To understand why President Obama would want to bypass Congress when crafting a plan to address climate change, one need only look at Congress itself.
Take the latest battle over spending for fiscal year 2014. With House lawmakers unable to agree on how to start a negotiations process for a budget, they are once again crafting individual appropriations bills to message their issues.
The latest message coming from the House is loud and clear.
Late last month, the House Appropriations Committee approved a Republican spending bill for energy and water that would cut renewable energy and energy efficiency programs by $911 million -- including an 81 percent funding cut for ARPA-E, the Department of Energy's research arm for developing innovative clean energy technologies. (When ARPA-E's deputy director told GTM she was worried the agency would "get lost" amidst Congressional wrangling over the budget, she wasn't joking.)
Republicans said the cuts were designed to target "lower-priority or unnecessary programs, including many within the DOE."
However, while ARPA-E funding for clean energy was cut by $215 million, the spending bill provided $450 million for fossil fuel R&D and $656 million for nuclear R&D. It also increased spending on nuclear weapons programs to $7.7 billion.
As lawmakers voted on that energy spending bill, House Republicans circulated another draft messaging bill -- this one featuring a plan to build a colony on Mars.
“The [NASA] Administrator shall establish a program to develop a sustained human presence on the Moon and the surface of Mars,” read the draft document on funding America's space programs.
Possible price tag when completed: between $250 billion and $500 billion.
The reauthorization language under consideration wouldn't require the government to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to immediately build a colony on the moon and Mars. Instead, it outlined a "pay-as-you-go" plan that would fund the program in chunks, as the money becomes available.
Meanwhile, the bill would cut funding for NASA climate change research back to 2008 levels in order to "balance" the science portfolio.
In reality, these bills probably won't matter much. The House and Senate will likely not be able to agree on spending levels, which will force Congress to pass yet another continuing resolution to keep the government running. But the bills do shed light on the energy priorities of Republican leaders in the House.
In his State of the Union address and recent climate speech at Georgetown University, President Obama criticized Congress for its inability to act on climate change. So instead of working with them, Obama has decided to work around them.
"I urged Congress to come up with a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one that Republican and Democratic senators worked on together a few years ago. And I still want to see that happen. I'm willing to work with anyone to make that happen. But this is a challenge that does not pause for partisan gridlock. It demands our attention now," said Obama in his speech last week.
There were mixed reviews about how effective the president's climate plan will be without a market price on carbon -- a policy that needs to be established by Congress.
But with a colony on Mars and the moon, at least a small number of people will have a place to go when the Earth heats up. No word yet on if the bases will hostsolarpanels.