OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Energy interests use Libyan unrest to push their agendas

Libyan State of Play: The Libyan turmoil that sent oil prices briefly into triple digits Wednesday is intensifying political maneuvering on energy policy in Washington.

Various lawmakers and interest groups are highlighting the crises in North Africa and the Middle East, the specter of high gasoline prices, or both, to call attention to their favored policies.

The ethanol trade group Growth Energy plans to hold a conference call Thursday with retired Gen. Wesley Clark, its co-chair.

Growth Energy is battling anti-ethanol provisions in House-passed spending legislation, including language that blocks a federal program to phase in higher blends of ethanol in gasoline.

“Many Americans are still looking for work, and are living close to the edge. Yet some in Congress would have us continue a policy that would keep us addicted to foreign oil – even as political upheaval in the Mid East and North Africa push gas prices up to prediction of $5 a gallon,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis in a statement Wednesday.

Clark, however, won’t be the only former military official discussing energy policy Wednesday. The Energy Security Leadership Council will hold a conference call to discuss the “fast-moving events in the Middle East, the resulting increase in oil and gasoline prices, and the national security implications of these events.”

The group – which unites CEOs and ex-military brass – includes retired U.S. Air Force General Charles Wald, who is the former deputy commander of the U.S. European Command. The call will also feature former U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.).

The council is part of the group Securing America’s Future Energy, which backs a suite of policies to curb imports, including expanded offshore drilling, expanded deployment of electric vehicles, and several transportation policies aimed at cutting oil use.

Republicans and drill-state Democrats, meanwhile, have seized on the Middle Eastern turmoil to increase pressure on the Interior Department to resume permitting deepwater drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s not clear how the price spikes and Middle Eastern unrest will affect policymaking. But recent history shows that high prices influence on Capitol Hill.

Record oil and gasoline prices in the summer of 2008 led the Democratic Congress, under heavy pressure, to abandon longstanding annual bans on offshore oil-and-gas leasing that for decades covered both coasts.

Last year, before the BP oil spill, the White House floated a plan to sell oil-and-gas leases off the Atlantic Coast and, if Congress went along, more deeply into the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

The administration walked away from the plan in December. But drilling advocates are no doubt hoping that this year’s crises and high prices will prompt greater support on Capitol Hill and among the public for wider development.

NEWS BITES:

Poll shows majority of public opposes efforts to block EPA’s climate rules

A poll commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council finds that 58 percent of the public oppose efforts by House Republicans to block funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate regulations in a recently passed spending bill. The poll also says that an average of 66 percent of people polled in 19 congressional districts in which lawmakers voted in favor of the spending bill oppose the vote.

Report: World’s coral reefs are threatened

A report issued by the World Resources Institute Wednesday says 75 percent of the world’s coral reefs are “under threat” by climate change and ocean acidification.

“As the report makes clear, local and global threats, including climate change, are already having significant impacts on coral reefs, putting the future of these beautiful and valuable ecosystems at risk,” said Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in a statement.

ON TAP THURSDAY:

Salazar to tout 'Outdoors' initiative

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will speak at the Center for American Progress Thursday about the Obama administration's "America’s Great Outdoors" initiative to boost conservation and outdoor recreation.

NOAA official to make climate case

Mary Glackin, the deputy under secretary for operations at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, headlines an ICF Consulting breakfast on “Climate Change: Separating Fact from Fiction.”

Green buildings in focus

The Sustainable Buildings Industry Council will hold a pair of briefings – one on Capitol Hill, one at Catholic University –  that will “feature winning case studies from the 2010 Beyond Green High-Performance Building Awards.”

Innovating in power markets

The Compete Coalition will host a forum on innovation in competitive electricity markets that features Patricia Hoffman, who heads the Energy Department’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

E2 reported Wednesday on new EPA data that show greenhouse gas emissions fell during the recession. We also told you about a poll that found significant support for nuclear power.

Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), the chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s oversight panel, is planning hearings on climate science. And we previewed upcoming efforts by House Republicans to press the Obama administration on its offshore drilling policies amid the unrest in Libya. We also reported that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that the world economy can handle oil-price spikes.

Next, EPA issued regulations to limit harmful pollution from industrial boilers; the Interior Department approved holding the Solar Decathlon on the national mall; and the White House defended its “clean energy standard.”

Please send tips and comments to Ben Geman, ben.geman@thehill.com, and Andrew Restuccia,  arestuccia@thehill.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @E2Wire, @AndrewRestuccia.