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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Biden administration and allied climate activists are hoping to transform today's relatively high energy costs from a political risk into an asset as they push for passage of sweeping climate legislation.

Driving the news: Axios got the first look at a new ad buy premiering in the D.C. media market today from the group Evergreen Action.

"Want lower energy bills? Congress must pass the Build Back Better Act, a bill which invests in affordable, American-made clean energy," the ad states.

  • It claims, citing the think tank RMI, that the measures, which include billions in tax and other incentives for renewables, would save power companies and consumers billions of dollars annually by 2030.
  • It's part of a six-figure buy that will include video, display and search ads targeted at policymakers.

Catch up fast: It's the latest attempt by Democrats to win huge new investments for renewable power, electric vehicles and other clean energy on a party-line vote.

  • On Dec. 11, Heather Boushey, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, noted on Twitter that the latest Consumer Price Index showed energy prices account for one-third of higher costs facing working-class families.
  • She pointed to the legislation's energy efficiency measures and policies that would result in aggressive deployment of renewable sources, in particular, as ways to "help ease energy price increases in the future."
  • Cabinet members, including Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, have also noted that spending money on renewable resources, such as offshore wind, will yield cheaper electricity for consumers.

Yes, but: Republican lawmakers and energy industry groups argue that provisions in the House-passed version of the bill would raise energy costs by making it more expensive to produce and use fossil fuels.

  • In addition, the recent energy supply crunch that has hit Europe especially hard demonstrates that the transition to clean energy sources may be turbulent and could result in higher costs to consumers at times.

Threat level: Democrats also say that by cutting emissions, the bill would reduce the toll from extreme weather events.

  • Collin O'Mara, president of the National Wildlife Federation, told reporters yesterday that the cost of inaction "isn't getting enough attention," pointing to extreme weather costs in lives and economic damages.

Context: The ad buy and Democratic pushback on the energy price effects of Build Back Better come after the White House has been on the defensive for months over energy prices, particularly gasoline.

  • The Biden administration is undertaking the largest-ever release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to try to bolster global supplies and reduce prices.
  • In a Tuesday blog post, the White House touted falling prices at the pump, a trend helped by global market conditions and COVID-related developments.

Go deeper

Biden's epic failures

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

In the two months since signing the $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law, President Biden has by almost every measure bombed big time on the things that matter most.

The big picture: Biden, who marks one year in office next Thursday, has never been less popular nationally, after personally lobbying his party and the public on Build Back Better and voting rights — and failing.

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.