Energy & Environment — Biden may tap diesel reserves

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<em><span class="has-inline-color has-cyan-bluish-gray-color">Madeline Monroe/Greg Nash/iStock</span></em>
Madeline Monroe/Greg Nash/iStock

The Biden administration is considering turning to a little-used diesel fuel stockpile, and greenhouse gas pollution is trapping more heat than 50 years ago. Also, a British bank backtracks from an executive’s comments on climate risk.

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk.

Biden officials eyeing stockpile to ease shortage

The Biden administration is in talks to tap to into a federal diesel reserve to address energy shortfalls, an official with knowledge of the matter confirmed to The Hill on Monday.

An interagency team of officials has been monitoring East Coast diesel supplies and developing policy recommendations, the official said.

“The team has prepared emergency declarations for President authorize release from the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve if conditions deteriorate,” they added. “We would call this a bridge to deal with short-term supply shortfalls.”

The Northeast what now? The Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve, created in 2000, is a Northeast-based stockpile of about 1 million barrels of home heating oil. Due to its relatively small size, the reserve is considered to be of limited long-term use, about a day’s worth of supply for the region, according to the White House. It has only been tapped once before, in 2012, after Superstorm Sandy battered the East Coast.

The White House official framed the crunch as a consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a frequent refrain from the Biden administration as the war has thrown global energy markets into disarray.

“In recent weeks, the team noted a worrisome decline in diesel inventories in the Northeast (below 20M barrels), as well as on-the-ground reports of supply issues, resulting from a lack of supply in part resulting from Putin’s actions in Ukraine and the disruption in the energy market,” the official said.

CNN first reported that Biden administration officials were exploring the reserve to ease rising diesel prices.

What effect will it have? Although the stockpile is likely too small to significantly reduce prices, the official said it could be useful in averting disruptive spot outages. While the White House said diesel prices appear to be stabilizing, it is concerned about the potential effects of shortfalls heading into hurricane season and winter.

Diesel prices hit a record average high of $5.58 per gallon last Wednesday, according to AAA. As of Tuesday, the average was down slightly to $5.55.

Read more about the plans here. 

Greenhouse gasses increasingly trapping more heat

Planet-warming gases are trapping more and more heat in the atmosphere, holding in significantly more heat than they were in previous decades, a new assessment has found.

The Monday assessment from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that human-caused greenhouse gas pollution trapped 49 percent more heat in 2021 than in 1990.

“Our measurements show the primary gases responsible for climate change continue rising rapidly, even as the damage caused by climate change becomes more and more clear,” said Ariel Stein, the acting director of NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory, in a statement.

Climate change is caused by an increased amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These increases are primarily driven by human use of fossil fuels.

The story so far: Last year, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that climate change is “unequivocally” caused by humans.

And, it has been linked to more droughts and heat waves, stronger hurricanes and rising sea levels.

NOAA found that carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas, which can last more than 1,000 years in the atmosphere, is the biggest contributor.

It also found that carbon dioxide levels are responsible for 80 percent of the increased heat tracked by the agency’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index since 1990.

Read more about the report here. 

CEO disavows dismissive climate change comments

HSBC’s CEO disavowed comments made by a senior executive of the bank in which he compared the financial threat of climate change to anxiety over Y2K and said people could “cope with” Miami being under water.

At a Financial Times conference last weel, Stuart Kirk, head of responsible investing for HSBC’s asset management division, delivered a presentation entitled “Why investors need not worry about climate risk.”

In the presentation, Kirk dismissed warnings of the financial risks of climate change as the latest in a series of “nut job[s] telling me about the end of the world.”

Kirk went on to compare such warnings to proponents of returning to the gold standard and those who warned the year 2000 could lead to widespread computer meltdowns by machines that did not recognize the digits “00” to represent the year. Numerous international governments tasked the public and private sector with preparing to avoid such a scenario for years leading up to the date.

Kirk expressed confidence that the populace would learn to deal with the impact of climate change, saying “human beings have been fantastic at adapting to change, adapting to climate emergencies, and we will continue to do so. Who cares if Miami is six meters underwater in 100 years? Amsterdam has been six meters underwater for ages, and that’s a really nice place. We will cope with it.”

The banker decried what he said was the disproportionate amount spent on mitigating the effects of climate change rather than adaptation.

In a LinkedIn post Saturday, CEO Noel Quinn wrote that “I do not agree – at all – with the remarks made at last week’s FT Moral Money Summit. They are inconsistent with HSBC’s strategy and do not reflect the views of the senior leadership of HSBC or HSBC Asset Management.” He did not name Kirk in the post.

Read more about the fallout here. 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

  • The House Select Climate Crisis Committee will hold a hearing on “Building an affordable and resilient food supply chain”

WHAT WE’RE READING

And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Ringing endorsement.

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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