The Energy 202: Macron tried to soften Trump’s stance on climate change. Others have failed.
Posted by Dino Grandoni on 17th July 2017
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This post was originally published on THE WASHINGTON POST POLITICS

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THE LIGHTBULB

We’ve seen this movie before: A charismatic figure chats with Donald Trump about climate change. He or she presses Trump on the necessity of the United States staying in the Paris Climate Accord. At first, Trump hints that he could be swayed to change his stance. But later, Trump does what he was going to do all along.

Despite climate change not being an official topic on the agenda of President Trump’s visit to Paris last week, French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that the two leaders discussed the issue, and that Macron may have softened his U.S. counterpart’s stance on the climate accord that was negotiated in that city and that Trump announced the United States would leave last month.

“Donald Trump listened to me. He understood the reason for my position, notably the link between climate change and terrorism,” Macron told Le Journal du Dimanche, a weekly newspaper in France, according to a translation by the Associated Press.

Macron continued: “He said he would try to find a solution in the coming months. We spoke in detail about what could allow him to return to the Paris deal.”

“Yeah, I mean, something could happen with respect to the Paris accord,” Trump said himself at a joint news conference with Macron. “We’ll see what happens.”

A forewarning to the Frenchman: Others have tried to persuade Trump on the dangers of leaving the Paris agreement — and failed.

Recall: Back in December, the foremost climate activist in the United States, Al Gore, ascended the golden elevator at Trump Tower at daughter Ivanka Trump’s request to discuss climate change with the president-elect.

When the former vice president returned to ground level, he teased reporters: “I had a lengthy and very productive session with the president-elect. It was a sincere search for areas of common ground,” Gore said. He added: “I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued, and I’m just going to leave it at that.”

But later that same week, Trump announced that he would nominate Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma attorney general said the debate on climate change is “far from settled,” to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

In May, Elon Musk, the charming Tony Stark-like co-founder of Tesla and SolarCity, similarly sounded a hopeful note about the prospect of U.S. commitment to the Paris agreement after speaking with Trump.

But Musk too was unable to persuade the president. By June, Trump announced the United States would pull out of the agreement. Musk responded by quitting Trump’s business advisory council in protest.

What’s going on: As Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote last December, Trump “tells whoever is listening to him exactly what that person wants to hear” — even if those people, for example, are pointing nuclear weapons at each other. Back then, the president-elect told the prime minister of Pakistan that he was “doing amazing work which is visible in every way” even while members of Trump’s transition team had told journalists in India that Trump wanted to declare Pakistan a “terror state.”

Other European officials who spoke with Sophie Yeo for The Post also are pretty pessimistic after Trump’s visit to France:

  • Norway’s minister of climate and environment Vidar Helgesen said: “Until further advice or interpretation is given from Washington, I wouldn’t see this as differing from that slight opening he gave when announcing withdrawal.”
  • And U.K. Labour Party’s shadow minister for international climate change Barry Gardiner said: “Yes, ‘something could happen’! The American president could come to his senses and realize that he has just thrown away the opportunity for the U.S.A. to lead the technological revolution that is about to usher in a zero-carbon economy.”

Macron likely knows not to take Trump at his word when Trump suggest he says he wants to “find a solution” to the issues surrounding the Paris agreement. Trump has already solved what he saw as a “bad deal” by abandoning it. As White House counselor Kellyanne Conway put it at the time, “he’s stayed where he’s always been, and not for a lack of trying by those who have an opposite opinion.”

But Macron, like so many others who see the Paris agreement as necessary to keeping the planet from overcooking, likely believes any crack of light he sees in the door Trump slammed on the deal is worth trying to crowbar open. 

POWER PLAYS

News on the Energy Department’s grid study: A draft of the study on electric grid resiliency commissioned by Energy Secretary Rick Perry was leaked to Bloomberg News. According to reporters Catherine Traywick, Ari Natter and Jennifer A. Dlouhy, the study found that “[w]ind and solar power don’t pose a significant threat to the reliability of the U.S. power grid… The findings — which are still under review by the department’s leadership — contrast with Perry’s arguments that ‘baseload’ sources such as coal and nuclear power that provide constant power are jeopardized by Obama-era incentives for renewable energy, making the grid unreliable.”

The nation’s flood insurance program is sinking: The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has long had bipartisan support, writes The Post’s Brady Dennis, if for no other reason than because flooding occurs in all 50 states. But Congress is scrambling to overhaul the program in a way that helps it stay financially afloat. Among the several issues weighing on the NFIP are about 11,000 so-called “severe repetitive loss properties” — a handful of homes flooded so often they account for about 30 percent of all claims. Raising sea levels will keep adding to that list.

One more “yes” for Yucca: The Washington Post’s editorial board is calling on Congress to allow the long-controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage project to move forward. Pointing out that locals in Nye County support having the nuclear waste site in their backyards, the board writes: “The nation’s nuclear regulators have found that technical hurdles can be overcome; the biggest barriers to developing the site are political. Congress should re-fund Yucca Mountain and finally end this gratuitous fight.”

OIL CHECK

Is the most powerful lobbyist in Washington losing its grip? The Trump presidency should be the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s moment, writes The Post’s Steven Mufson. But the largest lobbying organization by spending in the United States doesn’t seem to be seizing it. “Members are divided over the border-adjustment tax, health care and climate change,” Mufson writes. “Some want the Chamber to more vigorously stand up to President Trump to protect free trade.

The climate issue has proved to be particularly troublesome. While ostensibly the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hasn’t taken a stand on the agreement, Trump cited controversial research co-commissioned by the group that said the U.S. economy would lose 2.7 million jobs due to Obama-era regulations in justifying his decision to withdraw. And during the years leading up to Trump’s election, chamber efforts install doubt about climate change prompted Apple and some electric utilities to leave the group entirely, and Nike to quit the chamber’s board.

The chamber isn’t the only lobbying group strained by Trump’s Paris decision. After the Industrial Energy Consumers of America wrote to the White House that it “fails to see the benefit of the Paris Climate Accord,” Eastman Chemical Co., one of the largest chemical manufacturers in the United States, discontinued membership in June.

Is California still dreaming of bringing ExxonMobil to court over climate change? Ever since former Democratic congressman Xavier Becerra became California’s top prosecutor general, he’s been mum on the question of whether the Golden State is still investigating the oil giant for potentially misleading investors about the risks posed by climate change

Meanwhile, his peers in New York and Massachusetts conducting their own probes are waging high-profile court battles with Exxon after California’s attorney general, Kamala D. Harris, was elected to the Senate.

Now according to the Los Angeles Times, 18 Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation and more than 30 environmental groups — plus the editorial board of that paper, which had along with InsideClimate News published an investigative series into the company’s climate work — have called on Becerra to continue that inquiry. 

Becerra made his first public comments about the status of the investigation on Thursday in Pasadena. He gave an I-can-neither-confirm-nor-deny-response. Activists touted the video in the tweet below:

“Understand that the last thing we want is to let people know what we’re doing,” he said. Later, he added: “We don’t announce our investigations. I am very aware of the issue involving Exxon.”

The time Robert Mueller took on an energy company: Speaking of investigations, ProPublica and the New York Times co-published an excellent look back at Mueller’s slow but ultimately aggressive investigation into the fraud committed by energy and commodities conglomerate Enron. Then the director of the FBI, Mueller moved methodically, flipping lower-level employees to build cases against top brass.

The takeaway, according to journalist Jesse Eisinger: Mueller’s “special counsel team will probably move more slowly than people anticipate. But it might also shock people with its aggressive investigative and prosecutorial tactics. If Trump and his advisers committed crimes, Mueller will find them.”

A natural gas developer’s plan to run a pipeline through a stretch of the Appalachian Trail is detailed in a weekend report from The Los Angeles Times.

Pipeline production, the story notes, has been an “extremely lucrative enterprise” despite some of the controversy around the boom.

“The same glut of natural gas that helped the U.S. substantially cut its greenhouse gas emissions is now also threatening efforts to fight climate change. In communities being rattled by the rush to lay pipe, the natural gas projects are drawing the kind of rancor usually associated with more imposing and disruptive oil pipelines,” Times reports.

 Proponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline believe it would boost the economy in the area and bring in manufacturers that would need cheap gas.

Thomas Hadwin, a former utility executive quoted in the story, said “regulators are not looking carefully at which of these projects are appropriate and which are not.“Pipelines are getting way overbuilt,” he added. “We have a glut of them.”

The Times adds: “It is not just pipeline opponents raising red flags. The Environmental Protection Agency in the final days of the Obama administration pushed federal energy regulators to more thoroughly investigate whether such projects are needed. It warned during the environmental review of the Mountain Valley Pipeline that the group building it had failed to explain why the project as proposed was essential, raising “the possibility of overbuilding, unnecessary disruption of the environment and unneeded exercise of eminent domain.”

The project remains on hold for now, until the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has enough voting members who can approve it. As opponents of the bill prepare lawsuits against the pipeline, the story notes President Trump’s nominees are awaiting congressional approval.

THERMOMETER

Al Gore isn’t the only one with a climate-change documentary out this summer: Netflix has one too. The company’s new documentary, released Friday, explores the world’s coral reefs and the effects of climate change on them. “My dream scenario is that this imagery now becomes the poster image of climate change,” the film’s director Jeff Orlowski told Chelsea Harvey for The Post.

Watch the trailer for the “Chasing Coral” above.

— Longstanding political wisdom says that climate change is an issue that just doesn’t move voters. But a new POLITICO-Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll found that may not be so for Democrats in 2018.

The finding: 49 of voters who intend to vote for a Democrat say Trump’s Paris decision is “extremely important” to them. That is tied with Trump’s Russia allegations as the top-two issues for Democratic-leaning voters, ahead of even the Obamacare repeal-and-replace effort.

DAYBOOK

Coming Up

  • National Press Club will hold an event with Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Tuesday.
  • The House Natural Resources Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on federal natural resources on Tuesday.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy will hold a hearing on “Examining the State of the Electric Industry through Market Participant Perspectives” on Tuesday.
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on energy and resource security on Tuesday.
  • The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources holds an oversight hearing on onshore oil and gas development in Alaska on Tuesday.
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks holds legislative hearings on Wednesday. 
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds an event on the Renewable Fuel Standard on Wednesday.
  • The House Natural Resources Committee hold legislative hearings on five bills on Wednesday.
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on the Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation for Wildlife Act on Wednesday. 
  • The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans will hold an oversight hearing on the Magnuson-Stevens Act on Wednesday.
  • The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold an oversight hearing on the future of hardrock mining on Thursday.
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a nomination hearing on several Energy and Interior Department nominees on Thursday.
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife will hold a hearing on water infrastructure on Thursday.  

EXTRA MILEAGE

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) defends climate action:

Former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton talk about humility in the Oval Office:

Watch Stephen Colbert’s book report on Stephen K. Bannon’s new expose: 

Watch flamingos flock to a new habitat at the National Zoo:

Meet the animal that will outlive us all: