Republican House, ewry with the political ram of high fuel prices, hope to win over voters Nov. 8 by promising to command a U-turn on energy policy in Washington if voters give the party control of the chamber.
Democrats won a major legislative victory in August with the passage of the Cut Inflation Act, including provisions to make alternative energy sources cheaper and more abundant and help shift demand for fuels fossils. At the same time, President Joe Biden’s tenure to date has been marked by historically high retail prices for oil, natural gas and gasoline (energy sources that it is estimated will not be sold out anytime soon) and mutual acrimony between his administration and the oil and gas industry.
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Republicans have sought to present a stark contrast to Biden’s green policies that have skewed against new oil and gas infrastructure and the expansion of leasing on federal lands in favor of renewable energy sources. An important part of the strategy House Republicans are presenting to voters is a pledge to further support domestic oil and gas production, which they say can serve global goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. and the security of the United States’ energy supply.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has overseen the creation of several caucus-wide “task forces” over the past year. This includes an energy, climate and conservation working group to shape the conference agenda and prepare it for victory in the midterm elections.
The energy task force has promoted legislation to invest in clean energy infrastructure and land conservation. Republican lawmakers have also argued that the country’s economic and energy security needs compel Washington to balance the continued need for fossil fuels alongside climate change mitigation measures.
Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), a member of the conservative climate group, said the United States needs an “all-in-one” energy strategy. It’s a common refrain Republicans use to refer to a strategy that values all kinds of resources, from wind to nuclear and natural gas.
“I’m all for renewables, but I believe in a comprehensive energy strategy, and I don’t believe we can destroy our economy trying to reach [more] renewable energy,” Carter told the Washington Examiner in an interview.
Carter recalled a summer trip to Europe, where countries have in recent years moved more aggressively toward renewable energy and restricted the development of new fossil fuels. These countries are now facing a serious energy supply crisis due to a sharp drop in Russian gas imports.
Now, a number of countries are resurrecting coal-fired power plants to deal with the short-term crisis.
“I went to Europe earlier this year and witnessed what happened there, where they let their policies get ahead of their technology,” Carter said. “They’re in trouble, and we can learn some important lessons right here in the United States. If we don’t, shame on us.”
The Biden administration, in response to the war in Ukraine and the associated disruption of global energy markets, has tempered its approach to oil and gas production somewhat from the president’s early days in office. He promised to help further facilitate shipments of liquefied natural gas from the United States to allies in Europe and approved additional exports while urging domestic producers to increase oil production to bring down fuel prices.
Environmental groups have sharply criticized the administration for not being more aggressive in restricting new oil and gas developments. Some have accused them of capitulating to the oil industry by taking out new oil and gas leases and encouraging more production.
“You can increase oil and gas production now while continuing to move full speed ahead to accelerate our transition to clean energy,” Biden said, chastising that line of thinking.
Biden and Democrats have also consistently leveled price-gouging fees from major oil producers and refiners, as well as retailers, accusing them of unduly raising prices. For growers, in particular, the White House has blamed them for not ramping up production faster in response to high prices.
Oil and gas players, meanwhile, have insisted that their cautious approach to spending on incremental production is driven, in large part, by market “signals” sent by policymakers in Washington, who want to oversee a phase-out of oil and gas as soon as possible.
House Republicans intend to counter that.
“We’re playing a role. And even acknowledging that we’ll have an adversarial White House, market signals from Congress and showing that real regulatory reform is our priority, matters,” said a House Republican policy adviser. Washington Examiner.
As for regulatory reform, the conference wants to pursue changes to certain environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act “out of the gate,” the person said.
The ESA, like the National Environmental Policy Act, was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in the 1970s, ushering in a new era of environmental stewardship to govern federal decision-making for approval of pipelines, transportation electricity and mining leases on federal lands, among others.
Environmental groups have frequently and successfully invoked both laws in court to prevent, and in some cases reverse, federal decisions authorizing drilling projects and permits.
Infrastructure enabling reform proposal drafted by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and endorsed by Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi included language to limit the ability of groups to interest in using environmental laws to stop projects, though lacked the necessary votes to pass. A slew of House and Senate Democrats said the bill would undermine environmental stewardship, while some Republicans who spoke out against the bill thought it didn’t go far enough.
Reform of delegated authorities at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is also on the table, the House Republican aide said.
The Democratic-led FERC angered many Republicans earlier this year when it approved new policy statements to add new hurdles to candidates seeking approval for pipeline projects.
Under the revised policy statements, which FERC later withdrew for further review, the commission would more strictly examine the effect of climate change on a given project.
FERC Democratic Chairman Richard Glick said the new policies would allow the commission to avoid lengthy and costly litigation. He pointed to court rulings that overturned FERC certificates for improperly accounting for the greenhouse gas footprints of certain projects. Republicans and other critics have said FERC’s policy statements exceed its mandate.
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Forecasts of ever-increasing energy demand in the United States and around the world mean that Congress and regulators must facilitate production and transportation for energy producers, the Republican aide said.
“We can’t afford to take energy sources off the table, unless there’s some magical, affordable technological innovation,” the person said, “which, you know, can always happen.”