OVERNIGHT ENERGY: The looming House climate markup

- “Has anybody studied what the temperatures were during the period in history known as the ‘great optimum,’ which led to the rise of the Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures. That was a time in history of global warming. We know that. But how hot did it get? Obviously those were things that led to the rise of our earliest civilizations.”

- “At some point, I’d like to have somebody look at the ‘lesser optimum,’ which is closer in time. How much did the temperature rise then? We know that that led to the Vikings dominating Europe for several hundred years. And where the ice cap in the North is melting, we’re now finding evidence of Viking habitation in those areas.”

- “Can somebody answer the question of why are the ice caps on Mars melting. Both NASA and National Geographic have reports on this. Is it in fact a shift in the orbit of Mars or is it that the sun is putting out more radiant heat?”

- “Why 40 years ago, when I was in elementary and middle school, were we taught that an increase in greenhouse gases was going to lead to a new ice age?"

“These are questions that I, believe it or not, lie awake at night trying to figure out,” Griffith said.

Lawmakers use medical metaphors to bolster their positions on climate

House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking Democrat Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.) started a trend at a hearing Tuesday when he compared science showing that the world is warming to a cancer diagnosis by a doctor.

Waxman accused Republicans of cherry picking scientists who are skeptical of climate science to support their own positions on the issue.

“If my doctor told me I had cancer, I wouldn’t scour the country to find someone to tell me that I don’t need to worry about it,” Waxman said. “Just because I didn’t feel gravely ill yet, I wouldn’t assume that my doctor was falsifying the data.”

But Republicans pushed back against Waxman’s comments throughout the hearing, arguing that finding climate skeptics in the scientific community is more akin to “getting a second opinion.” 

The scientific consensus is that global warming is occurring and it's caused in large part by human beings.

Bingaman introduces ‘mini-nuke’ bill

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), along with Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), introduced legislation Tuesday that would provide incentives for the development of small-module nuclear reactors or “mini-nukes.”

The bill outlines an Energy Department framework for developing the reactors, which must be under 300 megawatts.

The bill comes as President Obama has zeroed in on nuclear as one way of lowering the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Bingaman is working with Obama to establish a “clean energy standard” requiring that 80 percent of the country's electricity come from low-carbon sources like nuclear by 2035.

Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget request also includes money for “mini-nuke” research.

Natural gas regulators coming to the Capitol

Reps. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) and Tim Murphy (R-Penn.), the co-chairmen of the House Natural Gas Caucus, will host natural gas regulators from various states for a Congressional staff briefing on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking," Wednesday.

The briefing comes just a week after The New York Times published a series of investigative stories on the potential health hazards of fracking, in which water, sand and chemicals are pumped into the ground to loosen valuable natural gas deposits.

The regulators will discuss a number of issues addressed by the Times stories, including radioactive materials and water quality issues.

Busy agenda slows work on oil spill liability bill

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said a busy schedule has slowed work on offshore oil spill liability legislation that she’s crafting with Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and other lawmakers.

“We are still working on it, we have honestly gotten a little sidetracked on it, but we are still working on it,” she said in the Capitol Tuesday. “There are other issues that have popped up, but we are still in discussions, we will see what we can do.”

Asked about the time frame for floating a bill, Landrieu said, “We are still hoping some time in the next week or two.” But she said she's busy with ongoing budget battles and bills she’s steering through the Small Business Committee (which she heads).

“Other things have crowded the agenda,” Landrieu said. Landrieu and Begich are trying to craft a bill that would raise current limits while creating a shared insurance pool aimed at protecting small and mid-sized oil companies.

Rogers, Capito float bill to thwart EPA on coal permits

Reps. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) introduced a bill Tuesday that would curtail the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to delay or veto permits for coal mining projects.

It’s the House version of legislation introduced last week by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The measures are the latest attack on what lawmakers from Appalachian coal-producing states call undue EPA delays and limits on mountaintop removal mining projects.

The bills would give EPA a 60-day deadline to veto Clean Water Act permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or else they will go forward. They also prevent EPA from “retroactively” vetoing permits. Coal industry advocates were furious when EPA in January nixed a permit for Arch Coal’s Spruce No. 1 mine in West Virginia after the large project won approval from the Corps in 2007. If passed, it would apply retroactively to undo EPA’s veto.

“The EPA has no right to arbitrarily revoke previously approved permits in the name of advancing an anti-coal agenda. Intentionally delaying the approval process has led to a slow-bleed of jobs throughout Appalachia at a time when we should be focusing on making it easier for businesses to stay afloat,” said Capito, the co-founder of the Congressional Coal Caucus, in a statement.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY:

Salazar, Take IV

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will make his fourth public appearance on Capitol Hill in the last week.

He will testify before the panel of the Senate Appropriations Committee that control the Interior Department’s budget, providing another opportunity for thrust-and-parry with lawmakers on issues including offshore oil drilling and Interior’s wilderness policies.

AROUND THE WEB:

BP CEO apologizes, calls for industry-wide changes

There’s coverage aplenty of BP CEO Robert Dudley’s remarks at the big Cambridge Energy Research Associates conference in Houston.

He’s sorry about the oil spill, Reuters reports, noting he “issued an industry-wide apology for the worst offshore spill in U.S. history at a high-profile energy conference on Tuesday.”

"This is the first chance I have had to address such a large gathering of industry colleagues and the first thing I want to say is that I am sorry for what happened last year," Dudley said, according to the wire service.

And he called for industry-wide changes, The New York Times reports.

“In his first public address to oil industry executives since becoming chief of BP, Robert Dudley said the entire industry needed to change to prevent another devastating deepwater oil spill like the one BP suffered last year,” their report states.

It adds: “'I think it would be a mistake to dismiss our experience of the last year simply as a ‘Black Swan,’ a one-in-a-million occurrence that carries no wider application for our industry as a whole,' Mr. Dudley told oil executives at a conference here. 'I believe the industry also has a responsibility to change.' "

CEOs bullish on oil supplies

“Top executives from some of the world's biggest energy companies on Tuesday said global oil supply is plentiful in spite of Libyan supply disruptions, and urged U.S. policymakers not to tap strategic oil stockpiles,” Reuters reports.

“At the high-profile CERAWeek energy conference sponsored by IHS CERA, chief executives from French oil major Total SA, U.S.-based Hess Corp and Kuwait Petroleum Corp warned against a knee-jerk reaction to fighting in Libya, which has idled two-thirds of the African OPEC member country's oil output,” their piece adds.

Upton backs probe of Energy Department loan guarantees

“Lax record-keeping at the U.S. Energy Department underscores the need for an investigation into the agency’s loan guarantees for clean-energy projects, the head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said,” Bloomberg reports.

“The Energy Department’s inspector general said in a report released yesterday that the department’s loan guarantees haven’t met U.S. standards for record-keeping,” the story states.

It adds: “'The lack of accountability identified by the IG is exactly why Congress is investigating this loan program,’ Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican who heads the energy panel, said today in an e-mailed statement.”

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

Here’s a quick roundup of Tuesday’s E2 stories:

- Rising gas prices are creating political problems for President Obama.

- A Tea Party senator said Obama is pushing a ‘suicidal’ energy policy.

- A top Republican on the House Energy panel steered clear of blasting climate science.

- A group that promotes clean freshwater is growing.

- The Department of Energy defended Energy Secretary Chu from GOP attacks.

- Democrats said Styrofoam cups now used in the House could cause cancer.

- House Republicans will vote on a bill to block EPA climate rules in a subcommittee Thursday.

- Senators are hoping that a bipartisan energy bill ‘gang’ will be revived.

- House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) opposes tapping U.S. oil reserves.

- And House Republicans are arguing that blocking EPA climate rules will prevent an increase in gas prices.

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

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