Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — India, China could buy Russian oil rejected by EU

Some of the oil the EU will forgo under its new embargo could wind up fueling countries in Asia, and President Biden has signed legislation to improve preventative care for veterans exposed to burn pits.

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. Subscribe here. 

Asia may provide market for Russian oil after EU ban

Countries like China and India have the power to undercut the European Union’s latest move to sanction Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, potentially lessening the impact of one the most significant economic actions the West has taken against Moscow thus far.

The EU on Friday officially agreed to ban imports of most oil from Russia, joining countries, including the U.S., that have vowed to forgo oil from the country.  

But experts say the move likely won’t push Russia to economic pariah status, as other countries, including major economies like China and India, will still import its fuels and give the Kremlin an alternate income source.   

“We’re expecting the bulk of the volumes that Russia currently exports to be taken by other markets,” said Alan Gelder, vice president of refining, chemicals and oil markets at energy research firm Wood Mackenzie.   

“If they’re still able to find buyers for their exports, and they’ll need to negotiate a price, it does mean that they’re getting a steady revenue stream. If the world all said no, it would be quite different, but the world is not saying that,” Gelder added.   

Greater incentive?: Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said that China and India are likely to be even more incentivized to buy oil after the European embargo.    

Further complicating the matter, De Haan said, is that Russian oil is of a quality that makes it desirable in international markets.   

“It’s the heavier oil that distills into more desirable molecules like diesel, which is what Europe is really craving at this point,” he said.  

The delay could help Russia, too: Kristine Berzina, head of the geopolitics team at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, said the fact the ban doesn’t go into effect right away could also undermine its efficacy by giving Russia more time to adjust.

She said that alarms in the market may raise oil prices in the near term, giving Russia a benefit as it sells oil for now, and the country will also be able to work with other countries like India that are likely to buy the oil.   

“They can negotiate the pricing there and try to adjust for the fact that they’ll have to go to different markets long term,” she said.   

Ben Cahill, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that despite the limitations, the EU sanctions are probably the most significant action that the world has taken to date to limit the use of Russian oil.  

“This definitely is the most consequential move yet in terms of restricting Russian exports,” he said. “The big question is how much will this knock Russian oil offline and how much will it just redirect Russian oil from Europe to Asia.” 

Read more about what could happen here.

Biden signs bill to help those exposed to burn pits

President Biden on Tuesday signed legislation to provide better access to mammograms for veterans exposed to burn pits as part of nine bills signed into law aimed at improving veterans’ health care.

The measure aims to ensure that veterans who serve near burn pits get preventative care and requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct breast cancer screenings for women who served near toxic exposures. 

The Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas SERVICE Act was named after Marine Corps Officer Kate Thomas, who served near a burn pit in Iraq and died in April from breast cancer. Biden honored her in remarks at the White House and acknowledged her husband and son who were at the bill signing.

Biden has been focused on expanding benefits for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and were exposed to toxic chemicals from burn pits. The issue of burn pits strikes a personal note for the president, who believes the chemicals from burn pits may have contributed to the brain cancer that ultimately killed his son Beau Biden.

He signed eight other pieces of legislation focused on veteran health care, including a bill to improve breast imaging services for veterans regardless of if they’re exposed to burn pits or not and to compensate veterans who developed cancer and medical conditions from World War II-era nuclear programs. 

Read more here from The Hill’s Alex Gangitano. 

RELATED: ANOTHER TOXICS BILL ADVANCES 

The Senate on Tuesday voted 86-12 to advance another piece of legislation aimed at helping veterans who were exposed to toxic substances.  

The Honoring Our PACT Act specifically seeks to expand health care eligibility through the Veterans Affairs department; establish a framework for connecting toxic exposures to military service, which would grant additional benefits to those who were exposed and expand which conditions are presumed to be caused by service.  

The vote to advance the measure was largely bipartisan, but all of the opposition came from Republicans. 

The legislation is soon expected to come to a full vote on its passage. 

VIRTUAL EVENT INVITE

Closing the Gaps in Health Insurance, Wednesday, June 8 at 1 p.m. ET

A record number of Americans are insured yet many remain vulnerable to significant medical expenses, including high premiums, out-of-pocket costs and prior authorization burdens. The Hill sits down with Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and more to discuss closing the gaps in health insurance. RSVP today.

PERSONNEL NEWS 

At DOE: The Senate on Tuesday voted to confirm Shalanda Baker to direct the Energy Department’s Office of Minority Economic Impact. 

Lawmakers voted 54-45 to confirm her. The vote was largely along party lines, but the Republicans who supported Baker are Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Cindy Hyde-Smith (Miss.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.). 

Baker is currently the deputy director for Energy Justice at the department’s Office of Economic Impact and Diversity. She was previously a professor of law, public policy and urban affairs at Northeastern University.  

At NWS: The National Weather Service (NWS) got a new leader on Tuesday. The Biden administration announced that Kenneth Graham will lead the weather agency.

Since 2018, Graham has directed the National Hurricane Center. He has also held other roles at the agency including serving as meteorologist-in-charge of the NWS’ New Orleans/Baton Rouge office for 10 years.

NWS hasn’t had an officially named leader since Louis Uccellini left in January. In the interim deputy director, Mary Erickson, has served as the acting director.

ON TAP TOMORROW

  • The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on detecting methane from the oil and gas sector 
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on two nominees for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Why is eco-conscious California spending millions to support natural gas? (Floodlight)
  • ERCOT projects Texas will break electricity demand record this week (The Dallas Morning News
  • Rio Grande water returns to El Paso this weekend, quenching arid border region (El Paso Times
  • Shell, the Oil Giant, Will Sell Renewable Energy to Texans (The New York Times

ICYMI

And finally: You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here 

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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