Stories by Robert Johnston

Expert Voices

The Green New Deal may finally bring climate change to center stage

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks as Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) (R) listens during a news conference
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) unveiling their Green New Deal resolution in front of the U.S. Capitol, on Feb. 7, 2019. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Amid the announcement of the Green New Deal (GND) resolution on Thursday, critics have been quick to characterize the policy as quixotic and extreme. But GND supporters are far from alone in advocating for a radical transformation of the global energy system, nor are such efforts confined to the left wing of the Democrat congressional caucus.

The big picture: In comparison to the rest of the world, Washington has been uniquely slow to recognize and address the threat of climate change. The GND, regardless of whether it comes to fruition, seems poised to force a conversation in the Capitol that other governments and the private sector have been holding for a long time.

Expert Voices

Trump shifting U.S. oil policy to "consumer first"

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) embraces Energy Secretary Rick Perry after Trump delivered remarks
President Trump and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool via Getty Images

President Trump took credit again this week for lowering oil prices over the past two months. Oil markets are clearly reacting to his tweets and public comments, which have become a new source of price volatility.

The big picture: Trump’s ongoing campaign against higher oil prices marks a shift from Republican oil policy in the Bush era, which generally relied more on markets to respond to high prices. Despite the presence of oil-friendly cabinet members such as Rick Perry and Ryan Zinke, Trump has aimed to keep prices low.

Expert Voices

Even as stakes rise for energy policy, voter worries ease

Customers pull their cars into a gas station in the Bronx, where gas prices have been raised to over $ 3.00 per gallon, June 1, 2018 in New York.
Customers pull their cars into a gas station in the Bronx on June 1, 2018. Photo: Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images

A key historic pattern that has traditionally shaped dynamics around U.S. energy policy and elections has all but disappeared heading into this year’s midterms. Robust U.S. shale gas and shale-oil production have greatly diminished voter concerns about energy availability and affordability — although a gasoline price spike could quickly rekindle them.

Why it matters: At the same time as voter focus on energy has declined, the two major parties have also developed a deeply polarized gap on climate policy, with only 18% of Republicans concerned a “great deal” about global warming compared to 66% of Democrats. These two factors together mean that the energy policy dynamic has now shifted firmly from Congressional production of complex and broad energy legislation — such as the comprehensive, “something for everyone” bills in 2005 and 2007 — to an increasingly complex, unpredictable and partisan dance between the executive branch, regulators, states and courts. This means that while the midterms won’t have a huge impact on the U.S. energy policy outlook, it will be at stake in 2020.

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