Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — DOT proposes climate transportation rule for states

The Biden administration is pressing for new climate requirements and eyeing potential plastic limits on its purchases. And good news for drivers: Gas prices seem to be coming down.

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. 

Officials float state carbon emissions rule

A proposed rule released by the Biden administration Thursday would require states and cities to set carbon emission reduction targets for transportation.  

The draft rule would require state transportation departments and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) with National Highway System mileage within their boundaries to both measure their transportation-related emissions and develop reduction targets. 

This would build on existing regulations that require those institutions to track other forms of air pollutants. Transportation is the single largest source of carbon emissions in the U.S.   

The deets: Under the terms of the rule, both state departments of transportation and MPOs would be required to report their progress on meeting their emissions goals twice a year. The proposal contains no specific requirements for the goals, saying it would allow states and cities to determine which targets “are appropriate for their communities and … work for their respective climate change and other policy priorities.”  

The bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law by President Biden in November put just under $6.5 billion toward helping local and state governments reduce highway-related emissions. The funds, announced in April, are contingent on recipients developing an emissions reduction strategy.   

Read more about the proposal here.  

Gas prices down a quarter 

Gas prices took a dip this week and are about 25 cents lower than their recent highs. 

  • Data from the Oil Price Information Service shared with The Hill shows that the median price of gasoline in the U.S. is about $4.60 per gallon, down from about $4.70 per gallon a week ago.  
  • The data shows that a small percentage of stations — 2.3 percent — are below $4 per gallon. A week ago, just 0.5 percent were below $4 per gallon.  
  • Overall, prices are down about a quarter from recent highs; they were about $4.92 per gallon a month ago, per AAA, and rose as high as $5 per gallon in June. 

Prices are continuing what has been a weeks-long downward trend, Devin Gladden, AAA National’s manager for federal affairs, told The Hill. 

“One, we’ve seen oil prices decline. … They’re still elevated, but we’ve seen them break below $100 per barrel,” Gladden said. “We’ve also seen gas demand weaken a bit, and so those two forces have helped to put pressure on prices. And as those trends continue, we’re likely to see prices continue to decline.” 

Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at the Oil Price Information Service, said in an email that he thinks the current change is “an interlude and not a trend change.” 

“What we saw in the last week was that the market had become overbought,” he said. “Those weaker buyers got flushed out.” 

Kloza predicted that prices could drop between 5 and 25 cents between now and the end of next week, but he also said they would bounce back later in the summer before cooling down in September. 

And, new indicators on Thursday had even forecasters who are more optimistic revising their projections.  

  • Patrick De Haan of price tracking website GasBuddy, who on Wednesday told The Hill he believed gasoline prices could fall by between 40 and 65 cents over the next few weeks, now expects them to drop between 20 and 35 cents. 
  • He cited increases in the prices of both oil and wholesale gasoline — prices paid by gas station owners who then sell it retail to consumers. 

Read more here. 

ADMIN EYES PLASTIC PURCHASING LIMITS 

The Biden administration may set some limits on the use of single-use plastics in goods that are purchased by the federal government.  

The General Services Administration (GSA), which oversees federal government purchasing, said in a notice published on Thursday that it could restrict the purchases. 

Single-use plastics contribute significantly to the world’s waste. A report last year from an Australian nonprofit found that globally, more than 130 million metric tons of plastics used a single time were thrown away in 2019.  

In its notice, the GSA asked the public for information on plastic consumed in packaging and shipping and other single-use plastics in agency contracts.  

It said that this information will be used to inform a future rule that sets up requirements and reporting mechanisms aimed at reducing “unnecessary” single use-plastic, including in packaging and shipping materials.  

Read more about the move here.  

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • US water likely contains more ‘forever chemicals’ than EPA tests show (The Guardian
  • The Southwest is bone dry. Now, a key water source is at risk (Politico
  • France to Nationalize Debt-Laden EDF as Energy Crisis Mounts (Bloomberg
  • How a composting facility likely spread massive amounts of ‘forever chemicals’ across one town in Massachusetts (The Boston Globe

ICYMI

Union presses Park Police chief on staffing levels

And finally, something offbeat but on-beat: Robert Downey Jr. pitches clean energy jobs. 

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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