House Republicans’ fossil fuel-friendly energy program criticized by environmentalists

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A group of 17 House Republicans released a plan on Thursday to boost national energy production, which they say will also benefit the environment.

Led by Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., the GOP Energy, Climate, and Conservation Task Force drafted the first of what will ultimately be six components of what Graves called on a call to the press Thursday as his “framework for unlocking America’s resources.” .”

Rep.  Garret Graves

Rep. Garret Graves, R-La. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images)

While Graves said the task force, which was selected a year ago by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, accepts the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels causes the climate change, he made it clear that his No. 1 priority was to lower the price. Americans pay for oil and natural gas, both of which emit carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas.

Unlike most economists and energy policy experts, who point to factors such as growing global energy demand and reduced production on existing leases from U.S. oil and gas companies, Graves – like other House GOP leaders — blamed high gas prices on the Biden administration.

“The ‘why’ here is primarily due to what we see with national energy prices, with the sustained spike since this administration took office and the inconsistent and irrational policy decisions that have caused the energy crisis in which we find ourselves currently,” Graves said Thursday.

To lower those prices, Graves said House Republicans would pass policy proposals that meet a three-part test of “affordability, lower emissions and energy security.”

Chief among them will be increased domestic oil and gas production, largely through more sales of oil and gas drilling rights on federal lands and waters, which the Biden administration has reduced as part of its efforts to combat climate change.

Oil pump cylinders near Derby Acres, California.

Oil pump cylinders near Derby Acres, California. (Ian Tuttle/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

House Republicans also want to scrap environmental review processes for energy-related infrastructure projects such as pipelines and hydroelectric dams, which they say impede domestic energy development. Similarly, the GOP agenda includes facilitating the extraction of minerals needed for clean energy technologies such as solar panels and electric cars.

Graves also called for capacity building to export more liquefied natural gas, also known as LNG, which the Biden administration recently adopted in a bid to help Europe wean itself off Russian gas at the following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We’re going to see numbers – for example, in developing countries – of demand for natural gas increasing by up to 80% over the next three decades,” Graves said, citing figures from a study by the Biden administration.

One would think that increasing fossil fuel production would increase rather than decrease emissions. In October 2021, a United Nations report found that current fossil fuel production plans among nations around the world are “dangerously out of sync” with the need to drastically reduce fossil fuel use to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Evergreen Action, an advocacy organization dedicated to fighting climate change, released a statement dismissing the House Republican climate agenda as a misleading “greenwash” for this exact reason.

“Kevin McCarthy’s so-called climate strategy appears to be little more than a practical guide to accelerating the climate crisis,” said Jamal Raad, executive director of Evergreen Action. “Real and effective climate solutions are within reach, but McCarthy and his caucus are so indebted to their donors in the fossil fuel industry that they prefer to double down on technologies of the past that are poisoning our communities and cooking our planet. ”

Solar panels

Solar panels in a winery near Santa Ynez, California. (George Rose/Getty Images)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 50% by 2030 and reach zero. net by 2050. The Biden administration endorsed these goals and established an agenda that, if passed by Congress, would put the United States on that path through a combination of incentives to increase solar and wind power generation and the shift from drivers to electric vehicles. Congressional Republicans are united against those plans, however, and the budget reconciliation bill, of which Biden’s climate agenda is a part, is stalled in the Senate due to opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin, a coal Democrat. and gas. West Virginia heavy state.

Graves argued Thursday that — because the United States has cleaner oil and gas production methods than other countries, such as Saudi Arabia — supplying American oil and gas to foreign consumers would reduce emissions. world. For example, although the energy-intensive process of freezing gas, shipping it across the Atlantic Ocean, and regasifying it increases natural gas emissions, Graves said a 2019 Department of Energy study found that US LNG had a lower life cycle. than the natural gas that is brought there from Russia.

While the first-ever introduction of a Congressional Republican plan on climate change may have been cause for celebration among environmentalists, activists were unimpressed with the agenda, as it does not attempt to ensure U.S. emissions reductions consistent with IPCC warnings and international climate agreements. The United States signed in Paris in 2015 and Glasgow, Scotland last year.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, and UN Secretary General António Guterres, right, with President Biden at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, and UN Secretary-General António Guterres, right, with President Biden at the UN climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, November 1, 2021. ( Alastair Grant/AFP via Getty Images)

“In the face of public demand to address the impacts of climate change, I think that means Republicans feel compelled to release something with the word ‘climate,'” said Melinda Pierce, legislative director of the Sierra Club, at Yahoo News. . “But if you look under the hood, it’s more of the same fossil fuel-focused proposals. Their plan does not fix [greenhouse gas emissions] reduction targets and would continue to increase hazardous emissions.

“It would be laughable as a climate agenda in 2022, except there’s absolutely nothing funny about the climate crisis or Congressional Republicans and their Big Oil allies obstructing desperately needed solutions. “, Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president for government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters, told Yahoo News. “Unfortunately, they are only doubling down on failed energy policies of the past instead of supporting common sense investments in clean energy that will solve the climate crisis and environmental injustice, create well-paying union jobs and save money. money to people on their energy bills. ”

Graves argues that even if the GOP’s approach doesn’t reduce US emissions, it will reduce global emissions by replacing foreign fossil fuels with cleaner fuels from the United States.

“We’re looking at a global reach rather than a US reach,” Graves said during Thursday’s press call. “Our commitment is that this will result in lower global emissions through our efforts than those achieved by the Biden administration.”

Conservative energy policy pundits are enthusiastic about this approach.

A drilling site in Morris Township, Pennsylvania.

A drilling site in Morris Township, Pennsylvania. (Justin Merriman/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“Historically, what has been the biggest chunk of U.S. emissions reductions, and one that has also made a big difference globally, has been replacing coal with natural gas,” Philip Rossetti, senior policy researcher energy at the R Street Institute, a right-wing think tank, Yahoo News told. Therefore, he argues, increasing US gas exports could reduce global emissions by displacing coal in other countries.

“It is understandable that [Republicans] would look to U.S. opportunities to reduce foreign coal consumption overseas,” Rossetti said.

Some experts would question this strategy, as a number of studies have found that US gas wells and pipelines leak more methane – a very potent greenhouse gas – than the Environmental Protection Agency assumes. . Rossetti said methane leaks require further study to determine the exact rate, as it can vary between different gas producers, but expressed skepticism that the average is high enough to wipe out the climate benefits of the gas compared to coal. He added that simplifying the siting and licensing of clean energy sources such as wind and solar could do more to boost domestic clean energy production than Biden’s proposed tax credits. .

All of this, it should be noted, is quite at odds with many in the Republican Party who reject the science of climate change. Former President Donald Trump, for example, has called climate change a “hoax”. Trump campaigned in 2016 on a promise to revitalize the coal industry, but it continued to decline during his tenure.

Graves said upcoming programs on the remaining six pillars of the Republican energy and climate framework will defeat China and Russia, leaving America to build, American innovation, conservation with purpose, and building resilient communities.

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Global temperatures are on the rise and have been for decades. Step into the data and see the scale of climate change.

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