Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — OPEC agrees to modest supply bump

·5 min read

Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Today we're looking at OPEC sticking to the status quo, new research on hurricanes and lobster fishers asking the Supreme Court to halt whale protections that would close fishing grounds.

For The Hill, we're Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Write to us with tips: rfrazin@thehill.com and zbudryk@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @RachelFrazin and @BudrykZack.

Let's jump in.

OPEC+ sticks to small oil supply increases

A group of oil-producing countries and their allies known as OPEC+ on Thursday agreed to continue with its previously planned modest increase in oil production.

A statement from the group affirmed that it will stick to its plan to increase supply monthly by 400,000 barrels per day next month.

The announcement comes as oil prices have fallen over the course of the past week, amid uncertainty from the new omicron coronavirus variant.

...But before that? In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, U.S. crude prices were as high as about $79 per barrel, but, as of Thursday, they were down to about $67 per barrel.

Last year, oil prices fell significantly amid the COVID-19 pandemic as people traveled and commuted less often and therefore needed less fuel.

But, prices this year have been on the rise as more people get vaccinated and economies recover. This has resulted in high fuel prices in both the U.S. and globally.

Because of the high prices, the Biden administration had been pushing OPEC+ in recent months to up its supply by more than the 400,000 barrels adjustment, but its request was repeatedly bucked by the cartel.

In light of this, the U.S. and other non-OPEC nations recently tapped into their oil reserves in order to ease prices.

Read more about the agreement here.


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Hurricanes worse in last 150 years: research

Hurricanes have increased in frequency and destructiveness over the past 150 years, according to research published in the journal Nature Communications.

Researchers, led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Kerry Emanuel, created a model to estimate the trend in hurricanes during this period. Existing data show an increase, but researchers have historically been hesitant to draw a conclusion, saying it could be just as easily attributed to improved record-keeping.

"We chose to use this approach to avoid any artificial trends brought about by the introduction of progressively different observations," Emanuel said in a statement.

So what did it find? The model indicated "unequivocal increases" in hurricane activity in the North Atlantic during the last 150 years. It also found a brief drop in annual hurricane activity in the 1970s and 80s, which he said tracks with the use of sulfate aerosols, a fossil fuel byproduct that could have led to cooling in the region.

"[A]t this point, we're more confident of why there was a hurricane drought than why there is an ongoing, long-term increase in activity that began in the 19th century," he said. "That is still a mystery, and it bears on the question of how global warming might affect future Atlantic hurricanes."

The data, Emanuel said, "certainly will change the interpretation of climate's effects on hurricanes - that it's really the regionality of the climate, and that something happened to the North Atlantic that's different from the rest of the globe. It may have been caused by global warming, which is not necessarily globally uniform."

Read more about the findings here.

Fishers ask SCOTUS to halt whale protections

A lobster fishers' union and two lobster fishing companies have asked the Supreme Court to halt the closure of fishing grounds off Maine intended to protect an endangered whale species.

The protections in question restrict the use of lobster traps in nearly 1,000 square miles in the Gulf of Maine between October and January. They are intended to protect the North Atlantic right whale, which are believed to number fewer than 400. The species is vulnerable to becoming tangled in nets or colliding with boats.

In the emergency filing, the union and fishing companies said the restrictions would curtail fishing by more than 100 of the state's "largest and most productive" boats, many of which only fish in the restricted area.

"These fishermen and their communities have no other means to make a living except by fishing in these waters during this specific time of year, and even the loss of one season will see their vessels repossessed and their gear obsolete due to changing regulations with no funds to update them," the filing states.

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the restrictions last month, saying the federal government has a "congressionally assigned task of assuring the right whales are protected from a critical risk of death."

Read more about their request here.




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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