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Daily on Energy: Record gas prices haunt Biden

Article Republished By Javier Troconis

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DEMOCRATS CAN’T ESCAPE GAS PRICE TROUBLE: The price of gas in the U.S. broke another record again this morning, threatening to further imperil Democrats ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

The national average of cost per gallon climbed to $4.37 on Tuesday, according to AAA, a 17-cent spike from the previous week. That’s a new record nominal high, although prices would have to rise to about $5.50 to match the inflation-adjusted high of mid-2008.

Driver frustration over record-high gas prices heading into summer is exactly the problem that President Joe Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill have tried to address by various means over the past few months.

To that end, Biden has called on U.S. oil and gas producers to ramp up production, announced the release of 180 million barrels of oil from the U.S. emergency stockpile—the largest one-time release since its creation in 1974—and sought to characterize the high prices as an extension of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, referring to the soaring costs on multiple occasions as “Putin’s price hike.”

The administration also announced last month that it will resume lease sales for oil and gas on federal land (although it has taken pains to make clear it only did so because of a court order), sparking immediate criticism from some environmental groups.

The Biden team also has steered clear of the pro-fossil fuel moves the industry and Republicans have called for, saying that prices are instead driven by global factors. “It’s simply not true that my administration or policies are holding back domestic energy production. That’s simply not true,” Biden said in March.

Rising prices are a major problem for Democrats: Voters have repeatedly ranked inflation as the top problem facing the U.S., as well as Biden’s top problem politically.

The percentage of Americans who viewed inflation as the top economic problem facing the U.S. more than doubled between January and March, a Gallup poll found, rising from 8% in January to 17% in March. Inflation was ranked in that survey as the second-worst problem facing the country overall, falling slightly behind “the government, poor leadership.”

A CNN poll released last week found that most Americans now have a dismal view of the economy, with just 23% of respondents rating economic conditions in the country as “somewhat good.” That’s a steep decline from the 37% of voters who said the same in December, and from last April, when 54% had a positive view of the economy.

Eight in 10 voters also said the government is not doing enough to combat inflation, according to the CNN survey.

Energy prices were up about a third over the past year in March, helping drive overall inflation to the highest rate since the 1980s, 8.5%, according to the Consumer Price Index. The CPI for April will be released tomorrow morning and is sure to add to the president’s woes.

The blame game: Biden, aware of the danger, delivered remarks on inflation rates in the U.S. as this newsletter was being written trying to place blame on Republicans, saying they have no plan.

Democrats in the House and Senate have also sought to cast blame on the oil and gas industry as a means of limiting political liability.

Last month, the House Energy and Commerce Committee summoned executives from six of the nation’s largest oil and gas companies, including BP America, Chevron and ExxonMobil, to testify at a hearing titled, “Gouged at the Gas Station: Big Oil and America’s Pain at the Pump.”

Welcome to Daily on Energy, written by Washington Examiner Energy and Environment Writers Jeremy Beaman (@jeremywbeaman) and Breanne Deppisch (@breanne_dep). Email jbeaman@washingtonexaminer.com or bdeppisch@washingtonexaminer.com for tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email, and we’ll add you to our list.

SEC EXTENDS CLIMATE RULE COMMENT PERIOD: The Securities and Exchange Commission moved the public comment deadline for its climate-related risk disclosure rule from May 20 to June 17 after various interest groups lobbied for more time to weigh in.

Chairman Gary Gensler said commenters “with diverse views have noted that they would benefit from additional time to review these three proposals.”

Oil and gas industry groups especially had sought an extension and said in a letter to Gensler last month that the comment period for the controversial proposed rule, which the SEC published in March, was “woefully inadequate for the magnitude of this rule.”

Kathleen Sgamma, president of Western Energy Alliance, said the extension is better but still not enough time. She said the rule “reorients the financial system away from capital formation into becoming a driver of climate change policy.”

“Sixty-seven days is certainly better than 39 days, but still inadequate for a rule of this complexity,” Sgamma told Jeremy. “SEC is using the rule to deny financing to oil and natural gas instead of focusing on its mission of protecting investors and maintaining fair markets.”

Where green groups stand: Environmentalists generally supported the rule when the SEC introduced it, although several groups said at the time they want it to be more aggressive in requiring disclosure of Scope 3 emissions.

One of those groups, Evergreen Action, put out a memo this morning advocating for more stringent requirements for Scope 3 emissions disclosures in the finalized rule. As proposed, the Scope 3 disclosures would be conditional, and many companies would not abide by them, the group said.

BATTERY SHORTAGE TO BRING ‘DARWINIAN PERIOD’ FOR AUTO INDUSTRY – CEO: Another automaker is warning that an inadequate battery supply chain will threaten manufacturers’ viability in the coming years as they build more electric vehicles.

Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares said the next few years could become a “Darwinian period for the industry.” He said it will be especially difficult for acquiring the necessary mineral inputs for batteries.

Automakers will become even more reliant on Asian suppliers for minerals and batteries, he said.

Biden has recognized this problem and invoked the Defense Production Act back in March to increase domestic supply of minerals such as lithium, nickel, and cobalt to build more batteries.

ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS CALL FOR SCOTUS EXPANSION: Several environmental groups are joining the call for an expanded Supreme Court on the heels of a leaked draft opinion indicating that the high court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Greenpeace USA, Clean Energy Action, the Center for Biological Diversity, Women’s Earth, Empower our Future and the Climate Action Network formed a coalition of environmental groups to ask Congress to pass legislation to add four seats to the court.

“The Supreme Court has been hijacked by far-right partisan interests and, unless it is reformed, all of our rights are at risk. Expanding the Court to restore balance must be part of the response,” the groups said in a joint statement on Monday. “We need leaders in the House and Senate to co-sponsor The Judiciary Act to add four seats and protect our rights.”

MORE REMAINS FOUND IN SHRINKING LAKE MEAD: Authorities announced the discovery of more human skeletal remains at Lake Mead this weekend, a grim discovery that comes just days after Las Vegas police also uncovered remains of another human body in the reservoir, and warned that more remains were “likely” to be discovered as drought conditions cause water levels in the reservoir to recede.

National Park Service authorities said the second body was reported Saturday by paddle boarders in the Callville Bay area. Unlike with the first set of human remains, discovered in a barrel last week, police said they do not suspect foul play.

EXPERT TALKS CRYPTO-ENERGY NEXUS: Brian Quintenz, former commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and a current crypto advisor, joined former FERC chairman Neil Chatterjee on this week’s “Plugged In” podcast to talk about the future of commodity trading and how cryptocurrency has played a role in the energy and agriculture markets.

In the episode, Quintenz said the CFTC is very broad and “touches every aspect of American life.” He said the regulator has helped to create transparency in the swaps market and helped mold a better way to prepare for risk management in the industry and within the agencies. Listen to the latest episode here.

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Calendar

WEDNESDAY | MAY 11

10:00 a.m. 406 Dirksen The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on oversight of the Council on Environmental Quality.

10:30 a.m. 2123 Rayburn The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hybrid hearing titled, “Modernizing Hydropower: Licensing and Reforms for a Clean Energy Future.”

THURSDAY | MAY 12

10:00 a.m. House Natural Resources’s Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee will host a hearing titled, “Reforming the Mining Law of 1872.”

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