Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — All 50 states hit gas-price milestone

The Hill illustration, Madeline Monroe/iStock

Gas has surpassed $4 in every state for the first time ever, the White House tries to quiet senators’ worries on the investigation into solar panels and moderate Democrats are raising objections to a bill that opposes gas price-gouging. 

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. 

Gas prices cross $4 in every state for first time 

Gas prices surpassed $4 in every state for the first time Tuesday, according to data released by AAA. 

A spokesperson for AAA confirmed to The Hill that Oklahoma, Georgia and Kansas — the last three states with average gas prices under the $4 threshold earlier this week — crossed the line on Tuesday. 

So what happened? The group attributed the prices primarily to soaring crude oil prices, saying that as crude nears $110 a barrel, the surge is canceling out other factors that would normally create some relief.  

“The high cost of oil, the key ingredient in gasoline, is driving these high pump prices for consumers,” AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross said in a statement. 

“Even the annual seasonal demand dip for gasoline during the lull between spring break and Memorial Day, which would normally help lower prices, is having no effect this year,” Gross added. 

While gasoline demand is down slightly, AAA said this is failing to lower gas prices due to the continued erratic prices of crude, which are likely to stay above $105 per barrel and continue to drive gas prices up.  

As of Wednesday morning, only 11 states had average prices in the $4.026 to $4.185 range, the lowest bracket:

  • North Dakota
  • Minnesota
  • Iowa
  • Nebraska
  • Colorado
  • Kansas
  • Missouri
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Oklahoma
  • Mississippi

California continues to lead the nation in gas costs, averaging $6.05 per gallon.  

What’s next? The Biden administration has taken several steps seeking to drive gas prices down, including ordering the largest-ever release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and removing summertime restrictions on the sale of more ethanol-heavy fuel blends. However, further pain at the pump is likely coming, particularly with the approach of Memorial Day weekend, when demand spikes with the unofficial start of summer.

Read more about the spikes here. 

White House assures senators on solar investigation 

White House officials told a group of Democratic senators this week that the Biden administration is working to temper the uncertainty associated with a federal investigation of solar panel manufacturers. 

A bipartisan coalition of senators, led by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), has repeatedly warned Biden that the Commerce Department’s investigation of potential tariff circumvention by Asian panel manufacturers could devastate the industry. 

However, only Democrats were present at a Monday meeting in which it was discussed, according to a source familiar who provided a readout to The Hill.   

Which senators were there? In addition to Rosen, attendees included:

  • Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.)
  • Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)
  • Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.)
  • Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.)
  • Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)
  • Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)
  • Tom Carper (D-Del.)

Administration officials on the call included National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, White House legislative affairs Director Louisa Terrell and Deputy National Climate Adviser Ali Zaidi.  

The call was first reported by Axios.  

The investigation concerns crystalline silicon modules produced in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, which collectively accounted for 65 percent of module imports worldwide in 2021. Numerous suppliers have canceled shipments due to the tariff burden created by the investigation. 

During Monday’s call, the White House officials told the senators that the president will not intervene in the investigation but that the administration is “looking at every tool and authority at the President’s disposal to end the uncertainty the solar industry is feeling,” according to the source. 

Read more about the call here. 

Moderates share doubts about price-gouging bill 

Democrats’ price-gouging bill is running into doubts and opposition from somemoderate members of the caucus.  

While the bill is pretty much certain to face an uphill battle in the Senate, it’s also not totally clear whether it’ll be able to garner enough support in the House, where Democrats can only lose six votes.  

The bill in question would make it illegal to sell fuel at a price that is “unconscionably excessive” and “exploiting” the situation during an energy emergency. 

The legislation, which is expected to be voted on this week, would also empower the Federal Trade Commission to take legal action against companies that sell at such “excessive” prices.  

But, some of the party’s more moderate members, including those from oil-producer Texas, are expressing concerns. 

Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) told reporters on Wednesday that he’s “leaning no” because there’s “no solid proof” that gouging is occurring.  

“If you show me the proof, you have my vote, but I haven’t seen it,” he said.  

Clarissa Robles, a spokesperson for Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas), also confirmed that she will vote against the bill. 

Another Texas moderate, Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D), however, said that she was “leaning yes.” 

Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) said she believes the bill will do more harm than good, even though she declined to comment directly on how she would vote. 

“It has the potential to make the supply worse,” she said. “It’s not a good idea to implement price controls so I’m concerned about the potential unintended consequences.” 

Democratic Chief Deputy Whip Dan Kildee (Mich.) said that he was working to whip votes and added, “with thin margins, it’s always tough.” 

Read more about the dynamic here.  

BIPARTISAN MEETING NO. 4 

Lawmakers gathered on Tuesday evening for a fourth bipartisan meeting on climate and energy issues as Democrats’ spending bill remains in limbo.  

Many of the lawmakers were tightlipped about the latest round of talks. 

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said that the latest round was about looking at “fewer issues and fleshing them out.” 

Additionally, Cramer expressed skepticism about whether Democrats will be able to move a reconciliation bill, which would only require 50 votes to advance instead of the usual 60.  

Getting Sen Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on board with reconciliation has been a major hurdle, especially after the swing-vote senator came out against a Democratic proposal in December.  

“It’s Joe’s decision not mine, but I don’t see him going through this exercise, and his staff’s doing a lot of work, if in fact reconciliation was still an option,” Cramer said.  

However, another participant, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), said that “everything remains on the table” when asked about reconciliation.  

ON TAP TOMORROW

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on the President’s proposed budget request for fiscal year 2023 for the Department of the Interior. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • EU plans ‘massive’ increase in green energy to help end reliance on Russia (The Guardian
  • Why tech giants’ cash is a hidden source of greenhouse gas emissions (The Verge
  • The Loop Current, a fueler of monster storms in Gulf, looks a lot like it did before Katrina (NOLA.com
  • Europe Rethinks Its Reliance on Burning Wood for Electricity (The New York Times

And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Eleph I know. 

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 tomorrow.  

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