Energy & Environment — OPEC+ announces bigger increase in oil supply

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<em><span class="has-inline-color has-cyan-bluish-gray-color">AP Photo</span></em>
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A group of oil exporters will further boost their production efforts, and Republicans are talking up a new energy and climate plan.

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After resistance, OPEC+ to boost oil output

OPEC+ nations on Thursday agreed to an approximately 50 percent boost in increased oil production by for the next two months.

After initially saying it would boost its production by 400,000 barrels per day, the group of oil exporters agreed to increase their output in July and August by 648,000 barrels a day.

Gasoline prices in the U.S. saw another spike heading into the Memorial Day holiday, while across the Atlantic, European Union members reached an agreement on banning Russian oil imports in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine. As recently as earlier Thursday morning, U.S. prices hit another record average high of $4.71 a gallon.

The move represents a reversal after the oil-producing nations had previously refused to budge on output, even after oil prices soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On May 5, its second most recent meeting, OPEC+ announced it would stick to the 400,000-barrel figure in the wake of the initial EU sanction announcements.

Russia, a member of the OPEC+ bloc of oil-producing countries that are aligned with OPEC but not members, has also seen its production fall amid international sanctions. Russia is the world’s third-largest oil producer, behind the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. OPEC+ data indicated crude production in Russia fell by nearly 9 percent in April, before the EU announcement but after numerous international sanctions, including an American import ban.

The Biden administration had previously appealed to Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of OPEC, to produce more to handle the energy crunch in the U.S., but to no avail. 

The White House is pleased: White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said in a statement Thursday the U.S. “welcomes” the news.

“This announcement accelerates the end of the current quota arrangement that has been in place since July of last year and brings forward the monthly production increase that was previously planned to take place in September,” she said.

Read more here.

House GOP launches energy, climate strategy

House Republicans are launching a new energy and climate strategy as the party seeks to win over voters ahead of the midterm elections, though green groups have immediately criticized the plans as insufficient.

Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), who leads the House GOP’s task force on energy, climate and conservation, told reporters Thursday that the plans being unveiled by the party are guided by affordability, emissions reduction and energy security.

“We are aggressively pursuing meeting this global energy demand spike … with U.S. resources. That means U.S. innovation, it means U.S. renewable energy technologies and, yes, it means conventional energy sources like oil and gas,” Graves said.

A portion of the plan unveiled Thursday focuses on legislation promoting oil and gas, mining for critical minerals, and hydropower.

So what does that mean for the climate? Critical minerals are used in renewable energy technologies. Hydropower is also renewable, but according to the Energy Information Association, the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from hydropower reservoirs is uncertain.

Meanwhile, oil and gas are major climate change contributors.

Graves said that other components of the plan include promoting innovation and conservation “with a purpose,” defeating Russia and China, “letting America build” and fostering community resilience to climate.

Environmental groups are less than thrilled: “This would be laughable as a climate agenda in 2022 except there is absolutely nothing funny about the climate crisis or Congressional Republicans’ obstruction of desperately needed solutions in the name of lining the pockets of their corporate allies and big oil polluters who fund their campaigns,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters.

The plan comes as Republicans for months have hammered the Biden administration amid high gasoline prices. While experts say that presidents often have limited influence on prices, Republicans have sought to use the issue to make their cases to the voters in November.

On a national level, many Republicans have shunned the climate issue, with Republicans having no climate plan as part of their 2016 or 2020 election platforms.

Many of the policies put forward by the Republicans face an uphill battle garnering support from the Biden administration, and Graves acknowledged that part of the purpose is to show the American people the GOP plan.

“One of the objectives here is being very clear to the American public that we recognize there’s an energy crisis and we recognize the causes of this energy crisis,” he said.

Read more about the announcement here.

IN REVERSE?

U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said Wednesday that the U.S. Postal Service is reconsidering the proportion of its fleet that will be electric vehicles (EV) after months of sharp criticism for ordering a predominantly gas-powered fleet.

In the statement, DeJoy said the USPS will publish a supplement to the original environmental impact statement (EIS) to its original truck order. Following a recently-announced plan to streamline delivery routes, USPS said the update may affect the gas-to-electric ratio of the vehicle order.

“As I noted when we placed our initial NGDV delivery order, the Postal Service would continue to look for opportunities to further increase the electrification of our fleet in a responsible manner, as we continue to refine our operating strategy and implement the Delivering for America plan,” DeJoy said in a statement. “A modernized network of delivery facilities provides us with such an opportunity. This is the right approach —operationally, financially, and environmentally.”

Read more about his announcement here.

Biden gives states more ability to block pipelines

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to give states and tribes more power to block infrastructure projects like pipelines that run through their waters, reversing a Trump-era move.

The EPA issued a proposed rule on Thursday that would give states more discretion under the Clean Water Act to veto projects that may have impacts on their waters.

The Trump administration had imposed a strict one-year limit for a state or tribal government to approve or block a project. The Biden administration is proposing a system under which states and tribes can work with federal agencies to establish a “reasonable period of time” to consider such projects.

A fact sheet from the Biden administration said the proposed change would allow states and tribes to “holistically evaluate the water quality impacts” of a project.

Under the proposal, a state or tribal government would meet with federal officials to reach a deal on a timeframe for considering the project. If the two sides can’t agree on a timeframe, that state would have 60 days to decide whether to approve or block a project.

The rule would also allow the state or tribal government to automatically extend that deadline by issuing a notice saying it needs more time to consider the project.

In its new rule, the Biden administration also expanded the scope of what could be considered in blocking a project. In its new rule, it said it would allow states to consider whether the “activity as a whole” could negatively impact state or tribal waters. It said that this differed from the Trump administration’s approach, which only considered the impacts of a project’s potential discharges.

The Trump administration’s rule came after two high-profile instances where blue states used their powers to block fossil fuel projects: New York blocked a proposed natural gas pipeline, while Washington state blocked a coal shipping port.

It argued at the time that states were abusing the Clean Water Act to make decisions that were not adequately connected to water quality.

However, the Biden administration says that its approach adequately balances states’ rights with supporting infrastructure.

Read more about the proposal here.

COMPANIES CANCEL ANWR LEASES  

Companies are apparently backing out of controversial plans to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Regenerate Alaska, which leased more than 23,000 acres in the refuge’s coastal plain at an auction held by the Trump administration last year, has since asked to have it rescinded, according to an Interior Department spokesperson.

The spokesperson said Thursday that the Bureau of Land Management last month rescinded and canceled the lease, and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue refunded the company’s bonus bid and first year rentals.

A Chevron spokesperson also confirmed that earlier this year it pulled out of a lease on land owned by an Alaska Native Corporation inside the refuge.

“Chevron’s decision to formally relinquish its legacy lease position was driven by the goal of prioritizing and focusing our exploration capital in a disciplined manner in the context of our entire portfolio of opportunities,” said Chevron spokesperson Deena McMullen.

The Anchorage Daily News, which first reported the cancellations, also reported that Hilcorp pulled out of a lease on land owned by the Alaska Native corporation.

WHAT WE’RE READING

And finally, something offbeat but on-beat: Let them eat cake?

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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