Energy & Environment — Manchin throws wrench into climate deal

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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has thrown a wrench into Democrats’ hopes of passing a sweeping climate bill before they potentially lose seats in the November midterms.

We’re examining what happened, and the fallout.

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. Subscribe here.

Manchin backs away from climate bill

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is saying that he’s currently not backing climate legislation, but may be open to it depending on the future of inflation.

  • Late Thursday, a Democrat briefed on the conversation said that Manchin told his fellow Democrats that he would “unequivocally” not back climate spending in a reconciliation package and was at this stage only willing to negotiate on lowering prescription drug prices.

  • On Friday, Manchin called radio host told West Virginia radio host Hoppy Kercheval that he would soon be willing to get a deal on drug prices done, but wouldn’t be willing to pursue climate spending on that timeline.

Manchin said that without additional inflation data, it’s “not prudent” to legislate climate and tax changes right now.

However, Manchin appeared to say he may have interest in climate legislation eventually, just not at the current moment.

“I said, ‘Chuck, can we just wait until the inflation figures come out in July?’” he said, referring to Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). “I want climate. I want an energy policy.”

In response to Manchin’s comments, President Biden called for the passage of a health care bill and said he would take on climate through “strong executive action.” 

Read more from The Hill:

Dems call for Biden to go ‘beast mode’

Senate Democrats are calling on President Biden to go hard on climate regulation following Manchin’s decision to pull the plug on climate and tax-hike talks.

WHITEHOUSE: “With legislative climate options now closed, it’s now time for executive Beast Mode,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) tweeted Thursday night.

In a lengthy thread, Whitehouse listed policies he’d like to see, including requiring technology to capture greenhouse gasses from all major emitters, strong emissions controls for cars and a carbon border tariff.

SCHATZ: “The legislative branch should keep pushing for climate action, but it is long past time for executive to move with pace and enthusiasm. Existing law gives the executive multiple tools to act with the urgency, determination, and purpose that is equal to this planetary emergency,” tweeted Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

CARPER: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), meanwhile, called for “bold climate action” from the executive, while also hinting Democrats will still try to work out a legislative deal.

“We must strengthen our resolve and find a path forward, including robust action now with the tools we already have as we work to provide more,” he wrote.

CHAIRING IS CARING

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) said Friday he is questioning why Manchin is the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee after Manchin’s refusal became public.

“We have an opportunity to address the climate crisis right now. Senator Manchin’s refusal to act is infuriating,” Heinrich wrote on Twitter. “It makes me question why he’s Chair of ENR,” he added.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) backed Heinrich’s statement shortly after it was posted, tweeting: “Courage. Thank you for saying this Sen. @MartinHeinrich.”

RESEARCHERS: NO DEAL WOULD MEAN A WARMER PLANET

Researchers and activists warned that moving ahead without climate legislation risks consigning the entire world to a warmer future.

Princeton professor Jesse Jenkins, who has modeled the potential emissions cuts of the legislation under consideration, told The Hill that based on what had been reported thus far, a climate deal would have probably cut emissions between 800 million and 1 billion metric tons in 2030.

  • That’s the equivalent of taking between 172 million and 215 million cars off the roads for a year.

  • “We’re losing two thirds to three-quarters of the progress we were hoping to make by 2030,” he said.

Robbie Orvis, senior director of energy policy design at the think tank Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology, also said the emerging bill could have cut emissions as much as by 1 billion tons.

  • “The probability of being able to hit the 2030 target is much lower now, so I think that implies that there will be more emissions, certainly, and that translates to higher warming,” Orivs said, referring to President Biden’s goal of cutting emissions in half by the end of the decade.

  • “Every amount that we continue to increase the global temperature brings more extreme storm events,” he said, adding that without action “we’re going to continue to worsen the impacts of climate change, and it’s going to contribute to worsening extreme weather events and…ultimately human suffering and death.” 

Some on Friday argued that the rest of the world may be less inclined to take bold action without the U.S.

  • “The U.S. is THE largest historical all-time emitter, and for that reason occupies a special role. We can’t expect other countries to act meaningfully if we fail to,” said climatologist Michael Mann in an email to The Hill.

  • Jenkins added that not passing the bill is also expected to stifle technological innovation, hampering the global transition to clean energy.

Read more of what they had to say here.

White House tamps down expectations on gas prices

The White House on Friday tamped down expectations that President Biden’s meetings with Saudi leaders will lead to an announcement about a bump in oil production that could lower prices.

  • Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that the administration expects any concrete decision on increasing production to be made by OPEC and OPEC+, of which Saudi Arabia is the de facto leader, in the coming weeks.

  • “We will discuss the issue here and we are hopeful that we will see additional actions by OPEC+ in the coming weeks,” Sullivan told reporters. 

Don’t hold your breath: “I don’t think you should expect a particular announcement here bilaterally, because we believe any further action taken to ensure that there is sufficient energy to protect the health of the global economy will be done in the context of OPEC+,” Sullivan added.

The group of oil-producing nations agreed in early June to increase oil production as the global energy market felt disruptions from Russia’s war in Ukraine.

High gas prices in the U.S., which have started to decline, were widely viewed as a strong motivation for Biden’s decision to travel to Saudi Arabia. The White House has also sold the trip as part of an effort to reassert U.S. leadership in the Middle East.

Leading up to the trip, experts said that the Saudis were unlikely to immediately commit to an increase in oil production, though they noted the countries could agree to greater cooperation on energy security.

Read more from The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant.

MEASURING CRYPTO GIANTS’ ELECTRICAL STOCK

A handful of leading cryptocurrency miners have the electrical capacity equivalent to nearly every residence in Houston, according to data released by Democratic members of Congress on Friday.

  • In a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, members led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) noted that leading cryptominers have developed more than 1,045 megawatts in mining capacity as of February. 

  • Companies that responded to the members’ inquiries included Riot Blockchain, Bit Digital, Bitdeer, Stronghold, Marathon and Greenidge.

Following a crackdown on cryptomining by the Chinese government, mining operations have increasingly moved onshore in the U.S., according to the members.

The U.S. share of global mining for Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency, increased from 4 percent in August 2019 to nearly 38 percent in January.

The data divulged in the investigation also indicates the two biggest cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin and Ethereum, consume electricity at an annual rate exceeding that of the entire United Kingdom, which created nearly 80 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions last year.

The power demands associated with mining also affect local customers, they wrote, citing a recent finding that mining added about $79 million to annual electric bills in upstate New York.

Read more about the letter here.

ON TAP NEXT WEEK

The Senate Energy Committee will hold a hearing next Tuesday to examine federal regulatory authorities governing the development of interstate hydrogen pipelines, storage, import and export facilities.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • A hypothetical weather forecast for 2050 is coming true next week (CNN)

  • ‘Change is possible’: meet the Gen-Zers who embrace climate optimism (The Guardian)

  • ERCOT CEO says he did not expect it to be as hot as it is (KHOU)

  • House Passes Crew Mandate Called ‘Gut Punch’ to Offshore Wind (Bloomberg)

🦀 Lighter click: It happens

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 next week!

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