Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — GOP looks ahead to pro-oil industry majority

Photo illustration of red halftone Capitol dome, backed by textured light pink triangle and low opacity image of a person voting
Madeline Monroe/Greg Nash

How will Republicans address energy and environment issues with a congressional majority? We’ll also look at John Kerry’s proposal to help developing nations transition off fossil fuels and the first global climate summit to address climate reparations.

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?

How the GOP will take on energy, environment 

Energy issues are expected to be top of mind for Republicans next year if they take back the House or the Senate in Tuesday’s elections, given the party’s focus on high gas prices in the lead-up to the midterms.

The GOP is vowing to move pro-energy legislation, even though turning Republican bills into law will be difficult with President Biden in the White House. Republicans are also not expected to be anywhere close to having a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

  • Still, bills passed by a House GOP, if Republicans take the lower chamber as projected, will lend strength to the Republican messaging campaign in 2023 and 2024. 
  • Perhaps even more importantly, a GOP House would also gain the ability to conduct significant oversight of the Biden administration. 
  • While partisan warfare is expected on energy issues given deep differences between the parties, some say there are potential areas of cooperation. 

Here is what part of the GOP energy and climate agenda may look like: 

Investigations and oversight  

Republicans are vowing to be muscular in their oversight of the Biden administration. 

In a statement to The Hill, House Oversight and Reform Committee ranking member Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) said that the panel would “conduct robust oversight of the Biden administration’s policies harming American workers and families” with a GOP majority. 

Comer specifically pointed to the administration’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline and restrictions on oil and gas leasing on federal lands as two such policies for oversight.  

He also said that the panel will look into climate-related actions by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC has proposed to require publicly-traded companies to disclose their contributions to climate change; something that has met with significant GOP pushback.  

House Republicans have also sought to probe the Biden administration on its release of oil from the country’s strategic reserve and so-far unrealized efforts to declare a national climate emergency.  

They also indicated that they would monitor the Energy Department’s loan program, which historically has given money to both successes like Tesla and failures like Solyndra, a solar company that ultimately went bankrupt after receiving a federal loan. 

Bolstering oil and gas 

The GOP wants to cast itself as a champion of domestic energy production, and Republicans have signaled they will do everything they can to contrast their stances with Democrats’. 

It’s an issue that could be a major theme of the campaigns for 2024. 

A Republican energy and climate plan unveiled in June focused on the development of oil and gas, which significantly contribute to climate change. Republicans argue that the fuels are produced more cleanly in the U.S. than in other parts of the world.   

Read about the rest of the GOP agenda here. 

Kerry looking to transition nations off fossil fuels

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is in talks with external partners to use funds from major companies to sponsor developing countries’ transition away from fossil fuels, a source confirmed to The Hill. 

  • A person familiar with the discussions said Kerry will announce further details at an event at the upcoming COP27 United Nations climate summit, emphasizing that the proposal is for a partnership rather than a specific initiative of the U.S. government. Initial reporting by The Financial Times, which the person familiar confirmed to The Hill is “overall” accurate, would involve an independent, to-be-determined accrediting organization to certify the credits. 
  • “This isn’t the launch of an entity, it’s the discussion of a framework which is intentional to allow time to work with all stakeholders next year to develop the details and ensure just transition safeguards and environmental integrity provisions,” a person familiar told The Hill. “The framework would be a program to scale up private finance to accelerate the clean energy transition in developing countries, through the creation and sale of high-quality carbon credits.” 

What he’s said so far: Kerry broached the idea as early as October, saying, “One of the things we’re looking at is the possibility of the private sector, in effect, being enticed to the table.”

The funds in question, he said, could go directly to building renewable infrastructure and phasing out coal plants in the countries in question.

“I hope perhaps even by Sharm el-Sheikh we might be in a position to outline that,” Kerry added, referencing the Egyptian city hosting the climate summit this week. 

The former secretary of state has frequently emphasized the need for the west to aid developing nations in the transition off fossil fuels rather than expecting them to handle it on their own.

Last week he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour “We have to bring [other major emitters] to the table. We have to raise ambition … but developing countries, even some big ones like India, can’t do this on their own.” 

Read more about the proposal here. 

Climate reparations on COP agenda for first time 

For the first time, countries have put reparation funds for climate damage on the negotiating agenda at this year’s global climate summit. 

At the conference, known as COP27, which kicked off this week in Egypt, countries will discuss providing funding for countries that have suffered a disproportionate amount of “loss and damage” from climate change.  

While the impacts of climate change are being felt worldwide, its impacts are not expected to be felt evenly. Both geographical and monetary factors make many developing countries more vulnerable, even though they have historically low fossil fuel use compared to major powers.  

Fossil fuels have been a major force in both industrialization and climate change. As a result, many developing countries have long argued for specific funding to address the climate change-related suffering they have undergone. 

  • U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called addressing the issue a “moral imperative” 
  • “The deadly impacts of climate change are here and now. Loss and damage can no longer be swept under the rug,” Guterres said. “Those who contributed least to the climate crisis are reaping the whirlwind sown by others.” 

Read more about the milestone here. 

Sunak: Putin’s war ‘reason to act faster’ on climate  

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday framed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as motivation for accelerating global action against climate change. 

“Putin’s abhorrent war in Ukraine and rising energy prices across the world are not a reason to go slow on climate change. They are a reason to act faster,” Sunak said at the United Nations (U.N.) climate change summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. 

  • The British leader called upon countries to harness public and private financing to protect the planet while fostering growth in developing countries. 
  • Sunak urged nations to diversify their clean energy supplies and invest in renewables as insurance “against the risk of energy dependency.” Doing so, he continued, would generate a robust source of jobs and economic growth. 
  • “It is morally right to honor our promises, but it is also economically right too. Climate security goes hand in hand with energy security,” Sunak said. 

The British prime minister, who took office on Oct. 25, generated widespread criticism for an initial declaration that he would not attend the international climate summit, citing the need to prioritize domestic issues. 

But Sunak eventually reversed course, and Downing Street confirming his attendance last week. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also attending the summit. 

Looking back to last year’s U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, Sunak said that countries embarked on a global path “to unlock billions of pounds of private finance for the development of new green infrastructure.” 

“So instead of developing countries being unfairly burdened with a carbon debt of richer nations and somehow expected to forgo that same path to growth, we are helping those countries deliver their own fast track to clean growth,” the prime minister continued. 

Read more about Sunak’s remarks from The Hill’s Sharon Udasin. 

BIDEN COAL COMMENT SPARKS MANCHIN BACKLASH

President Biden on Friday stirred controversy when he called for shutting down coal plants during remarks in California. 

“We’re going to be shutting these plants down all across America and having wind and solar,” Biden said.  

His remarks spurred backlash from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who called them “outrageous.” 

  • “President Biden’s comments are not only outrageous and divorced from reality, they ignore the severe economic pain the American people are feeling because of rising energy costs,” Manchin said in a statement.  
  • “Being cavalier about the loss of coal jobs for men and women in West Virginia and across the country who literally put their lives on the line to help build and power this country is offensive and disgusting,” he added.  

The comments also spurred critiques from coal lobbyist and union voices alike — as well as Republicans.  

Following the comments, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Biden was “commenting on a fact of economics and technology” rather than making “some novel comments.” 

She also reaffirmed his support for workers, and suggested that his comments were being “twisted to suggest a meaning that was not intended.” 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Coal-Addicted Poland Is Going Nuclear With U.S. Help. It’ll Be A Test For Both Nations. (HuffPost
  • Egypt accused of ‘greenwashing’ rights record as it hosts U.N. climate conference (NBC News
  • Kemp extends Georgia’s gas tax suspension through mid-December (Fox5 Atlanta
  • Boston not on track to reach carbon reduction goals, new report finds (WBUR
  • Switzerland Is Paying Poorer Nations to Cut Emissions on Its Behalf (The New York Times

🐜 Lighter click: The stuff of nightmares

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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