Friday, June 17, 2022

Energy Inflation Derails Biden's Climate Agenda

Well, I guess that's one good thing about inflation. 

At the Wall Street Journal, "Under the president’s watch, emissions have risen, renewable-energy development has slowed and oil and coal use is up":

WASHINGTON—President Biden came to office vowing to cut dependence on fossil fuels, putting environmentalists in charge of energy policy and asking Congress for billions of dollars to fund a transition to cleaner energy.

Seventeen months later, greenhouse gas emissions are up, renewable-power development has slowed, and oil and coal consumption are on the rise. The biggest aspects of the green agenda are stuck in Congress, while Mr. Biden, facing surging energy prices and inflation, urged U.S. oil refiners this week to expand capacity.

Domestic oil and gas production has increased since Mr. Biden came into office and is projected to rise to record highs, but that has just inflamed concerns from environmentalists that Mr. Biden is backing away from his green agenda.

“I thought the country had turned a corner,” said Mary Nichols, a former California regulator and longtime environmental leader, “that the country was headed in the right direction.”

“Now this last year or two leaves you wondering whether that is true,” Ms. Nichols said.

Mr. Biden reaffirmed his environmental commitments Friday at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, a virtual summit he hosted with representatives of more than 20 countries and international groups, including the European Commission and China.

“The critical point is that these actions are part of our transition to a clean and secure long-term energy future,” Mr. Biden said, adding later, “The science tells us that the window for action is rapidly narrowing.”

At home, however, Mr. Biden’s agenda has run into the reality of rising oil prices, punishing inflation and policy conflicts. Mr. Biden pledged last year to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 52% below 2005 levels by 2030. But doing so will require Congressional approval of measures such as tax incentives for clean energy, analysts say.

Coal-state Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), who derailed Mr. Biden’s roughly $3.5 trillion climate and social spending bill last year, has been negotiating with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) on a new bill that would include the tax incentives, but a deal is far from certain.

The stakes for Mr. Biden are high. High inflation and record gasoline prices at the pump are a political liability heading into the midterm elections, where Republicans have a chance to seize majorities in the House and Senate.

At the same time, Mr. Biden risks losing support among young and progressive voters by seeming to back away from his green agenda, activists and political analysts said.

“It is hard to forever turn people out when you’re not producing results,” said Bill McKibben, an environmentalist and co-founder of, a group dedicated to stopping the use of fossil fuels world-wide. “Especially among young voters who care about this immensely there seems to be real signs it’s doing damage.”

Administration officials say they are still on course to meet their climate goals, citing measures including executive actions to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, spending to build out an electric-vehicle charging network and the rejoining of international climate talks.

Mr. Biden wants clean energy “installed here, deployed here and exported from here,“ Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said. ”He has taken steps in every single aspect of that to make those things happen. It doesn’t happen overnight.”

Some of the problems bedeviling Mr. Biden were triggered by events beyond his control.

The economy’s sharp rebound from the pandemic fueled higher demand for energy, raising costs. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine further taxed energy markets, leading Mr. Biden to label rising gas costs as “Putin’s price hike.”

Administration critics, however, say White House policy conflicts and political miscalculations made things worse as oil prices rose from roughly $53 a barrel when Mr. Biden took office to nearly $120 now.

One problem, these people say, was a too-rosy view of how smoothly the U.S. could move off fossil fuels. Mr. Biden used his first day in office to block completion of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and freeze new oil and gas leases on federal land.

“Unfortunately, what we have seen since January 2021 are policies that send a message that the administration aims to impose obstacles to our industry delivering energy resources the world needs,” Bill Turenne, a spokesman for Chevron Corp., said in a statement to reporters Wednesday.

Mr. Biden is now asking oil-and-gas companies to pump and export more in response to soaring prices and war in Europe, leaving him open to criticism from Republicans that his early decisions fed the problem and from environmentalists that he was backtracking on his climate agenda...