator Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. The question marks are Democrats who represent solidly Republican states who might vote no and some of the six senators running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“This is a little trap that Senator McConnell is trying to set here that Democrats are not going to fall into,” Morgan Gray, Markey’s legislative director, said at a conference of renewable energy executives last week. “Bringing this resolution to the floor without any hearings, without any science, without any experts, without any testimony, without any amendments, is not the way the Senate should be conducting business.” MORE


Puerto Rico Has Just Passed Its Own Green New Deal


Puerto Rico has passed a bill to radically transform the island’s economy with renewable energy as the central pillar. The territory’s legislature today approved Senate Bill 1121 (PS 1121), the Puerto Rico Energy Public Policy Act, which will set the island on a path to 100% renewable energy by 2050. The bill pushes the island to become a leader in clean energy technology that can better withstand future hurricanes and improve quality of life for Puerto Ricans .

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Renewable energy has the potential to revolutionize the economy of Puerto Rico. GETTY

Receiving widespread political support, PS 1121 passed with bi-partisan support with 21 votes to 4 in the Puerto Rican Senate. The bill now waits to be signed into law by Governor Ricardo Rosselló in the coming weeks, who has already expressed his strong support for 100% renewable energy as part of his post-Hurricane María recovery vision and plan. Currently standing at just 2% of all electricity generation, renewable energy offers a cheaper alternative in Puerto Rico that can improve resilience to future natural disasters.

The bill’s impact is wide-ranging. PS 1121 establishes a 100% renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) by 2050, bans coal plants starting in 2028, provides for automatic interconnection to the grid of customer-sited solar energy systems below 25 kilowatts, and reduces the utility approval time to 90 days for commercial and industrial solar projects. It also creates a 5-year window of full compensation for consumers’ solar energy production and streamlined permitting for utility-scale projects. MORE

New Wind and Solar Power Is Cheaper Than Existing Coal in Much of the U.S., Analysis Finds

Coal-fired power plants in the Southeast and Ohio Valley stand out. In all, 74% of coal plants cost more to run than building new wind or solar, analysts found.

Maintenance workers on a solar farm. Credit: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
Nearly three-fourths of the country’s coal-fired power plants already cost more to operate than if wind and solar capacity were built in the same areas to replace them, a new analysis says. Credit: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Not a single coal-fired power plant along the Ohio River will be able to compete on price with new wind and solar power by 2025, according to a new report by energy analysts.

The same is true for every coal plant in a swath of the South that includes the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. They’re part of the 86 percent of coal plants nationwide that are projected to be on the losing end of this cost comparison, the analysis found.

The findings are part of a report issued Monday by Energy Innovation and Vibrant Clean Energy that shows where the shifting economics of electricity generation may force utilities and regulators to ask difficult questions about what to do with assets that are losing their value.

The report takes a point that has been well-established by other studies—that coal power, in addition to contributing to air pollution and climate change, is often a money-loser—and shows how it applies at the state level and plant level when compared with local wind and solar power capacity. MORE

Conservatives embrace populism, rage at Trudeau, talk separation at annual gathering

Danielle Smith, a former Alberta MLA for the Wildrose Party and Progressive Conservative Party and now a Global News Radio host, shakes hands with Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 23 in Ottawa. Photo by Kamara Morozuk

Two or three decades ago, Preston Manning’s Reform Party was seen as embodying a right-wing populist movement in Western Canada that advocated for shrinking government by cutting social welfare and culture programming.

Lately, however, right-wing populism has been associated with the nationalist, anti-immigrant and authoritarian tendencies of leaders like U.S. President Donald Trump, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Concern about keeping climate change in check less vocal than concern about maintaining a prosperous oil industry, @ottawacarl reports from the Manning Networking Conference, an annual conservative meetup.

Conservative leaders Jason Kenney of the Alberta United Conservative Party and Andrew Scheer of the federal Conservative Party have also been accused lately of being too tolerant of white nationalism.

None of that, however, stopped the conservative leader of Canada’s most populous province from grasping the mantle of populism during an appearance on stage Saturday at the Manning Networking Conference, an annual right-of-centre gathering in Ottawa.

“If you want to call me a populist, sure. But I call it listening. Listening to the people. Not the full-time protesters, not the activists,” said Ford, who received a standing ovation. MORE

Trudeau’s New Budget and the Cult of Home Ownership

Low-income Canadians will soon help their more affluent neighbours buy homes. Why?

The new federal budget keeps our silly obsession with homeownership alive. Photo: Government of Canada.

The program is certainly not cheap — the plan to subsidize home purchases is budgeted to cost $1.25 billion over three years. And it means renters will be paying taxes to help their more affluent neighbours buy houses or condos.

It will also increase demand — and thus prices — and encourage more people to buy into what looks like a potentially volatile market.

The First-Time Home Buyer Incentive is based on the belief that the chance to have a stable, affordable place to live requires a taxpayer-subsidized plunge into the home ownership lottery. (With the biggest benefits for developers of new housing.)

It’s an approach based on a housing model that is no longer working in much of the country. MORE

Vaughn Palmer: Feds forgive treaty loans, but will it revive painfully slow process?

“We’ve been in this process trying to resolve this matter with both Canada and British Columbia but in doing so we’ve been put in this situation having to borrow money from the very governments who took our land in the first place.”

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau announced in the federal budget $1.4 billion to forgive loans currently owing and reimburse other bands engaged in negotiations. The remainder, almost $500 million, will be returned over five years starting in 2020. SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

VICTORIA — After accumulating hundreds of millions of dollars in debt to the federal government to finance treaty negotiations, B.C. First Nations learned this week that Ottawa is forgiving all of it.

The news came on federal budget day, with Finance Minister Bill Morneau announcing $1.4 billion to forgive loans currently owing and reimburse others that have already been repaid.

More than $900 million in outstanding loans to bands engaged in negotiations will be cancelled in the current financial year ending March 31.

The remainder, almost $500 million, will be returned over five years starting in 2020 to First Nations that have already repaid their treaty loans in whole or in part.

The money will free “more than 200 Indigenous communities to reinvest in their priorities like governance, infrastructure and economic development,” according to the budget papers.

Though Morneau did not provide a schedule of payments, the bulk of the recipients are expected to be B.C. First Nations.

One obvious beneficiary would be the Nisga’a First Nation, which concluded the first modern day treaty in B.C. The nation finished repaying an $84 million treaty loan from the federal government in May 2014 — 14 years after the treaty itself took effect. MORE

Copenhagen Wants to Show How Cities Can Fight Climate Change

The beginning of a ski run on the roof of Copenhagen’s new trash incinerator, which will help heat buildings in the city. Photograph by Charlotte de la Fuente

COPENHAGEN — Can a city cancel out its greenhouse gas emissions?

Copenhagen intends to, and fast. By 2025, this once-grimy industrial city aims to be net carbon neutral, meaning it plans to generate more renewable energy than the dirty energy it consumes.

Here’s why it matters to the rest of the world: Half of humanity now lives in cities, and the vast share of planet-warming gases come from cities. The big fixes for climate change need to come from cities too. They are both a problem and a potential source of solutions.

The experience of Copenhagen, home to 624,000 people, can show what’s possible, and what’s tough, for other urban governments on a warming planet.

The mayor, Frank Jensen, said cities “can change the way we behave, the way we are living, and go more green.” His city has some advantages. It is small, it is rich and its people care a lot about climate change.

Mr. Jensen said mayors, more than national politicians, felt the pressure to take action. “We are directly responsible for our cities and our citizens, and they expect us to act,” he said.

In the case of Copenhagen, that means changing how people get around, how they heat their homes, and what they do with their trash. The city has already cut its emissions by 42 percent from 2005 levels, mainly by moving away from fossil fuels to generate heat and electricity. MORE