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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

The far left corners of the Democratic party and environmental movement held an event Wednesday night to launch Fossil Free USA, a campaign urging America to transition entirely away from oil, natural gas and coal, with no regard to the reality that the global economy remains heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

That follows Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, where President Trump said America is forging ahead with its fossil-fuel dominance, with no regard to the serious problem of climate change.

My thought bubble: It’s like they’re two ships not passing, but colliding in the night. Trump’s backers say the far left and their alarmist messaging pushes them away from acknowledging climate change, while the far left is fed up with decades of delay and neglect of climate change.

There’s no public dialogue between the two extremes while a quieter middle tries to get something done, to little avail yet. Meanwhile, we keep burning fossil fuels unabated, climate change is getting worse and most people don’t care.

Washington usually operates in black and white political terms, but it’s times like these — rhetoric-rich, substance-poor State of the Union moments — where things crystallize. Energy and climate is one of the biggest policy areas where leaders of both parties have almost no common ground:

  • Democrats want to do something, but they can’t agree on what. Their response to Trump’s Tuesday address didn’t even mention climate change.
  • Conservatives are fighting with each other over whether to publicly acknowledge basic climate science. No elected congressional Republicans are advocating doing anything about it.

The upshot: Congress hasn’t passed a standalone energy bill in more than a decade, it’s never passed a climate bill and there isn’t any policy on the immediate horizon. A stubborn trend underlies this. Climate change ranks as the second-to-last priority among nearly 20 by respondents in this Pew Research poll released a couple weeks ago. It’s also the most polarized issue.

The bottom line: Extreme partisanship + very low voter priority = perfect recipe for deep political stalemate, which is what we have here.

Go deeper

Updated 8 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 — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  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

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

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.

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