President Joe Biden

Peter Dykstra: Biden’s burden

President Biden’s first year ends with a lump of coal in his stocking, courtesy of the Senior Senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin.


A lifelong Democrat, Manchin may have made himself a lifelong pariah in his own party by waylaying the centerpiece of Biden’s domestic policy, a trillion-dollar-plus “Build Back Better.”

But is there any hope it will get better in the New Year?

Four political factors loom in 2022

Okay, let’s not BS each other. Like most Americans, I don’t have a high regard for either party. But their differences are huge on the environment—which, if you’ll pardon the cheap punditry, will make November 2, 2022, a huge day for environmental values, policies, and practices.

With the convergence of four factors, the Republicans are poised to capture both the House and Senate in November.

1. Voters’ behavior

​With few exceptions, the opposition party routinely gains seats in midterms. Often, control of the Speaker’s gavel does, too: Newt Gingrich and the GOP in 1994; Nancy Pelosi in 2007 and again in 2017; John Boehner in 2010. Biden’s approval numbers are low, and the Democrats’ margin is only nine seats. In the Senate, there actually is no margin at all.

 2. Democrats’ flight

Twenty-three House Democrats—an unusually large number in a body where incumbents often assume their own reelection—are leaving. Several would have been reelection underdogs if they ran again.

3. Gerrymandering

Every 10 years, the new census numbers prompt state-level shifts in Congressional district boundaries. The Republicans control more legislatures, and truth be told, they’ve traditionally been better (or more ruthless) about drawing more districts to favor themselves.

4. Voting rights

Some of those Democratic legislatures have altered laws and policies designed to make voting easier—extended hours, weekend advanced voting hours, mail-in and absentee voting and more—on the theory that more convenient election rules also favor poor, elderly and minority voters who, in turn, tend to favor Democrats.

Meanwhile, many Republican-controlled legislatures are working overtime to enact voting restrictions.

So a 2022 turn in Congress would hurt any continued environmental reform by Biden. Without a turnabout in his fading popularity, the Dems would have the options of offering a nearly 82-year-old guy or an untested woman or man to face Trump or an equally untested candidate.

But one more thing about the President: Climate change is distinctly more personal thing for him.

His home state, Delaware, is the lowest-lying of the 50. The Bidens own a home in Rehoboth Beach, a few blocks from an increasingly menacing ocean. The main entrance to the newly-renamed Joseph R. Biden Station on his beloved Amtrak is about six feet above sea level (for now), according to the ever-approximately accurate Google Earth. The state’s highest point above sea level is a hill so modest it doesn’t even have its own name. In worst-case sea level rise, Delaware could see a proportionally bigger loss than any other state.

So here comes 2022. After a miserable 2020 and a disappointing 2021, we shall see. Cheers!

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher Environmental Health Sciences.

Banner photo: President Joe Biden

After a late year setback, President Biden faces an uphill battle heading into the 2022 midterms.

Why Biden's push to boost refining is unlikely to move oil companies

Companies see only headaches on the horizon for refineries, undercutting the White House push to boost production.
Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

Fire-plagued New Mexico faces excessive monsoon rain

The rain should help the fire situation but could lead to dangerous flash flooding and landslides.

Forest Service failed to account for climate change before prescribed burn in New Mexico

The Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire has become the latest flashpoint in the debate over prescribed burns meant to reduce the risk of disastrous wildfires.

Finding traces of Harriet Tubman on Maryland's Eastern Shore

A historian marks the 200th birthday of a fearless conductor of the Underground Railroad with a visit to her birthplace, only to learn how climate change is washing away memories of “the ultimate outdoors woman.”

Red flags for forced labor found in China's car battery supply chain

Ties to potentially coercive labor practices could prove a problem for an industry that is heavily dependent on China, once a new law barring Xinjiang products goes into effect.
Global Warming: Why the problem is worse – and solutions simpler – than you thought

Global Warming: Why the problem is worse – and solutions simpler – than you thought

How do you cut through the fog around climate change and get to a solution?

Keep reading...Show less
From our Newsroom
Colorado fracking

Colorado is the first state to ban PFAS in oil and gas extraction

The toxic “forever chemicals” are used in fracking wells across the country.

gun control

Peter Dykstra: Gun and climate change delusions

Millions here suffer from twin hallucinations: Guns don’t cause our mass shootings, and the climate isn’t changing.

Op-ed: An engine for social justice leads the way to change

Engine for social justice leads to change

Virginia Organizing's 27-year history as a role model for The Daily Climate

Using comedy to combat climate change

Using comedy to combat climate change

The Climate Comedy Cohort aims to help comedians infuse climate activism into their creative work.

roe v. wade

Derrick Z. Jackson: Roe v. Wade draft bodes ill for air, wetlands and the EPA

Justice Alito’s longstanding consistency in wanting to restrict EPA authority makes it transparent where he wants the court to go.

solar power schools

Solar power at Pennsylvania schools doubled during the pandemic

“If this growth continues, schools could set Pennsylvania up as a clean energy leader and not just the fossil fuels we’re known for.”

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.