Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Biden orders end to overseas coal finance
Welcome to Friday’s Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.
Today we’re looking at an order from the Biden administration on overseas financing of coal plants, the messaging victory the White House wants from lower gas prices and a Government Accountability Office report on applications for oil and gas leasing.
Let’s jump in.
Biden to end to support of overseas coal plants
President Biden has ordered an end to overseas financing of coal plants and other carbon-intensive projects, the first such federal directive, according to Bloomberg.
In a diplomatic cable sent to every U.S. embassy, the White House ordered an immediate end to the financing of such projects as well as more indirect support such as technical assistance to pipeline operators.
“Our international energy engagement will center on promoting clean energy, advancing innovative technologies, boosting U.S. clean-tech competitiveness and providing financing and technical assistance to support net-zero transitions around the world,” the cable states, according to Bloomberg
What’s affected? The announcement affects all new carbon-intensive projects that would involve at least $250,000 in federal spending. It reportedly contains numerous exemptions pertaining to issues such as national security, as well as a process by which individual government officials may seek an exemption.
A State Department spokesperson confirmed the directive to The Hill.
The announcement had long been rumored, and initial reports said it could be made during or immediately after the United Nations COP26 climate summit in November, when the U.S. committed to “end[ing] new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022.”
It also comes just days after Biden signed an executive order calling for the federal government to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Read more about the order here.
A MESSAGE FROM EXXONMOBIL
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White House seeks credit if gas prices fall
Democratic strategists say it’s vital the White House use a projected fall in gas prices to counter Republican attacks by tying the decrease to Biden administration policies.
President Biden has taken a political hit from inflation, and gas prices in particular have done him damage. The average price at the pump when Biden took office was around $2.40 per gallon, but had risen to around $3.40 per gallon in November.
Republicans have blamed Biden for the high prices, linking his energy and economic policies to across-the-board inflation and lower fuel production domestically. In a July floor speech, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) decried the president’s “hypocritical and backward energy policy that is putting a target on American workers.”
But a decline is on the horizon: The price of gas is projected to fall in the weeks ahead, with Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at price comparison website GasBuddy, projecting a decline of up to 25 cents a gallon. Tuesday projections by the U.S. Energy Information Administration suggested prices will fall below $3 a gallon in 2022.
Presidents are always blamed for high gas prices, though prices rise and fall for a number of reasons that often stand outside the White House’s control, from international events to financial crises or — in the case of 2020 — a global pandemic.
But after taking blows for the high prices, the White House is signaling it wants to get some credit if there is some good news at the pump.
The White House so far has struck a balance between attributing a price drop to Biden administration policies and pointing to factors outside the government’s control.
Watchdog: Interior wasting money on filings
The Interior Department is wasting money and other resources on applications for land that will never be leased for oil and gas drilling, according to a report released Friday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The analysis found that of 87 million acres nominated for leasing by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) between 2009 and 2019, 69 million were never offered at auction, and of the 18 million auctioned, 4 million were never leased.
The gap can be even more dramatic at the state level, according to the GAO. For example, in the same decade, about 60.7 million acres were nominated for leasing in Nevada, compared to more than 7 million offered at auction, or about 12 percent. The smallest gap between acreage nominated and acreage offered at auction was in Wyoming, where 8.7 million acres were nominated and 5.49 million were offered at auction.
In addition, the bureau has not updated its application fees in more than 15 years, despite the fact that an update could provide revenues to offset the inefficiency, according to the report. BLM should also consider charging a fee to nominate lands, the report adds, noting that it has not considered such a requirement since 2014.
WHAT WE’RE READING
These lawmakers’ districts are at highest risk of flooding. Here’s where they stand on the climate crisis, CNN reports
Earthquakes linked to drilling are messing with Texas, E&E News reports
The father of environmental justice, on whether we’re all doomed, from Vox
McDonald’s avoids the bold step it must take to cut emissions, The Guardian reports
Cheetah cubs threatened by pet trade, global warming in Somaliland, Reuters reports
A MESSAGE FROM EXXONMOBIL
And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Free him.
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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