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House Republicans push 'wish list for Big Oil' while ignoring dire UN climate report

Fossil fuel companies have thrown their support behind the Lower Energy Costs Act.

By Josh Israel - March 28, 2023
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Steve Scalise
U.S. Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) speaking at a press conference about H.R. 5, The Parents Bill of Rights Act, at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

House Republicans plan to vote this week on the Lower Energy Costs Act, a bill introduced by Republican Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana on March 9. The fossil fuel industry supports the legislation, a melange of several GOP proposals to roll back environmental protections, boost oil and gas drilling, and increase mining.

Republicans in Congress have backed a series of anti-climate bills, including proposals that would make it easier for oil and gas companies to drill on public lands and build pipelines; repeal taxes on natural gas; and repeal grants to address the climate crisis by reducing greenhouse gases. Earlier this month, House Republicans combined those separate bills into one long proposal, giving it the symbolic number H.R. 1 — a designation reserved for a top priority for the majority party.

“With the introduction of the Lower Energy Costs Act, we will put a stop to the war on American energy, become energy independent again, and lower costs for families who are struggling,” House Majority Leader Scalise said in a press release.

Climate groups strongly oppose the bill, framing it as dangerous to the planet and payback to the fossil fuel companies that have helped bankroll the GOP.

“These proposals would really be locking us into just decades of dirty, volatile fossil fuels and really kind of perpetuate the environmental injustices that have already occurred, particularly to front-line and marginalized communities,” America Fitzpatrick, conservation program director at the League of Conservation Voters, told the American Independent Foundation this month. “I think it’s clear these are giveaways to their oil and gas industry friends.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business lobbying group, endorsed the legislation.

“This bill would advance important policies to improve the permitting process, ensure strong domestic energy production, protect energy exports and increase production and processing of our own critical minerals,” Marty Durbin, president of the Chamber’s Global Energy Institute, said in a March 15 press release.

Twenty-five oil and gas industry groups sent a letter to House GOP leaders on March 21 expressing their strong support for the bill:

The bill is a welcome answer to government-imposed distortions to energy markets that have decimated the energy independence that America enjoyed just a few short years ago. … We are thrilled that you have placed such an emphasis on unleashing American energy and actually reducing energy inflation by designating this legislative package as H.R. 1.

The oil and gas industry has contributed more than $300 million to Republican politicians since 2012, according to OpenSecrets data. More than 80% of their campaign donations to federal candidates since 2011 have gone to Republicans, and less than 20% to Democrats.

While the bill has strong Republican support in the GOP-controlled House, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has made it clear it won’t reach President Joe Biden’s desk. In a March 15 floor speech, the New York Democrat called the plan “a partisan, dead-on-arrival, and unserious proposal for addressing America’s energy needs that they have laughably labeled H.R. 1. It is a non-starter in the Senate.”

“H.R. 1 will lock America into the most expensive and volatile dirty sources of energy, and will set America back a decade or more in our transition towards clean, affordable energy,” Schumer added. “This package is a wish list for Big Oil, gutting important environmental safeguards on fossil fuel projects, while doing none of the important permitting reforms that would help bring transmission and clean energy projects online faster.”

The planned House vote comes one week after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a comprehensive report warning of dire consequences if greenhouse gas emissions are not immediately reduced:

Continued greenhouse gas emissions will lead to increasing global warming, with the best estimate of reaching 1.5°C in the near term in considered scenarios and modelled pathways. Every increment of global warming will intensify multiple and concurrent hazards (high confidence). Deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions would lead to a discernible slowdown in global warming within around two decades, and also to discernible changes in atmospheric composition within a few years (high confidence).

“This Synthesis Report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all,” South Korean economist Hoesung Lee, the panel’s chair, said on March 20.

“Humanity is on thin ice and that ice is melting fast,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres cautioned. “This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe.”

Republican lawmakers have ignored the report while continuing to promote “energy freedom,” mock “climate radicals,” and criticize what they call a “woke climate agenda.”

On Monday, Biden’s executive office released a statement saying the bill “would take us backward” and promising a veto should it make it through Congress. “Instead of protecting American consumers, it would pad oil and gas company profits — already at record levels — and undercut our public health and environment,” it said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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