IT IS WEDNESDAY, MY DUDES. Welcome to Overnight Energy, your source for the day’s energy and environment news.
Today we’re looking at the White House calling for an investigation of oil prices, criticism of the rail proposals in the infrastructure package and a new round of heatwaves in the U.S.
FUEL FOR THE FIRE: White House calls for probe of 'divergences' between oil price and gasoline costs
The White House on Wednesday called for a probe into gasoline prices, citing “divergences” between oil prices and what people are paying at the pump.
National Economic Council Director Brian DeeseBrian DeeseWhite House weighing steps to address gas shortages Environmental activists' email blast disrupted White House communications over two days: report Sinema in Arizona as Democrats try to get spending-infrastructure deal MORE wrote a letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan asking her to look into any potential illegal conduct or anti-competitive practices that have occurred.
“During this summer driving season, there have been divergences between oil prices and the cost of gasoline at the pump,” Deese wrote. “While many factors can affect gas prices, the president wants to ensure that consumers are not paying more for gas because of anti-competitive or other illegal practices."
What are they asking for?: He asked the FTC to look into what he described as an “asymmetrical phenomenon” in which gasoline prices rise during oil price spikes more quickly than they fall in price drops.
FTC spokesperson Betsy Lordan confirmed that the commission received Deese's letter but declined to comment on its contents "at this time."
Lordan did note that the agency would need to work with others including the Justice Department and state attorneys general for any such probe.
The letter comes as both oil and gasoline prices have increased in recent months, with loosened coronavirus restrictions leading to more travel.
New data from the Labor Department on Wednesday showed that gas prices are up more than energy prices over the past year, with gasoline jumping 42 percent and energy climbing 24 percent.
TRAINING DAY: Rail advocates say infrastructure bill falls short
Rail advocates say that while transportation provisions in the Senate-passed infrastructure bill are an important first step, far more is needed to address both carbon emissions and gaps in public transit.
The bipartisan bill passed Tuesday includes $66 billion for intercity rail transportation, which the White House has touted as “the largest federal investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak,” as well as $39 billion for public transit in general.
The majority of the rail funds will go to Amtrak, instead of building out high-speed rail, a major wish-list item for climate and rail proponents.
“This is a large amount, even compared to what advocates have been looking for. But the funding does not necessarily seem oriented toward addressing climate change,” said Yonah Freemark, a senior research associate with the Urban Institute.
“For example, while electrification of the transportation system must be a key component of any effort to counter climate change, there is no specific money in this legislation for electrifying the intercity rail network,” Freemark added.
What other issues do they have?: Under the provisions of the bipartisan package, most trains will continue to rely on diesel fuel.
While there is some funding for expanding intercity rail corridors, Freemark said, the amount allocated would be insufficient to build out a high-speed rail system akin to those in Europe and Asia.
“We will not be getting China's 25,000-mile high-speed rail network anytime soon,” he added.
Freemark estimates that the Northeast Corridor needs at least $117 billion in upgrades, and that the line from Los Angeles to San Francisco needs at least $50 billion.
Andy Kunz, president of the US High Speed Rail Association, said his organization has been “pushing for a higher number … because how many years do you want to play around with this?”
“When you look at what China’s doing, they’ve been spending $120 billion every year on all-new high-speed rail, year after year, for 14 years straight,” he said. “That’s how you get an all-new transportation system. We’re not doing that; we’re still talking about double-digit numbers or smaller.”
THE HEAT IS ON: 34 states dealing with heat advisories as Pacific northwest faces new heatwave
The Pacific Northwest is set to see another bout of extreme heat after temperatures hit record highs earlier this summer, with heat advisories in place in 34 states across the country on Wednesday.
The National Weather Service’s Portland, Ore., office on Tuesday imposed an excessive heat warning for broad swaths of Washington state and western Oregon. Highs on Thursday and Friday are projected to break 100 degrees, with nighttime temperatures not falling below 80 until close to midnight.
Meanwhile, Mt. Rainier National Park officials warned current extreme temperatures combined with the effects of those earlier in the summer could lead to debris avalanches. Dramatically reduced snowpack has increased the risk, park officials said, adding to quickly move "at least 150' uphill if you notice a rapid rise in river level, feel the ground shake, or hear a rumbling sound.”
WHAT WE’RE READING:
The warming climate is increasing the risk of major wildfires across America. And more people are moving to fire-prone areas without realizing the danger, NPR reports
Juniper trees usually thrive in Arizona's arid climate. The drought is killing them, AZCentral reports
Female ‘hotshot’ firefighters want action on reproductive health risks, The Guardian reports
These Mid-Atlantic bases have toxic levels of cancer-linked chemicals, report finds, The Military Times reports
California's clean grid may lean on oil, gas to avoid summer blackouts, Reuters reports
ICYMI: Stories from Wednesday...
34 states dealing with heat advisories as Pacific northwest faces new heatwave
Rail advocates say infrastructure bill falls short
Ex-college professor suspected in arson blazes near California's massive Dixie fire
California's largest wildfire covering 783 square miles
White House calls for probe of 'divergences' between oil price and gasoline costs
OFFBEAT AND OFF-BEAT: Cubside pickup