Energy & Environment — Intercontinental energy fight heats up
Russia, Europe escalate energy showdown
Russia and the West are engaging in an escalating energy sparring match as European countries seek to limit their dependence on the Kremlin because of its invasion of Ukraine.
The latest development, on Friday, came as it was announced that Russia will cut off natural gas to Finland.
Previously, members of the Group of Seven (G-7) said this month that they’d phase out Russian oil, while the European Union is separately weighing its own Russian oil ban.
Where does that leave both sides? Experts say that the West’s energy efforts are likely to damage Russia’s economy, but will come at a cost.
“There are no winners in this situation,” said Samantha Gross, who worked in international affairs at the Energy Department during the Obama administration.
“What you’re seeing is the Europeans looking to embargo Russian oil to punish the Russians, whereas the Russians are pulling back on supplies of gas to punish the Europeans because those are the fuels in which each has the upper hand,” Gross, who is now the director of the Brookings Institution’s Energy Security and Climate Initiative, added.
At the start of the conflict, Western countries made moves to curb their dependence on Russian fuels, which are the country’s biggest export.
The plot thickens: Western countries have stepped up those moves. The EU proposed banning Russian oil and the G-7 also said recently that it would phase out Russian oil.
But it’s unclear whether the EU push will be successful, as it faces resistance from Hungary. EU sanctions require the agreement of all member nations.
Russia cut off natural gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria late last month after the EU’s proposal.
More recently, Russian power provider RAO Nordic Oy stopped sending electricity to Finland. Russia claimed the country wasn’t paying its bills, but the move came as Finland asked for membership in NATO.
And on Friday, Finnish energy company Gasum said it had been notified by the Russian energy giant Gazprom that it would shut off its supply of gas the next day.
Dems express skepticism of EU gas plans
Twenty-two congressional Democrats on Thursday urged caution over the European Union’s plan to replace fossil fuel imports from Russia with liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure.
In a letter to President Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the members warned that the transition must incorporate the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The letter came shortly after the EU announced a plan to replace the energy that it would normally import from Russia, including with 50 billion cubic meters of LNG from suppliers including the U.S.
What they’re saying: “While the Joint Statement included specific details for natural gas, it did not contain such specificity for developing clean, renewable energy. The Task Force must develop a plan to swiftly move the European Union and United States off fossil fuels and onto clean, renewable energy by 2035,” the members wrote. “It is critically important that our countries not lock ourselves into decades of further reliance on fossil fuels when climate science, environmental justice, and public health concerns necessitate a rapid transition towards full renewable energy.”
Infrastructure build outs for LNG, they noted, can take three years or more, potentially diverting resources from the transition to renewables at a critical moment. In the meantime, the letter cited analysis indicating the EU could replace two-thirds of Russian gas imports with renewables in less time.
The letter was led by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.).
Senators who signed: Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.). House members who signed: Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Andy Levin (D-Mich.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Donald Payne (D-N.J.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Jesus Garcia (D-Ill.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Alma Adams (D-N.C.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-D.C.).
Biden to kick off cleaner school bus program
The Biden administration is kicking off a program on Friday to support a shift to cleaner school buses with funding that comes from the bipartisan infrastructure law.
Vice President Harris and Michael Regan, Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) Administrator, are expected to announce the opening of applications for cleaner school bus grants in Falls Church, Va.
The initial round of applications will open up $500 million in grants for the adoption of electric school buses or other low-emission buses, according to a press release.
The Biden administration has been promoting similar programs created by the bipartisan infrastructure law as its push for an additional spending bill, expected to be supported only by Democratic lawmakers, remains in limbo. That bill would have made significant investments in combating climate change.
White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy told reporters Thursday that in the bus funding push, the EPA will prioritize communities that are under-resourced or overburdened by pollution.
“This investment will make a huge difference in the lives of schoolchildren who are currently riding on dirty diesel buses. Diesel air pollution makes it difficult to breathe, it causes asthma and triggers other health problems,” she said.
President Biden on Friday renominated Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Richard Glick to a second term at the agency.
Glick, a Democrat, was previously nominated by President Trump to the bipartisan commission and his current term expires on June 30, 2022.
FERC regulates interstate energy transmission, including electricity and natural gas pipelines.
The renomination comes after the agency promulgated a rule under which it would consider a proposed pipeline’s climate impacts as it decides whether to approve it.
Initially, the policy was expected to become effective after it was issued, but later the agency backtracked, making it a draft instead that were not immediately effective.
The regulation was met backlash from both Republicans and key Senate swing vote Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
“The Commission went too far by prioritizing a political agenda over their main mission – ensuring our nation’s energy reliability and security. The only thing they accomplished today was constructing additional road blocks that further delay building out the energy infrastructure our country desperately needs,” Manchin said in a statement when the rule was first put forward.
ON TAP NEXT WEEK
- The House Select Climate Crisis Committee will hold a hearing on “Building an affordable and resilient food supply chain”
- The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will examine the nomination of Joe Goffman to lead the EPA’s air and radiation office
- The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program
- The House Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on defense environmental restoration
WHAT WE’RE READING
- Could Google’s Carbon Emissions Have Effectively Doubled Overnight? (The New Yorker)
- How gas interests slowed Chile’s clean energy transition (The Associated Press)
- Summer outlook: Most of US will see above-average temperatures as Western drought continues (CNN)
- Australia’s greenhouse pollution from coal higher per person than any other developed country, data shows (The Guardian)
- Biden’s EPA air nominee draws miners’ endorsement (E&E News)
And finally, something offbeat but kind of on-beat: That’s one way to deal with high fuel prices.
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 next week.
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