Biden’s oil and gas policy falls short of climate goals, House Democrats say
In a Thursday hearing that took place less than a week after the US Department of the Interior released a report that called for fiscal updates to federal oil and gas leasing programs but offered little for reduce the industry’s climate impacts, Democrats said the administration had left a critical gap that would hamper efforts to meet Biden’s climate commitments.
U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal, a California Democrat who chairs the energy and mineral resources subcommittee, said the proposals, which include increasing royalty and bond rates, were welcome but insufficient.
“These changes are long overdue,” Lowenthal said. “But a glaring omission from the report was any discussion of emissions from oil and gas drilling on public lands. In my opinion, this was a missed opportunity, and it is a critical issue that we must address.
Lowenthal said the report’s recommendations were “minor reforms” that would not put the United States on track to meet its climate commitments.
He and full committee chair Raúl Grijalva, D-Arizona, said the administration could use its existing authority to more significantly reduce emissions from federal lands.
Home Office requests updates to oil and gas leases, but does not end production
Environmental activists have called on Biden to permanently ban the leasing of oil and gas on federal lands, saying it was a necessary step to meet the administration’s lofty climate goals.
“I can’t help but feel misled, disheartened and disappointed when I witness actions like the Home Office taking action to lease more public land for oil and gas,” Jade Begay, campaign director for climate justice for Native American advocacy group NDN Collective. and a member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Board, testified at the hearing.
The Biden administration suspended new leases on federal lands while its review was underway, but a Louisiana federal judge ordered the government to restart the program in June.
Republicans on the panel largely opposed Democratic calls to cut energy production on federal lands.
The abandonment of domestic production would lead to further development of OPEC members, Russia and other countries with less stringent environmental standards, they said.
Republicans warn of “one-sided” action
Declining US production of fossil fuels would likely be replaced in the global market by oil from OPEC, Russian natural gas and coal from other countries, said Nick Loris, Conservative vice president of public policy. Coalition for Climate Solutions, a group that advocates for market climate strategies.
“I continue to fail to understand why some members of this panel who advocate – or suggest they advocate – for a clean energy future, but in fact promote policies that result in higher global emissions,” said U.S. Representative Garret. Graves, R-La. , noted.
Republicans downplayed the climate impact that reduced oil and gas production on federal lands could have, saying other global factors were more important.
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“No matter how much they demonize domestic oil and gas production, America is not the problem,” panel-ranked Republican Pete Stauber of Minnesota said of Democrats’ calls for development. reduced on federal lands.
“We can’t have such a big impact just by changing what we do here at home,” said US Representative Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, the ranked Republican on the full committee.
Wisconsin U.S. Representative Tom Tiffany asked Begay what commitments China made at last month’s United Nations Climate Conference to curb oil and gas development, which implies that any action by the United States to reduce emissions would not be offset by the world’s second-largest economy.
“America’s unilateral disarmament of energy independence will lead to our decline,” he later said.
But Democrats have said U.S. leadership is important for international action.
“To lead in the world, we have to put our own house in order,” Grijalva said. “This includes managing and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our public lands and waters. “
Eyes on New Mexico
Much of the debate has centered on New Mexico, the second largest producer of crude oil behind Texas.
State Senator Carrie Hamblen, a Democrat who also heads the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce environmental business group, told the congressional committee that New Mexico is too dependent on fossil fuel revenue.
Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, longtime New Mexico environmentalist and executive director of the conservation nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, called the state’s reliance on oil and gas revenues a “roller coaster” due to the volatile nature of the market.
Oil and gas tax revenues provide significant funding for education, conservation and hospital programs in the state, Stauber noted. An industry analysis in February estimated that the industry accounted for a third of all state revenue in the previous fiscal year, including more than $ 1.3 billion for public education and colleges. .
Hamblen confirmed Stauber’s comment on industry contributions to the state budget, but called for “a serious conversation about economic diversity.” The state has started adding revenue streams, including through the newly legalized sale of marijuana, she said.
She added that recreational use of public lands would be another economic benefit and called for increased production of renewable energy on public lands.
“There is no denying that the oil and gas industry has supported a lot of things,” Hamblen said. “What we need to do is continue this momentum of creating different sources of income, and we’re doing it in New Mexico, we’re starting that.”