President Joe Biden is reportedly considering declaring a national climate emergency as soon as this week to activate powers that would let him regulate fossil fuels without congressional authorization, according to the Washington Post.
“The president made clear that if the Senate doesn’t act to tackle the climate crisis and strengthen our domestic clean energy industry, he will,” a White House official told the Post. “We are considering all options and no decision has been made.”
The emergency facing Democrats is that there are not enough votes in the U.S. Senate to pass Biden's climate alarmist agenda. Most recently, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) sank an expansive spending bill last week that would have spent billions of dollars on subsidizing green energy initiatives and cutting carbon emissions. Manchin said he was concerned about the inflationary pressures another massive spending bill would put on the economy at a time where high prices are the number one concern for most Americans.
But Democrats fear that Biden will be unable to deliver on his campaign promise of cutting U.S. emissions roughly by half by the end of this decade without congressional action. Lawmakers have urged the president to take matters into his own hands before the midterm elections in November, when Republicans are widely expected to win back control of one or both houses of Congress.
“This is an important moment. There is probably nothing more important for our nation and our world than for the United States to drive a bold, energetic transition in its energy economy from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told reporters on Monday.
Merkley and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) urged the president to take executive actions, saying that such a move would "unchain" Biden from waiting for Congress to pass legislation.
'"I've talked to the White House about going on offense and being aggressive and doing all the things that it is within the executive powers to do that have not so far been done," Whitehouse said, though the senators did not get into specifics.
According to the Washington Post, climate activists have urged Biden to use executive powers to halt exports of crude oil, limit oil and gas drilling in federal waters, and direct federal agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency to spend taxpayer dollars subsidizing renewable-energy sources.
But the Biden administration risks making inflated gas prices worse if it cracks down oil and gas production. Gas prices have fallen nearly 50 cents per gallon over the last thirty days, for which the White House has taken credit, citing Biden's decision to open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and use diplomacy to encourage U.S. allies to produce more oil.
Taking executive actions that would limit domestic oil production could reverse that trend. While anti-fossil fuel activists may cheer for higher gas prices, most Americans feeling the squeeze of inflation would suffer for it and that would not help the Democrats at the ballot box.
Another consideration for the White House is that any executive actions taken by the president are sure to be challenged in court. Lawsuits seeking to block Biden's policies could tie up the administration in court, delaying the government's response to what Democrats consider an emergency situation.
"While I strongly support additional executive action by President Biden, we know a flood of Republican lawsuits will follow," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Monday. "Legislation continues to be the best option here.”
He called for senators to continue to look for compromise on climate legislation, which Manchin has supported despite his reservations about inflation.
“Conversations on clean energy must continue to preserve our options to move forward,” he said.
Meanwhile, the White House is keeping its options open.
Jared Bernstein, a top White House economic adviser, told reporters Monday that the president will "aggressively fight to attack climate change."
“I think realistically there is a lot he can do and there is a lot he will do,” Bernstein said.