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Tuesday, March 22, 2022
Congressional liberals press Biden to declare emergency and restrict fossil fuels
Liberals in Congress are pressing President Joe Biden to invoke emergency powers to push ahead with Democrats' climate change agenda and to put new restrictions on fossil fuels, even while gasoline remains at its highest per-gallon price on record.
With legislation stalled in Congress, the nearly 100-member Congressional Progressive Caucus released a slate of policy recommendations Thursday for Biden to pursue, calling on him to use executive action to deal with a list of topics his "Build Back Better" agenda sought to address, including the development of more green energy technologies and placement of restrictions on new fossil fuel production.
The executive action agenda calls for Biden to declare a national climate emergency, as well as to employ the Defense Production Act, which both Biden and former President Donald Trump have done under the aegis of COVID-19 to increase ventilator and vaccine supplies, in order to build more renewable energy technologies, such as solar panels and wind turbines.
It also calls for Biden to target the fossil fuel industry directly through a reinstitution of a ban on crude oil exports in response to high oil and gasoline prices, something Democrats began urging Biden to do in earnest back in November, and encourages the administration to ban new fossil fuel leases on federal lands and waters.
The caucus's agenda outline reflects the sense of urgency and impatience that many Democrats are feeling now that the party's flagship social spending and green energy plan lacks movement because of Sen. Joe Manchin's opposition to broader Democratic legislation.
Nearly 90 congressional Democrats, a number of whom are part of the Progressive Caucus, wrote Biden earlier this week and asked him to start up talks again with Congress about getting their climate change agenda passed.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin suggested earlier this week that chamber leadership isn't pursuing a revival of the agenda as it was.
“I’ve been burned by this stove enough times,” Durbin said. “I’m not going to grab it another time.”
Those comments sparked anger among environmentalists who have been lobbying for the Build Back Better agenda for a year. Jamal Raad, the head of Evergreen Action, said Durbin's comments reflected an "abdication of leadership in a moment where Democrats need to prove that they can deliver."
A group of 200 green groups wrote Biden on March 9, recommending similarly that he use the DPA to build renewables, as well as energy storage and efficiency technologies as a means of reducing demand for fossil fuels.
The Biden administration has maintained its line on the need to displace fossil fuels in favor of green energy, both to mitigate climate change and avoid price shocks associated with geopolitical upheaval. Officials, however, have been encouraging more oil production since crude prices shot up following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, frustrating environmentalists.