Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — Rich counties behind most ecological damage

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A new study is pinning nearly three-quarters of the blame for ecological damage on the world’s wealthiest countries, and the White House is saying a gasoline tax suspension is “on the table.” 

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here. 

Wealthy nations cause majority of eco harm: study

Wealthy nations are responsible for nearly three-quarters of ecological damage worldwide, according to research published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health.  

Researchers assigned responsibility by calculating fair shares of resources, subtracted from nations’ actual use of resources. 

What did the results say? They found the U.S. led with 27 percent of excess resource use, followed by the European Union with 25 percent. China, which is the overall largest emitter of greenhouse gases worldwide, was responsible for 15 percent of excess material use, according to the research. 

Meanwhile, nations in regions like the Caribbean and the Middle East, as well as low-income African and Latin American nations, collectively only comprised 8 percent of excess resource use.  

“These results indicate that rich countries owe an ecological debt to the rest of the world, and should lead the way in repairing the damages they have caused,” lead author Jason Hickel, a professor at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology in Barcelona, told The Hill in an email. “The first step is that they need to bring their resource use back within sustainable levels, which will require a 70% reduction on average from existing levels.” 

The study covered ecological damage other than climate change, but Hickel noted that the team had done prior research indicating similar breakdowns in responsibility. “When it comes to both of these crises, rich countries are overwhelmingly responsible for the problem and need to take the lead in addressing it,” he said.  

Read more about the study here. 

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PSAKI SAYS GASOLINE TAX PAUSE IS ‘ON THE TABLE’

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday a suspension of the federal gasoline tax on was “on the table,” but stopped short of endorsing the idea.  

“It is certainly on the table and certainly something we continue to consider,” she told reporters when asked about the tax.  

“Our primary focus to date as you well know has been taking steps to increase supply and get more supply into the global marketplace, but it remains an option under consideration.” 

Suspending the approximately 18 cents-per-gallon tax faces an uphill battle in Congress, as it has been pushed by vulnerable Democrats but has also faced bipartisan opposition.  

Previously, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield has said that the idea is “not off the table, in fact. The president is looking at every option to provide relief to consumers around gas prices.” 

Read more about the gas tax politics in a story from Rachel and The Hill’s Alex Gangitano published this week.

New Yorkers to get gas tax holiday 

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced Thursday that New Yorkers will get some relief from high prices at the pump, with a suspension in the state’s gas tax from June through the end of the year.  

Hochul delivered the news during a press conference on her $220 billion state budget, the terms of which had been under debate with state legislative leaders since she submitted her proposal in January

“We understand the necessity of stopping Russian oil from coming into our reserves,” the governor said. “And I applaud everything President Biden has done to show that we are willing to stand with the Ukrainian people, as they are under assault by a war criminal.” 

But now we have to look at our people, where they are, and meet them where they are right now, at this time of great stress,” she continued. “This budget will put more money back in people’s pockets.” 

The gas tax suspension — equivalent to about 16 cents per gallon — will result in a total of about $585 million in relief for families and businesses across New York, according to Hochul. 

Tackling rising fuel prices, she explained, is part of a statewide search to find “what we can do to give people just a break.” 

Hochul also said that she is conducting ongoing conversations with individual counties to ask them to pause taxes at the local level. 

“The cumulative effect is very impactful for people as they go to the pump and have that sense of stress in their chest, when they think about the cost of the gas as they try to figure out if they’re going to be able to afford it for the day,” the governor said. 

Read more from The Hill’s Sharon Usadin. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

• California school district sues Dow and Shell over cancer-causing chemical in water (The Modesto Bee

• Baltimore gets venue win in climate case against Exxon, BP (Reuters

• Pollution Shields for Faulty Plants Need Better Fix, Groups Say (Bloomberg Law

• A ‘New Era of Air Pollution’ in the Tropics Could Have a Huge Toll (The New York Times

• EPA investigates Louisiana environmental, health agencies for racial discrimination in issuing air pollution permits (NOLA.com
 

And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: We want one.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Monday.

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