Monday, December 13, 2021

Biden's war on US fracking has tied his hands with sanctions against Russia

Under Trump, the USA achieved energy independence, neutering any need for Russian energy. Biden has promptly destroyed that independence with his war on fracking and other "green" measures

(CNN)The Biden administration is drafting options for multiple rounds of harsh sanctions on Russia if it moves to invade Ukraine, but energy sanctions could be a last resort given the impact they could have on the global economy and domestic gasoline prices, three US officials tell CNN.

Some administration officials believe there is a clear correlation between President Joe Biden's approval ratings and the prices at the pump and don't want to rock the boat, the officials explained. But after this story was first published, the National Security Council said it won't factor in domestic political considerations when sanctions options are presented to Biden.

As conversations continue about these sanctions packages, experts warn that avoiding hard-hitting measures targeting Russia's energy sector -- which could affect global oil markets and prices at the pump -- could mean the sanctions would not be strong enough to deter Putin. National security adviser Jake Sullivan has suggested the sanctions would be severe.

"It will be very difficult to impose severe economic harm on Russia without affecting energy markets," said Edward Fishman, a former State Department official who is now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. "Oil and gas account for 40 percent of Russia's federal budget. The United States and Europe can take steps in advance to contain spillovers, but if they plan to impose serious economic sanctions on Russia, they cannot avoid the energy sector entirely."

Further, the Biden administration's relationship with its European allies could dissuade the White House from targeting Russian energy companies. That is because Russia is the largest exporter of oil and natural gas to the European Union and inflicting harm on that supply could have major consequences heading into the winter.

Among the options is to bar Russian energy producers from debt markets if Moscow moves to invade, an action applied to some Russian energy producers in 2014 when Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded and then annexed Crimea. But there is also a fear that Russia could retaliate against any sanctions by holding back its oil production and wreaking havoc on markets, an official noted.

"I think the risks with oil prices and gas prices being loosely pegged to oil, that would be a tough thing to sell domestically," said Julia Friedlander of the Atlantic Council when asked about potential sanctions on Russia's energy markets.

"Because it is a publicly traded commodity, right? It's not a direct supply and demand question," she added. "I would foresee that being something that could blow back in our faces, but you know, never say never.


Methane controversy

Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, the likely deciding vote for Democrats’ massive spending package, expressed concerns with the bill’s central climate provision on Wednesday.

The West Virginia senator suggested that a proposed methane fee that would fine companies emitting more than a predetermined limit was unnecessary given existing environmental protections, The Washington Post reported. In November, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled regulations that it said would cut methane emissions by 41 million tons.

“If they’re basically complying with the regulations, then they shouldn’t be subject to the fee,” Manchin told reporters Wednesday evening.

Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, holds a key role in determining what is ultimately included in the bill, the Build Back Better Act, given the Senate’s 50-50 split and his moderate views. He previously delivered the death knell for a carbon tax provision and a sweeping $150 billion clean energy program included in past versions of the package.

On Tuesday, Manchin insisted that he is “not a liberal” when asked about the Democratic Party’s move to the left at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit. Manchin also suggested that the federal government should be careful before pushing forward with large spending.

“The unknown we’re facing today is much greater than the need that people believe in this aspirational bill that we’re looking at,” Manchin said in the interview with the WSJ. “We’ve gotta make sure we get this right. We just can’t continue to flood the market, as we’ve done.”

“We’ve done so many good things in the last 10 months, and no one is taking a breath,” Manchin said. (RELATED: Biden Climate Pact Hobbles US Manufacturing And Agriculture But Gives China, India, Russia A Pass)

Leading energy industry groups, meanwhile, have come out in stark opposition to the methane fee in the House-approved version of the bill. In September, the Independent Petroleum Association of America and American Gas Association wrote a letter to Congress along with several other groups, advocating against the methane fee’s inclusion in the legislation.

“New fees or taxes on energy companies will raise costs for customers, creating a burden that will fall most heavily on lower-income Americans,” the letter said. “These major new costs most likely will result in higher bills for natural gas customers, including families, small businesses, and power generators.”


Youngkin wants Virginia out of carbon-reduction initiative

Republican Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin announced Wednesday that he would seek to use his executive powers to withdraw the commonwealth from a multistate carbon cap-and-trade program he said has overburdened ratepayers and businesses.

Environmental attorneys and other advocates quickly shot back that Virginia’s participation, approved through legislation last year, could not be undone by the governor alone.

Youngkin’s remarks about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program between 11 mid-Atlantic and northeast states designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, came during a speech he gave to the Hampton Roads Chamber.

Youngkin, who will take office in January, pledged to withdraw Virginia from the initiative through “executive action.”

“RGGI describes itself as a regional market for carbon. But it is really a carbon tax that is fully passed on to ratepayers. It’s a bad deal for Virginians. It’s a bad deal for Virginia businesses,” he said.

Virginia spent years moving toward participation in RGGI (pronounced “Reggie”). The initiative requires power plants to purchase an allowance to emit a certain amount of carbon, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, which scientists say is already accelerating sea-level rise and worsening extremes such as heatwaves, droughts, floods and storms.

Advocates say RGGI gives power plants an incentive to lower their emissions while making non-emitting power generators more cost competitive.

In 2020, with Democrats in full control of state government, lawmakers approved a measure that is now law-making Virginia a full participant. The program recently brought in about $228 million in its first full year.

Under the law, the vast majority of that revenue goes toward assisting localities affected by recurrent flooding and sea-level rise, and a state-administered account to support energy efficiency programs for low-income individuals.

“RGGI has brought in more than $220 million this year alone - money already being deployed across the Commonwealth to help communities deal with flooding and lower energy bills for Virginians who need it most,” Nate Benforado, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center said in a statement. “This was bipartisan legislation that followed a multi-year regulatory process to create a comprehensive program that cannot be undone with a simple pen stroke.”


A Different Perspective on Global Warming

We have grown accustomed to climate change being talked about in a certain way. Usually, it involves words and phrases like “dangerous,” “catastrophe,” “red zone,” and “one minute to midnight.”

Equally dramatic are the policies proposed by many in Washington, D.C., to force a transition away from conventional energy to more politically preferred options. These admittedly painful changes, we are told, are urgently needed “for the common good.”

However, climate trends don’t support rapid economy-altering responses, and areas of uncertainty in our scientific understanding caution for humility in policymaking.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently reported that the earth has warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius since 1850. It noted increasing trends in heat waves, heavy precipitation, and some kinds of drought.

Sea level has been rising at roughly 16 inches per century. It also found downward or no trends for hurricanes, winter storms and extreme cold, floods, tornadoes, or thunderstorms. So, Florida may be dealing with flooding, but not necessarily from global warming.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most extreme scenario for emissions and warming—the Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5, which has fueled the media’s apocalyptic “code red” reporting—was downgraded to “low likelihood.”

That was good news for scientific integrity more than anything else, as this alarmist scenario assumed such implausibilities as coal consumption per capita increasing sixfold by 2100.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report begs a number of fundamental questions that should be the focus of meaningful scientific and political debate.

For example, what is the nature of global warming—is it a net positive change, negative, or some mix in between? What is the pace of future warming, and do we have trustworthy tools to make educated guesses?

Why is the climate pre-1850 so preferred such that policies by global warming catastrophists point to it as a target for policy? What is the “ideal” temperature?

Too many politicians, with a helping hand from media eager to sell bad news, have assumed the answers and ignored nuance. The reality is, there is considerable uncertainty. Just three, broad examples:

Climate models thus far have run “too hot” and been unable to faithfully replicate observed historical temperatures. There remains great uncertainty about just how much warming an increase in greenhouse gas emissions induces (called the “equilibrium climate sensitivity”). This reduces confidence that these computer models can accurately project future conditions.

Climate emissions scenarios have misframed policy discussions about how to respond. Far too many politicians, academics, financial institutions, and nonprofits continue to base their work on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s worst and most unrealistic scenario (the RCP8.5 mentioned earlier).

Third, our understanding of an incredibly complex, dynamic climate is always changing and busting previous notions of scientific “consensus” (which is itself more a political term than a scientific one).

For example, a recent review by 23 scientists, who themselves have diverse opinions, expressed concern that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s low-ball assumptions about the sun’s impact on global surface temperatures were “prematurely concluded” by forcing a consensus voice.

The answer to that question alone will have major implications for policymakers, whose efforts to tamp down man-made greenhouse gas emissions might be as good as spitting in the wind.

Noting deficiencies in our understanding of climate is not to dismiss science, but rather to illustrate how much more work needs to be done.

As scientific debates continue, history provides an interesting perspective even if it can’t answer questions about the future.

What happened in this past century of warming?

Extreme poverty—the norm for most of human history—plummeted 80%, thanks to economic growth and access to energy. Global crop yields of grains increased over 200%. Deaths from climate-related disasters decreased 96%.

As a percent of global gross domestic product, damages from natural disasters have actually declined since 1990. Air pollution in the U.S. (not to be confused with greenhouse gases) has declined 73% since 1980.

It’s important to acknowledge that many are concerned about global warming because they are concerned for their grandchildren and for the beautiful places we enjoy today. But history is riddled with stories of great harm done in the name of good intentions.

As we continue to improve our scientific understanding of climate, skepticism about climate policy is merited and serves as an antibody to flawed assumptions and preconceptions.




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