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Photo: Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images

A centrist Democratic group says the party has botched its climate and energy strategy for many years — with dire consequences at the ballot box — and should offer a vision that embraces the nation's fracking boom alongside renewables and efficiency.

The big picture: The group, New Democracy, has a new paper today that says President Trump and Republicans have overplayed their hands with "nihilistic" stances on climate and coal, creating a political opening that Democrats can exploit — if they learn from the past.

  • The paper comes ahead of a daylong, multi-issue symposium the group is holding in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.
  • New Democracy's director is Will Marshall, who decades ago co-founded the now-defunct Democratic Leadership Council that became a platform for party moderates like then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton.
"Legitimately concerned about climate change, many top Democrats have simply lost a realistic perspective on domestic energy politics, and especially the major economic and environmental value of the shale oil and gas boom."
— Paul Bledsoe, an adviser to the group who worked on climate in the Clinton White House

Why it matters now: The paper is a window into the larger positioning and tensions — which were on display well before the 2016 cycle — that Democrats face in crafting climate positions for the 2018 midterms and beyond.

  • "All Democrats have serious approaches to climate change, but shale gas is key to decarbonization and economic growth in most places, so supporting its critical for Democrats to take purple districts. We must be a big tent party to win," Bledsoe tells Axios.

One level deeper: The paper highlights the shale oil-and-gas boom that took flight during the Obama years, which has helped lower U.S. CO2 emissions as cheap gas has increasingly displaced coal in power markets.

  • Bledsoe argues that many in the party have distanced themselves from the "shale windfall," ceding ground to Republicans and giving the "false impression" that most Democratic lawmakers agree with "keep it in the ground" advocates.
  • It says a mix of technologies — including renewables, nuclear, carbon capture and electric vehicles — and revived regulations can put the country on a path to achieving emissions cuts of 90% by 2050, and breakthroughs in storage and other tech could bring deep decarbonization faster.
  • "Regarding nuclear power, carbon capture and storage, and other extremely valuable energy and climate policies, many Democrats have consistently ceded their rhetoric and policy approaches to extremist environmental advocates," the paper states.
  • It argues that Democrats must "stop outsourcing energy messaging to often-elitist environmental advocates who are painfully out of touch with the concerns of average Americans."

What's next: The paper says that, going forward, Democrats should embrace the idea of "American Energy Abundance and Climate Protection," and offers a 20-point political guide for how to talk about the topic.

Go deeper

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
Updated 4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Janet Yellen co-opts Reaganomics phrase for new Davos speech

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at a speech this week. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. needs to focus on increasing its productive potential, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told world leaders Friday, calling for what she terms "modern supply side economics."

Why it matters: She co-opted a phrase traditionally used by political conservatives to describe low-tax and deregulatory policies — and framed the Biden administration's initiatives as the best path forward to achieve greater national prosperity.