Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — Why gas prices may finally be on the way down

Associated Press/David Zalubowski
A motorist fills up a vehicle at a Shell gas station Monday, July 4, 2022, in Commerce City, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Key indicators suggest long-awaited relief on gas prices. Meanwhile, environmentalists slam new European Union rules on nuclear and natural gas, and the Great Salt Lake hits a new low. 

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.

US on ‘cusp’ of falling gas prices

Gasoline futures fell more than 10 percent Tuesday and are down more than 22 percent since June, raising hopes that the high price of gas across the country might soon fall. 

  • The price of U.S. crude oil fell more than 8 percent and international benchmark Brent crude fell nearly 10 percent on Tuesday. 
  • We’re on the cusp of seeing more savings,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at gas price tracking site GasBuddy. “I’m trying to be a little bit optimistic here that this relief could make its entire way to the pump in the weeks ahead.”  

The national average price for a gallon of gasoline now stands at $4.78, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), down from a recent peak above $5 per gallon. A year ago, the national average was only $3.13, representing a 50-percent annual spike in the price of gas.  

What’s this mean for politics? Any drop in gasoline prices may provide some political respite for the Biden administration since, even though presidents have little control over gasoline prices, they still face blame from voters and their political foes.   

The price of U.S. crude oil was hovering around $98 per barrel on Wednesday afternoon, down from about $108 late last week. Brent crude fell to about $101 per barrel, down from about $111 late last week.   

  • Experts said they expect this trend to result in drops at the pump.   
  • Marianne Kah, an adjunct senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy said she expects the current drop in crude oil prices to translate to about a 12-percent decline — or about 60 cents — in gasoline prices from their peak level last month.   

Read more about what may be ahead here.

Groups upset EU labeled LNG, nuclear ‘sustainable’

The European Parliament voted Wednesday to classify liquefied natural gas (LNG) and nuclear power as “sustainable” fuels, making them eligible for subsidies reserved for renewable energy.  

But: The decision was quickly blasted by environmental groups and activists as setting back the cause of fighting climate change. 

  • “Gas and nuclear are not green, and labeling them as such is blatant greenwashing – this harms the climate, and future generations,” Ester Asin, director at the World Wildlife Fund’s European Policy Office, said in a statement. “Today, fossil gas and nuclear lobbies hit the jackpot, allowing to divert billions of investments which are sorely needed to ensure the climate transition.” 
  • Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, meanwhile, tweeted that the move “will delay a desperately needed real sustainable transition and deepen our dependency on Russian fuels.” 
  • “The hypocrisy is striking, but unfortunately not surprising,” she added. 

While the expansion of the classification can still be rejected if 20 of the 27 European member states vote against it, this is seen as unlikely due to many of those nations’ past support of one or both forms of energy. 

If the rule is not rejected it will take effect next year. The parliament voted 328-278 in favor of the policy, with 33 abstentions. 

Read more about the controversy here.

Great Salt Lake drops below historic low level

The Great Salt Lake in Utah hit a new historic low level on Sunday, reaching an average daily surface water elevation of 4,190.1 feet at the lake’s southern end, officials announced. 

The announcement, made in a joint press release on Tuesday between the Utah Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and United States Geological Survey (USGS), marks the second time within a year that the lake has reached a record low elevation. 

The Utah DNR and USGS noted that Sunday’s measurement beat the previous historic low elevation recorded in October, when it was measured at 4,190.2 feet. Prior to that, the lowest recorded elevation was 4,191.35 feet in October 1963. 

  • “This is not the type of record we like to break,” Utah DNR Executive Director Joel Ferry said in a statement.  
  • “Urgent action is needed to help protect and preserve this critical resource. It’s clear the lake is in trouble. We recognize more action and resources are needed, and we are actively working with the many stakeholders who value the lake.” 

Officials said that the Great Salt Lake will likely continue to see lower elevation before the fall or winter, based on historic data, “when the amount of incoming water to the lake equals or exceeds evaporative losses.” 

The news comes against the backdrop of a nagging drought in the state and climate change, The Salt Lake Tribune noted

But the Great Salt Lake is not the only major body of water seeing a drastic reduction in its elevation. 

Read more from The Hill’s Caroline Vakil.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Treasury examines climate effect on insurance availability (E&E News
  • How One Restaurateur Transformed America’s Energy Industry (The New York Times Magazine
  • A Vast Refinery Site in Philadelphia Is Being Redeveloped and Called ‘The Bellwether District.’ But for Black Residents Nearby, Justice Awaits (Inside Climate News
  • A U.S. uranium mill is near this tribe. A study may reveal if it poses a health risk (KSJD)

And finally, something offbeat but on-beatSticky, sticky night. 

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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