Guest: Climate and energy journalist David Roberts of Volts...
By Brad Friedman on 8/12/2022, 5:21pm PT  

On some days, there is more huge news than others. This is about 10 of those days. With not one, but two absolute blockbuster stories jammed into today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show posted below this summary.]

On Friday, a federal judge unsealed the warrant obtained by the FBI and DOJ to search Trump's Mar-a-Lago compound for classified documents earlier this week. We have now learned that law enforcement officials collected some 11 sets of classified documents from the former President's Florida residence on Monday. Several of them were marked "TOP SECRET/SCI" (Sensitive Compartmented Information), the highest level of security classification. That's an even higher level of secrecy than merely "Top Secret". In all, agents collected four sets of "top secret" docs, three sets of "secret" docs and three marked "confidential", the lowest classification. (The latter, akin to the classification level of a handful of emails sent to Hillary Clinton's private email server when she served as Sec. of State.)

It is currently unknown if any of the sensitive and highly classified documents regarded nuclear secrets or not, as Washington Post reported exclusively on Thursday night.

But the arguably larger blockbuster part of this news is the specific crimes detailed in the warrant, for which DOJ officials sought it in the first place and for which they were required to show "probable cause" to the federal judge. Specially, the warrant reveals that Trump was being investigated for at least three different violations of the United States criminal code. As the Times' Charlie Savage summarizes: "Section 793, better known as the Espionage Act, which covers the unlawful retention of defense-related information that could harm the United States or aid a foreign adversary; Section 1519, which covers destroying or concealing documents to obstruct government investigations or administrative proceedings; and Section 2071, which covers the unlawful removal of government records."

"Notably," Savage adds, "none of those laws turn on whether information was deemed to be unclassified." That is important, of course, because the Trumpers have been claiming over the last day or so that the disgraced former President declassified all the materials before he stole them from the White House. In fact, whether he did or didn't (and that is likely to be of MUCH dispute), it may not matter when prosecuting the Espionage Act, as well as Obstruction, and the Unlawful Removal of Government Documents.

For the record, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were put to death in 1953 for violations of the Espionage Act.

While all of that is blockbuster enough for one show, receiving much less coverage today is a another of arguably even greater consequence: Democrats (and ONLY Democrats) in the U.S. House on Friday passed the Inflation Reduction Act, including a landmark $370 billion investment to battle climate change. It is the largest such single investment in history by any nation. Moreover the Act includes a ton of other longtime progressive priorities, such as the ability to negotiate Medicare drug prices with Big Pharma, price caps on prescriptions for the elderly, the expansion of Obamacare premium subsidies, new taxes on hugely profitable corporations currently paying zero in taxes and much more. It even puts hundreds of billions toward deficit reduction.

The historic measure, the central pillar of Joe Biden and the Democrats' economic agenda, was passed last weekend in the Senate, also with zero Republican votes, and now heads to the President for his signature.

We are joined today by the great DAVID ROBERTS, who has spent too many years writing about the confluence of politics, climate and energy for many different publications. He now publishes the Volts newsletter and podcast after having joined us at various times over the past 15 years or so to discuss climate matters and what, until now, had been a bevy of failed federal climate and energy policies. Today, however, for the first time, we've got something very real to celebrate which, he suggests, is likely to be a game changer in the fight to mitigate climate change.

"The shortest way to put it," he tells me, in response to my request for his top-line reaction to this bill, "If you recall Obama's stimulus bill, it contained about $90 billion for clean energy. That bill is responsible for kicking off an absolute firestorm of growth in both those markets [solar and wind], basically helping to bring their costs down below fossil fuels and revolutionizing the US energy landscape. That was $90 billion mostly on wind and solar. Now we're talking about $370 BILLION on wind, solar, hydrogen, batteries, go on down the list. So just the math of it, this is going to spur another revolution in US energy."

We discuss the various mechanisms by which this sprawling new law will reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 which he sees as likely a minimum of cuts in the deadly pollution driving our worsening climate crisis. All of which, he describes as "miraculous," given the surprising way it all came about just days ago.

"As you know, about a week ago we were staring in the face of a big goose egg from Congress, a big nothing," Roberts recalls. But that changed when Majority Leader Chuck Schumer struck a deal after secret negotiations with, of all people, Sen. Joe Manchin from the coal state of West Virginia. "So this really is the difference between almost total failure on climate and something very close to the level of success that I would have hoped for and dreamed for."

Roberts walks through several of the key points in the bill that he believes will make the greatest difference in our efforts to cut emissions at the federal as well as state and local level.

"One of the most important aspects of this bill is the transformative effects it's going to have on our political economy. It's going to change politics," he argues. "I like to draw the analogy with the defense industry in the US. They are horrific and evil, but they are very savvy in one way, which is that they spread their investments across all 50 states. So then you have 50 states defending defense spending --- which is obnoxious, but it's a good strategy." It's one that he believes will now be echoed in the renewable energy industry, making it much harder to kill in the future, even in --- and, perhaps especially in --- "red" states.

Roberts also concurs with the explanation climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann offered on this show earlier this week, when explained how the bill's incentives work, largely by turning "carrots" (financial incentives) to encourage renewable energy production into "sticks" that will ultimately take down the deadly fossil fuel industry now that they will face real, cleaner and cheaper competition.

"It's a giant bag of carrots," Roberts quips. "The idea, the theory of change, is that these carrots will accelerate the development of renewable energy even further, even faster, and it's going to undercut the economics of fossil fuels even further, even faster. And so fossil fuels are just going to lose on the market." He goes on to add this key point: "One of the things the models find is this bill is going to cause a net reduction in US demand for oil and gasoline for the first time ever. Ever!"

Of course, there are some progressives who have been critical of the bill's giveaways to the fossil fuel industry, included in the 755-page measure in order to win the needed 50th vote in the Senate of Joe Manchin. Those measures "suck," Roberts concurs, even as many on the left have been (purposely?) misinformed about some of those provisions.

"In the grand scheme of things, in the big picture, they are relatively marginal compared to the massive, massive boost that this is going to give clean energy, and the massive amount of emissions it's going to reduce. There is no credible argument otherwise. This is absolutely a net win."

So, yeah. An absolutely historic day --- on at least two remarkable stories...

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