Energy & Environment — Biden energy chief pushes back on GOP bill

The Biden administration says a Republican bill would hike gas prices, the U.N. Secretary-General warns of a critical moment for international warming targets and loosened restrictions in China may send oil demand surging.

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Granholm: SPR bill would result in higher gas prices

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is pushing back on a Republican proposal to put stipulations on withdrawing oil from the country’s strategic reserve, arguing the measure would curtail the use of a key security tool and drive up prices.

The story so far: House Republicans are expected to vote soon on a bill that would prevent the Department of Energy from releasing oil from the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) until the administration develops a plan to increase the percentage of federal lands that are leased for new oil and gas production.

The bill was among the first 11 outlined by Republican leadership as “meaningful, ‘ready-to-go’” measures they would take up initially with their new House majority.

Granholm’s perspective: In a letter Wednesday, first reported by Reuters and later obtained by The Hill, Granholm objected to the legislation.

“This bill would significantly weaken this critical energy security tool, resulting in more oil supply shortages in times of crisis and higher gasoline prices for Americans,” she wrote.

  • She said that President Biden’s decision last year to release oil from the reserve brought gasoline prices down, citing an analysis from the Treasury Department that the release, in coordination with similar moves from other countries, reduced the price of gasoline by between 17 and 42 cents per gallon.

  • She also argued that actions required by the legislation would “delay such critical action and increase prices for Americans when energy disruptions occur.”

The legislation faces an uphill battle to ultimate passage, as it would need to get past the Democratic-led Senate and Biden.

Last March, amid price spikes caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Biden announced he would release the largest-ever amount of oil from the SPR. The reserve contains the country’s emergency supply of crude oil.

Republicans criticized the move, arguing more needs to be done to ramp up domestic drilling. But the administration and its proponents have argued the administration’s policies toward oil and gas leasing are longer-term issues, while the supply disruption required a shorter-term solution.

Read more about Granholm’s letter here.

UN: Climate commitment ‘nearly going up in smoke’

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting of world leaders and corporate executives Wednesday that the commitment to limiting a global temperature rise is “nearly going up in smoke” as the planet hurtles toward climate disaster.

  • “We are flirting with climate disaster. … The commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees is nearly going up in smoke. Without further action, we are headed to a 2.8 degree increase and the consequences, as we all know, would be devastating,” Guterres said to the audience of elites at the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

  • “Several parts of our planet would be uninhabitable. And for many, it will mean a death sentence,” he said. 

The background: The secretary-general has been outspoken about the dangerous climate crisis and the need for urgent action to try to curtail the most extreme effects of the expected devastation.

“This is not a surprise. The science has been clear for decades, and I’m not talking only about U.N. scientists. … We learned last week that certain fossil fuel producers were fully aware in the ‘70s that their core product was breaking our planet,” Guterres said. “Some in Big Oil peddled the big lie.”

The U.N. chief warned of greenwashing in countries’ and companies’ pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and urged the Davos crowd to make and adhere to “credible and transparent” strategies to achieve net-zero emissions.

“Today, fossil fuel producers and their enablers are still racing to expand production knowing full well that this business model is inconsistent with human survival. Now, this insanity belongs in science fiction, yet we know the ecosystem meltdown is cold, hard scientific facts.”

Read more from The Hill’s Julia Mueller.

WATCHDOG: CHINA’S REOPENING COULD FOSTER RECORD OIL DEMAND

Global oil demand could surge to record highs this year as China lifts pandemic-era closures and reopens its economy, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Wednesday.

  • The energy watchdog forecasted that global oil demand would rise by 1.9 million barrels per day in 2023, climbing to a record 101.7 million barrels per day. Nearly half of that gain is expected to come from China, the IEA found in its January report.

  • “China will drive nearly half this global demand growth even as the shape and speed of its reopening remains uncertain,” the report stated, describing both China and Russia as “wild cards.”

Much of last year’s oil surplus ended up in emerging markets, as mild weather — combined with weak industrial activity — decreased demand for the resource in Europe, the IEA observed.

In fact, oil demand among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries plunged by 900,000 barrels per day in the last quarter of 2022, while demand in non-OECD nations was 500,000 barrels per day higher, according to the report.

Demand last year was also restrained by China’s coronavirus-related lockdowns, as well as winter blizzards that thwarted holiday travel in both the U.S. and Canada, the IEA found.

Meanwhile, Russian oil shipments endured an initial downturn after a European embargo on crude — as well as European Union and Group of Seven price caps — went into effect on Dec. 5, according to the report.

But these exports have partially rebounded — a situation the IEA described as “underscoring the high degree of uncertainty for the outlook.”

Read more from The Hill’s Sharon Udasin.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Race to Zero: California’s bumpy road to electrify cars and trucks (CalMatters)

  • Temperatures on Greenland haven’t been this warm in at least 1,000 years, scientists report (CNN)

  • Scientists hit back at gas industry for twisting stove study (E&E News)

  • Oil production picking up in second-largest U.S. shale field (Reuters)

  • Climate law fuels solar vs. wind battle (Politico)

🦎 Lighter click: Just a city lizard

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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