Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — Biden walks tightrope on oil industry messaging

© Madeline Monroe, Greg Nash/The Hill

Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. Subscribe here.

Today we’re looking at President Biden’s messaging to the oil industry, the climate policies Sen. Manchin (D-W.Va.) would support and a study that sends a worrisome signal on 2021’s carbon emissions. 

For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Write to us with tips: rfrazin@thehill.com and zbudryk@thehill.com.

Let’s jump in.

 

Biden sends mixed signals to oil industry 

The Biden administration is sending mixed messaging to the oil and gas industry as it seeks to boost oil output while also keeping the industry at arm’s length.   

The administration has asked U.S. oil and gas producers to drill more as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed gasoline prices higher. But it has also taken a somewhat hostile tone, blaming the industry for not bringing prices down quickly enough.  

The story so far: The tough rhetoric comes as the industry has faced scrutiny from progressives — a significant group within President Biden’s electoral base.  

“The messaging has been all over the place,” said Morgan Bazilian, a public policy professor at the Colorado School of Mines.  

“It’s really not very effective communications because they’re sending out all kinds of mixed messages to the industry because of the difficulty they have aligning this with their climate policy, but at the same time they know the political priority is to speak to voters about the price of gasoline.”    

Earlier this month, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm called on oil companies to drill for more oil in the short term. The administration has also said it would release 30 million barrels of oil from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  

 

HOW IS THE ADMINISTRATION TRYING TO REMEDY THIS?

Last week, in an apparent effort to help Europe lessen its supply of Russian fuel, the Energy Department allowed two facilities to export additional natural gas.   

And this week, the administration met with oil executives — in addition to clean energy executives and CEOs from other industries — about the conflict abroad.   

Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs at the American Petroleum Institute, called some of the administration’s recent actions “encouraging signs for the industry” in remarks last week.  

“We recognize that the administration had in recent days changed their rhetoric to some extent about the need to produce more supply here in the United States,” Macchiarola said.   

But he said that some of its other statements “continue to point fingers rather than work on solutions.”   

Biden last week chastised the industry for not bringing down prices quickly enough.   

Read more about the push here. 

 

Manchin outlines energy policy objectives 

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a key swing vote in the Senate, on Wednesday laid out some energy policies he supports.  

During a meeting of the International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris, Manchin touted a tax credit for clean energy manufacturing, known as 48C, and legislation that would replace fossil fuel generation with advanced nuclear power.  

“People in states like mine, that the energy transition has hit the hardest, want meaningful work and are looking for a hand up, not a handout,” said Manchin, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.   

What else does he support? He also expressed support for hydrogen energy, as well as the use of carbon capture — still developing technology that would aim to prevent climate-warming gases from fossil fuels from going into the air.  

And he reiterated recent skepticism over a transition to using electric vehicles. The Biden administration and House and Senate Democrats have sought to advance this transition through the use of tax credits included in the climate and social spending bill that passed the House but was held up by Manchin in the Senate.  

“I’m very much concerned about the supply chain,” he said. “I am very much concerned about … relying on China to supply the necessary resources we need to have that transition happen.”  

The comments from Manchin follow a report that he is ready to negotiate on the broader package.  

E&E News reported on Wednesday that Manchin hopes for a deal to be reached during the Senate’s April and May work period on a slimmed down climate and social spending bill. According to the news outlet, there is text circulating, but it is at an early stage. 

Read more about Manchin’s remarks here. 

 

Globe has less than 10 years to avert warming: study

Although carbon emissions dropped sharply in 2020 amid the COVID pandemic, a subsequent surge wiped out any time the decrease may have bought, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment. 

The first year of the pandemic saw emissions decline 11 percent as a number of activities ground to a halt. However, in 2021, as restrictions lifted, they surged 4.8 percent compared to 2020. Greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide emissions, are the primary cause of climate change. 

International governments have identified 1.5 degrees Celsius as the temperature increase that warming must be kept below to avert long-term catastrophe.

The so-called carbon budget measures the emissions scientists believe can be released before the 1.5-degree threshold is unavoidable. The 2021 spike in emissions “consumed 8.7% of the remaining carbon budget for limiting anthropogenic warming to 1.5 [degrees], which if current trajectories continue, might be used up in 9.5 years at 67% likelihood,” the study states. 

Particularly worrisome is the fact that many of the most emissions-heavy sectors have seen their emissions rebound faster than emissions in general, according to the report. For example, the power sector saw its emissions increase by 5 percent, while the ground transport industry saw its emissions rebound 8.9 percent. 

The biggest single-sector rebound was in the aviation industry, which saw a 25.8 percent domestic increase and an 18.1 percent international rebound. 

China and the U.S., the world’s top two emitters, also saw a bigger rebound than the worldwide average. Chinese emissions rebounded by 5.7 percent, while American emissions rebounded by 6.5 percent, according to researchers.  

Read more about the study here. 

 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Inside Scott Pruitt’s chaotic last days at EPA (E&E News

  • The world’s forests do more than just store carbon, new research finds (The Guardian

  • Shifts in El Niño May Be Driving Climates Extremes in Both Hemispheres (Inside Climate News

  • Environmental groups call on EPA to simplify pollution regulation (VTDigger

  • Environmental coalition demands Colorado speed up clean truck rules, citing long delays in air pollution cuts (The Colorado Sun)

 

ICYMI

 

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.

Tags Jennifer Granholm Joe Biden Joe Manchin Scott Pruitt

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