Summary: A biweekly and bipartisan podcast on energy and environmental politics in America. Political Climate goes beyond the echo chambers and brings you civil conversations, fierce debates and insider perspectives, with hosts and guests from across the political spectrum. Join Democrat and Republican energy experts Brandon Hurlbut and Shane Skelton, along with Greentech Media Senior Editor Julia Pyper, as we explore how energy and environment policies get made.
“Decarbonization” was the catchword of last week’s Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. Stakeholders from all over the world made new commitments to combatting climate change. But the spotlight was really on California, where Governor Jerry Brown signed an historic bill into law — requiring the state to power its electric grid with 100 percent carbon-free resources by 2045. That’s not all. Brown kicked off the week with a bang by also signing an executive order committing the California to complete carbon neutrality by 2045. So the Political Climate team sat down with a man who knows a thing or two about decarbonization in the Golden State: Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission. The CPUC is responsible for regulating the state’s electricity sector, and will oversee many aspects of California’s transition to a low-carbon economy. Managing that transition will be the state’s greatest challenge, according to Picker. Recommended reading:GTM: On to Governor Brown’s Desk: What 100% Clean Energy Means for CaliforniaVox: California Gov. Jerry Brown casually unveils history’s most ambitious climate targetNYT: Jerry Brown Made Climate Change His Issue. Now, He’s Not Sure How Much Politicians Can Do.GTM: How Community Choice Aggregation Fits Into California’s Clean Energy Future Subscribe to the Political Climate podcast via Apple Podcasts, GooglePlay, TuneIn, Overcast, Stitcher and Spotify. Follow Political Climate on Twitter @Poli_Climate.
California lawmakers just passed an historic 100 percent clean electricity mandate. A few years ago, advocating for 100 percent clean energy was considered radical. Even some political allies of the cause argued that the concept was so far-fetched it was damaging to the climate movement. Democratic podcast co-host Brandon Hurlbut recalls the early days of championing 100 percent renewables as a member of the Solutions Project — and the lessons learned. Next, we hear from Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols, to learn how his red Southern state became a top 10 U.S. solar market without any incentives. And we explore how other states can follow in California’s clean energy wake. Recommended reading:GTM: On to Governor Brown’s Desk: What 100% Clean Energy Means for CaliforniaVox: A beginner’s guide to the debate over 100% renewable energyInside Climate: How Georgia Became a Top 10 Solar State, With Lawmakers Barely Lifting a FingerNYT: In Trump Country, Renewable Energy Is ThrivingGTM: Senator Heinrich: A 100% Clean Energy Grid Is ‘Completely Doable’ Subscribe to the Political Climate podcast via Apple Podcasts, GooglePlay, TuneIn, Overcast, Stitcher and Spotify. Follow Political Climate on Twitter @Poli_Climate.
Senator Martin Heinrich believes a 100 percent clean energy electric grid is within reach during his lifetime. There will be technical challenges to overcome, but it’s “completely doable,” he said, in an exclusive interview with Political Climate. This week marks the launch of Senator Heinrich’s “Clean Energy Vision,” a part of his re-election campaign for this fall. The ad and supporting document outline a multi-pronged approach for strengthening New Mexico's clean energy economy — including investments in energy storage, wind and solar, transmission lines and workforce development. The plan doesn’t explicitly call for a 100 percent clean energy grid, but “clearly stating that the grid should be 100 percent clean energy is so important, because people need an idea to rally around,” said Heinrich. In this special episode, the senator describes his Clean Energy Vision, and how he intends to make that vision a reality in these highly partisan times. Recommended reading:Martin's Clean Energy VisionGTM: Senator Heinrich: A 100% Clean Energy Grid Is ‘Completely Doable’Albuquerque Business First: See where NM's headed on oil and renewablesHeller, Heinrich Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Establish Investment Tax Credit For Energy StorageAlaska Public Media: Energy bill fails; Murkowski blames HouseGTM: Your Guide to the Bitter Debate Over 100% Renewable Energy Subscribe to the Political Climate podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Play, TuneIn, Overcast, Stitcher and Spotify. Follow Political Climate on Twitter @Poli_Climate.
Are people who care about climate change downplaying the issue under social and political pressure? Has their alarmism been too muted? Or has the outcry become so loud that it's drowning out the possibility of collective action? The jury is out. In this episode of Political Climate, we tackle a difficult question posed by a listener on the severity of the climate threat and the appropriate policy response. Amy Harder, energy and climate reporter for Axios, joins us to discuss. But first we revisit the Democratic National Committee. The DNC has decided to once again accept donations from fossil fuel interests. The move comes just two months after the committee adopted a separate resolution banning donations from political action committees tied to coal, oil and gas companies. The reversal has spurred a debate among Democrats on matching up policies and values. We also discuss the Kigali Amendment — a global climate agreement that key U.S. industry players, and many Republicans, are urging President Trump to ratify. Recommended reading:GTM: Fossil Fuel Dollars and DemocratsHuffington Post: Democratic National Committee Backtracks On Its Ban Of Fossil Fuel DonationsAxios: Trump clashes with business on Obama-era climate treatyNYT: Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate ChangeNYT: Science Alone Won’t Save the Earth. People Have to Do That.Subscribe to the Political Climate podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Play, TuneIn, Overcast, Stitcher and Spotify. Follow Political Climate on Twitter @Poli_Climate.
Political tribalism has created gridlock on climate policy — even more so than the polarization on climate science — according to a new peer-reviewed study. If that’s the case, is there any hope of action any time soon? Tensions are running high. It’s officially less than 100 days until the 2018 midterm election. Democrats are angry and hell-bent on taking back Congress. Republicans are fighting to keep it. Will climate change even be on the election agenda? We discuss in this episode, recorded live at the Sun Valley Forum in Ketchum, Idaho. For this show, the Political Climate co-hosts were joined David Crane, the former CEO of NRG Energy, who argued that too many corporations are still “sitting on the sidelines” when it comes to ditching fossil fuels. We also addressed the Trump administration’s proposed freeze on fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, and threat to revoke California’s clean-air waiver. Recommended reading:NYT: Actually, Republicans Do Believe in Climate ChangeGreenBiz: My three wishes for AmericaE&E: Meet the other Republican who wants a carbon taxPolitico: Kochs blow up their détente with TrumpWAPO: Trump administration to freeze fuel-efficiency standards and fight statesSubscribe to the Political Climate podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Play, TuneIn, Overcast, Stitcher and Spotify. Follow Political Climate on Twitter @Poli_Climate.
What does the rise of millennials mean for climate action? Will this plugged-in generation make climate change a priority? Can they find common ground between liberals and conservatives to solve this issue collectively? Millennials are on the brink of becoming the largest generation in America. That means they will have an enormous impact on U.S. politics in the years ahead. In fact, they’re having an impact on politics already. In this episode of Political Climate we talk to millennials who are channeling their concerns about climate change into action — inclusive and bipartisan action. We speak to Benji Backer, president and founder of the American Conservation Coalition, a nonprofit focused on rallying young conservatives around environmental policy reform; and to Lydia Avila, executive director of the Power Shift Network, an organization working to mobilize the collective power of young people to mitigate climate change and create a just, clean energy future. But first, we address the latest climate news from Capitol Hill: Congressman Carlos Curbelo’s new carbon tax bill, and a House resolution denouncing the idea of a carbon tax altogether. Just how hopeful for climate action can Americans be? Recommended reading:Guardian: Republican lawmaker pitches carbon tax in defiance of party stanceInside Climate: House Votes to Denounce Carbon Taxes. Where Was the Climate Solutions Caucus?GTM: Reading Republicans on Climate a Decade After America’s Cap-and-Trade CollapseTeen Vogue: Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Candidate Scott Wagner Called Me “Young and Naive”Pew: Millennials projected to overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest generationAmerican Conservation CoalitionPower Shift NetworkSubscribe to the Political Climate podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Play, TuneIn, Overcast, Stitcher and Spotify. Follow Political Climate on Twitter @Poli_Climate.
Scott Pruitt is officially out at the Environmental Protection Agency. Former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler has stepped in as acting administrator. What does this mean for U.S. climate policy? We asked a top EPA official. In this episode, Mandy Gunasekara, principal deputy assistant administrator at the EPA Office of Air and Radiation, joins us in-studio to discuss the agency's priorities in the wake of the leadership shake-up. Gunasekara weighs in on replacing the Clean Power Plan and vehicle fuel economy standards -- two of President Obama's signature policies to combat climate change. We ask how the current EPA squares its deregulatory agenda with the mandate to protect public health and the environment. We also tackle ongoing controversies, unrelated to Pruitt's personal scandals. Democratic co-host Brandon Hurlbut challenges Gunasekara on the EPA's treatment of climate science, while Republican co-host Shane Skelton raises issues with the Renewable Fuel Standard. As always, we end on a bipartisan note in our "Say Something Nice" segment. Recommended Reading:GTM: Scott Pruitt Resigns; EPA Deregulation Poised to ContinueBNA: Senate Aide Named a Top Adviser to EPA Head on Climate, Clean AirInside Climate: In Rebuke to Pruitt, EPA Science Board Votes to Review Climate Policy ChangesBloomberg: Trump to Hit Refiners With Biofuels BoostDes Moines Register: Iowa political leaders cheer EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's resignationWash Post: Rollback of auto mileage standards advances to White House, bringing conflict with California closerNYT: How Trump’s Policy Decisions Undermine the Industries He Pledged to HelpCNN: Woman confronts Scott Pruitt at a restaurant, urges him to resignSubscribe to the Political Climate podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Play, TuneIn, Overcast and Stitcher. Follow Political Climate on Twitter @Poli_Climate.
The Democratic National Committee recently decided to no longer accept campaign donations from fossil fuel companies. The move signals the party’s commitment to addressing climate change. But could blocking contributions from oil, gas and coal companies end up hurting Democrats in the midterm election? We discuss the new DNC policy with RL Miller, political director at Climate Hawks Vote, chair of the California Democratic Party’s environmental caucus, and a co-author of the resolution. Before that, we answer a listener’s question about the influence of billionaire conservative activists Charles and David Koch. Did Republicans start to resist climate action because of the Koch brothers' involvement? We also check in on the non-partisan, non-profit Citizens' Climate Lobby, which met with members of Congress last week to advocate for a price on carbon. One participant admits progress is slow, but insists the dialogue is valuable. To kick off the show, we briefly circle back on the Climate Solutions Caucus, bipartisan group of lawmakers seeking to advance climate change policies. Several Republican members recently voted against valuing carbon in environmental regulations. Is the Caucus a sham? Recommended reading:HuffPost: DNC Quietly Adopts Ban On Fossil Fuel Company DonationsNYT: How G.O.P. Leaders Came to View Climate Change as Fake ScienceGTM: Conservative Groups Come Out Against the Suniva, SolarWorld Trade CaseE&E News: Here’s how one group pitches a carbon tax to the GOPWashington Examiner: House GOP blocks Obama-era rules on cost of climate change Subscribe to the Political Climate podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Play, TuneIn, Overcast and Stitcher. Look out for us soon on Spotify! Follow Political Climate on Twitter @Poli_Climate.
Gas prices are always a hot-button political issue, and especially in an election year. In the latest showdown, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blames a spike in gas prices on President Trump’s “reckless decision” to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. Republicans say these claims are insincere. If Democrats are so worried about high gas prices, why do they oppose oil drilling in the U.S. and support increasing gas taxes? We’ve seen this play out before. When President Obama was in office, Republicans placed the blame for high gas prices squarely on the Democrats — and used cherrypicked statements from then Energy Secretary Steven Chu to help make their case. In this week’s episode we tackle the hypocritical politics of gas prices. We also discuss the Pope’s upcoming climate summit with leading oil companies. To kick it all off, we weigh in on a leaked memo with new details on the Trump administration’s unprecedented efforts to bail out struggling coal and nuclear plants. Is this an abuse of power? Recommended reading:GTM: DOE Plans to Order Guaranteed Profits for Coal, Nuclear Power PlantsAxios: Pope convenes Big Oil, investors to talk climate changeThe Hill: Senate Democrats look for traction on gas pricesRolling Stone: What President Obama Should Have Said About High Gas PricesNY Mag: Higher Gas Prices a Headache for GOP — Except in CaliforniaThe Verge: Three US states will spend $1.3 billion to build more electric vehicle chargingSubscribe to the Political Climate podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Play, TuneIn and Stitcher. Look out for us soon on Spotify! Follow Political Climate on Twitter @Poli_Climate. Correction: Rebecca Schenker, who submitted news topics for the "Constituent Services" segment of this show, is a transportation planner with the LADOT. This episode incorrectly referred to her as the head of transportation planning at the LADOT. We regret the error.
There are a lot of questions swirling around the 2018 midterm election — including how energy and climate issues will play into this broader political moment. Can pro-climate Republicans hold on to their seats in Congress? Will Democratic candidates with cleantech industry experience win over voters? Could the outcome of Nevada’s Senate race affect how the nation deals with nuclear waste? Then there’s California and Texas, the nation’s leading clean energy states, where the results of this year’s election could determine which political party controls Congress in 2019. In this election preview show we discuss several key races where energy and climate issues are expected to be major factors. To up the ante, Political Climate co-hosts Shane Skelton and Brandon Hurlbut make a friendly election wager. As always, we end with our segment "If you can't say something nice," where our Republican and Democratic representatives have to say something they recently found redeeming about the opposing party. Recommended reading:Popular Mechanics: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine: "I Believe Fully In Climate Change"Think Progress: Progressive candidates are embracing clean energy as a campaign issueTime: Can Beto O'Rourke Turn Texas Blue?Florida Politics: Committee touts Carlos Curbelo’s climate change record in new adPV Magazine: Republicans request utility-scale solar panel tariff exemptionMother Jones: California’s “Jungle Primary” Could Turn Democrats’ Enthusiasm Into a FiascoSF Chronicle: California and climate change: Jerry Brown’s would-be successors make plans Political Climate is now available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play or TuneIn. Follow Political Climate on Twitter @Poli_Climate.
Republicans are often viewed as enemies of the clean energy transition. Some people believe the GOP will never embrace climate action. So is voting them out the only way to save the planet? If you ask environmental policy pioneer Terry Tamminen, the solution isn’t that simple. As Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pick to lead the California EPA, Tamminen found ways to craft ambitious clean energy policies and programs with buy-in from both Democrats and Republicans. In his current role as CEO of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, Tamminen is working to advance sustainability solutions across the country and around the world. In this episode of Political Climate, recorded live at GTM’s Solar Summit, we talk to Tamminen about why it’s important to get Republicans on board with the climate change agenda. Even if it means avoiding the words "climate change" altogether. We also discuss why Democrats are rallying around a 100 percent renewable energy target, when it has yet to be proven technically feasible. Plus, we talk about California's clash with Washington D.C. over fuel economy standards and whether philanthropy is proving we don't need to spend taxpayer dollars on fighting climate change. Recommended reading:Terry Tamminen: Leonardo DiCaprio FoundationLDF: Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation awards $20 million in environmental grantsGTM: Solar and Wind Companies Spend More on Republican Candidates Than DemocratsGTM: Mark Jacobson Drops Lawsuit Against Critics of His 100% Renewables PlanNYT: California Sues Trump Administration Over Car Emissions RulesBBC: Michael Bloomberg pledges $4.5m for Paris dealOr you can find it on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play or TuneIn. Follow Political Climate on Twitter @Poli_Climate.
President Trump is considering the use of a Cold War-era defense act to shore up struggling coal and nuclear power plants, something the administration argues is essential to U.S. national security. But critics say this is the government picking winners and losers for political purposes. Republicans repeatedly slammed President Obama for investing taxpayer dollars in clean energy technologies during his tenure. Obama even invoked the Defense Production Act, the same law Trump is looking to use, to justify testing biofuels in the Navy. Was he picking winners and losers too? Or was he investing in the next generation of American competitiveness? In this episode of Political Climate we debate who is picking favorites in the energy space, and how solar was a loser in the roll out of Trump’s protectionist trade agenda. We also touch on the unusually tight Arizona special election, where Democrat Hiral Tipirneni came within a few points of upsetting Republican Debbie Lesko in a deep red district. Did the candidates’ views on climate change play a role in the outcome? Next, we discuss the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, which recently added two new members. Does the group represent an honest effort to combat climate change? Or is it political greenwashing? In our final section, “If you can’t say something nice,” our Republican and Democrat co-hosts share something they recently found redeeming about the opposing party. Recommended reading:AZ Central: Here's where West Valley congressional candidates stand on climate changeCitizens’ Climate Lobby: What is the Climate Solutions Caucus?Bloomberg: Trump's Latest Plan for Saving Coal Comes From the Cold WarGTM: The Trumpian Politics Behind SunPower’s Planned Purchase of SolarWorld USAGTM: New Bipartisan Legislation Would Repeal Trump’s Solar TariffsTime 100: Scott PruittOr you can find it on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play or TuneIn. Follow Political Climate on Twitter @Poli_Climate.
House Speaker Paul Ryan announced last week that he won't seek reelection in 2018. His decision will have major consequences for the Republican Party — and potentially for climate and energy policy. In the second episode of GTM’s new podcast Political Climate, co-host Shane Skelton, former energy adviser to Paul Ryan, explains why losing the Wisconsin lawmaker's leadership in Congress will be bad for advancing environmental legislation. Next, we tackle the controversy surrounding EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. We’ve seen the reports of his $25,000 phone booth (later revealed to be more like $43,000), first-class plane tickets, and a $50-per-night apartment linked to energy lobbyists. Equally troubling, employees were reportedly sidelined for questioning Pruitt. Kevin Chmielewski, a Trump supporter who served as deputy chief of staff for operations at EPA, felt compelled to notify Congressional staff of Pruitt's spending habits. Where there other ethical missteps? Podcast co-host Brandon Hurlbut, a former White House staffer to President Obama, thinks a whistleblower situation means there's more to come. If Pruitt is ultimately removed, his new second in command, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, could take the helm of the EPA. If he does, what will that mean for the environment agency? Finally, we discuss the nomination of Mike Pompeo, President Trump’s new pick to lead the State Department, and what his leadership could mean for U.S. climate action. Recommended reading:ABC: House Speaker Paul Ryan says he will leave Congress in January: 'I have given this job everything I have'NYT: E.P.A. Officials Sidelined After Questioning Scott PruittCNN: Former Inhofe aide Wheeler confirmed as EPA's No. 2Quartz: Mike Pompeo is warming up to manmade climate changeGTM: How Will Climate and Energy Play Into the 2018 Election?Subscribe to the Political Climate podcast via Apple Podcasts. Look out for us soon on all other platforms!
The November midterm election is coming up fast. It could trigger a major power shift with both the House and Senate up for grabs. Will energy and climate be voting issues in 2018? Recent Gallup polling shows the partisan divide is widening over human-caused climate change. At the same time, a majority of Americans say they prioritize environmental protection over energy production, and favor clean energy resources over fossil fuels. How candidates respond to these trends could influence whether Democrats take control of Congress or if Republicans hold on to the legislative branch. In the inaugural episode of Political Climate we discuss how energy and environment issues fit into the broader political landscape, at a time of intense political division and high stakes for the nation. Co-hosts Brandon Hurlbut, former chief-of-staff to DOE Secretary Steven Chu, and Shane Skelton, former energy adviser to Representative Paul Ryan, offer insider perspectives on how policy decisions get made -- and the political interests driving them. We cover past clashes over the Keystone XL pipeline and Solyndra, new controversies over EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Russia’s influence in energy. We discuss midterm races to watch and debate the potential influence of younger voters. We also address the recent Gallup polls and get a straight answer on why it’s so hard for Republicans to embrace a climate agenda. And we pose the question: Does it matter what someone believes if they’re willing to promote good policy? Recommended reading:Gallup: Global Warming Concern Steady Despite Some Partisan ShiftsGallup: U.S. Energy Concerns Low; Increasing Supply Not a PriorityCNN: EPA Chief Scott Pruitt’s long list of controversiesShane Skelton biography Brandon Hurlbut biography Julia Pyper biography