Bloomberg and Washington Post
Jennifer Dlouhy [00:00:03] I see the real policy making action this year kind of focused on federal agencies which have just a slew of rules they need to finalize governing greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles and power plants and oil wells. And they have to draft tons of new regulations mandated by the IRA and establish new programs that were called for. And that law that’s going to be the real focus of a lot of activity. And maybe it’s a good thing that that Capitol Hill won’t be the the center point.
Bill Loveless [00:00:29] After years of political pressure. Democrats in Congress narrowly passed an historic climate bill, and now 2023 is the year of implementation in Washington. The Departments of Energy, Interior, Treasury, IRS, EPA and state governments now must go to work to deploy hundreds of billions of dollars for clean energy technologies. It will require hiring lots of people into government, structuring new programs and distributing dollars efficiently. And the politics are not over with a Republican controlled House. There are other pressures emerging. The House Energy Committee plans to investigate President Biden. The DeWeese loan programs office is under attack for its spending, which was recently increased by the Inflation Reduction Act. And the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will only have four commissioners instead of five because of objections over renominating Chairman Richard Glick. How will these conflicts play out and how will the actual work of implementing the IRA get done? This is Columbia Energy Exchange, a weekly podcast from the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. I’m Bill Loveless. Today on the show, Jennifer Dlouhy and Stephen Mufson. Jen is an energy and environment reporter for Bloomberg in Washington, DC. A post she took in 2015. She has more than 15 years of experience covering energy policy. Steve covers the business of climate change for the Washington Post. In his 30 years at the Post, he’s covered economic policy, China, diplomacy, energy, and the White House. In 2020, he shared the Pulitzer Prize for a climate change series called To See Beyond the Limit. I invited Jen and Steve to join me for an annual outlook in what may lie in store for energy and climate policy in Washington this year, with seemingly low possibilities to pass major legislation. We discussed what the Biden administration and Republicans could focus on this year, and we talked about the role federal agencies will play in the action. Here’s our conversation. Jen Dlouhy, Steve Mufson, welcome to Columbia Energy Exchange. Welcome back, Steve. We’ve had this conversation here before and Jen is great to have you on the show as well. I’ve known of your work for many years and we’ve crossed paths a bit in D.C., But it’s good to have the both of you here today.
Jennifer Dlouhy [00:03:07] Great to be here.
Stephen Mufson [00:03:08] Glad to be here.
Bill Loveless [00:03:10] Well, it’s been a chaotic start to the new US Congress with Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives, but only after a long and drawn out battle among themselves to select a Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, to lead them. Jen, as we start the new year, what do you make of that turmoil and what does it portend for policymaking on issues like energy and climate change?
Jennifer Dlouhy [00:03:35] Well, as we talk about what’s going to happen this year and the implications of all that, the fighting on Capitol Hill last week, you know, it is it is worth recognizing that last year was kind of marked by tremendous legislative action on energy and climate, of course, culminating with the enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest climate law in U.S. history. So with that as the backdrop, you know, policymaking in this space this year was never going to be centered on Capitol Hill. And I think that’s really become all the more apparent with the Republican takeover of the House and even the challenges that the GOP majority had last week in electing a speaker. You know, Republicans that are now in charge of the chamber, they’re gearing up for intense scrutiny of the executive branch of independent agencies, even businesses with hearings on, you know, corporate ESG policies, a planned climate disclosure rule and administration policies they say are quashing domestic oil and gas development. So, you know, there is still, I think, a real possibility of of discrete bipartisan legislation on permitting of energy projects, given concerns about environmental reviews, kind of ensnaring renewable projects and transmission, as well as, you know, oil pipelines and carbon dioxide pipelines. But there’s probably a very narrow landing zone for that legislation. And I think finding it could be really tough in a divided Congress. And, you know, I just I see the real policymaking action this year kind of focused on federal agencies which have just a slew of rules they need to finalize governing greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles and power plants and oil wells. And they have to draft tons of new regulations mandated by the IRA and establish new programs that were called for and that law. So, you know, that’s going to be the real focus of a lot of activity. And maybe it’s a good thing that that Capitol Hill won’t be the the center point.
Bill Loveless [00:05:18] You know, Steve, I was not long after the election, I saw a headline in The Washington Post that read Senate House Controlled Split. Can a Divided government Make progress? And the author of that story, Mark Fisher, noted that since World War two divided government has been the rule rather than the exception. In Washington, presidents have led unified government for only 16 of the past 52 years. For some, Fisher said, this is a recipe for gridlock. For others, it’s a grand opportunity for big breakthroughs. How different US circumstances this year than they were in the past.
Stephen Mufson [00:05:51] I think they’ll be pretty similar. I mean, I think to see the divided government leads to less less action, and that seems to be what Americans want pretty frequently. So I think I think that so that getting getting more legislation will be tough. I’d add that the Biden administration, I think, is ready to take on the Congress on at least at the very least on the implementation of some of this legislation. The Inflation Reduction Act, the poorly named Inflation Reduction Act, does create questions about regulations and how to implement things. And I think that’s why they they drafted John Podesta to come work in the administration, because he can I think he’s perceived as someone who can get things done. And I think he’s going to try to implement a lot of these ideas that are in the in the act.
Bill Loveless [00:06:57] Yeah. And remind us again, Podesta has been in and out of government several times, including in the Obama administration.
Stephen Mufson [00:07:03] He has and and he’s sort of seen as a get things done type of guy. He had one of his achievements was to talk to China about how to, you know, what sort of climate measures the two countries could take together.
Bill Loveless [00:07:22] Yeah, it’s interesting. And these appointments do become important, having the right people in place at the right time. Well, as each of you have noted, Congress is, you know, is getting a lot of attention because of the changes taking place in the House of Representatives. But as you note, when it comes to energy and climate policy, the executive branch is really where it’s at because of laws passed by Congress and in the last Congress, including the in. Nation Reduction Act. Jen, you have a story today in Bloomberg with a headline that reads Biden Mayors Now or Never a Point for Cementing New Climate rules. Tell us what that means.
Jennifer Dlouhy [00:08:01] Well, you know, he’s obviously he’s the president has been in office for two years and he’s had plenty of time to get some work done, regulatory in terms of implementing his climate agenda. But, you know, this is kind of the do or die moment for the crunch time, however you want put it, for his agenda because of a number of of legal and political concerns. You know the fourth year is of a president’s term is kind of a tough year to get regulations done. They’re more vulnerable to legal scrutiny and the reality that a successor in the White House may not defend your rules as carefully as you would. They’re also more vulnerable to being overturned through an expedited procedure in Congress. So, you know, that just puts a premium on action this year to get these rules in place. And in some cases, these are rules that haven’t even been proposed, you know, on on vehicle tailpipe emissions for model year vehicles, 2027 and beyond, for instance, for power plant emissions. The administration and the EPA are still working, obviously, on on new regulations. They’re following a Supreme Court ruling that kind of provided a blueprint last year. And, you know, none of this is easy. None of it is quick. The process is designed to be slow. And, you know, even a simple rule can take many, many months to advance through notice and comment through public review, through White House scrutiny. And I think there is evidence of that in the fact that, you know, methane is clearly a big priority for the climate fight. It’s tackling this, you know, incredibly potent greenhouse gases and is very important for keeping the 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature goal in sight. And and although the administration has talked a lot about pursuing limits on that, you know, it proposed a measure capping methane emissions from the oil and gas sector in 2021 only came out with an update of that proposal last year. And maybe it’ll be the end of this year before we finally see them. So that’s three years for a major rule. And and that’s the kind of activity that we have to see the administration doing this year if they want to achieve some of their objectives.
Stephen Mufson [00:10:11] I mean, another good example of that is the the Green bank or, you know, EPA is writing the rules and the regs for a green bank. That’s not exactly EPA’s expertise. And, you know, a good example of what Jen was just saying about how tough it’s going to be to get these things done in a timely way.
Bill Loveless [00:10:31] And so much is required of the administration and under this, the Inflation Reduction Act. Jen Right. I mean, you’ve mentioned a couple of regulations that are in play for some time. Even before the Congress passed the IRA last year and Biden signed it. But there’s a lot that various agencies have to do. Do you see Treasury and others just to get that law implemented?
Jennifer Dlouhy [00:10:55] I mean, just look at the amount of work that the Treasury Department that the IRS has to do, providing guidance on some of these core, you know, tax credits for advanced energy manufacturing, for renewable deployment. I mean, that alone is a huge amount of work. And then EPA, you know, the same air office is doing, you know, rules IRA implementation, standing up a green bank. I mean, that’s a lot of work. And, you know, I would I always think, you know, the DOE workload is significant and made more significant by virtue of of the IRA, because they have to hand out, you know, grants and loan guarantees and support for hydrogen hubs, for CSE projects, even as they are, you know, writing dozens of energy efficiency rules. So there’s just there’s no shortage of work. And it’s not like these agencies have gotten a tremendous boost and in resources. Yet by virtue of the IRA, they haven’t been able to hire the people that, you know, they really need to bring on.
Bill Loveless [00:11:49] Yeah, that’s a good point, because there had been you know, there had been loss of personnel, experienced personnel at the union, EPA and other agencies during the Trump administration. I mean, have they recovered to the extent that they’re in a good position to to implement these new this new law, these new laws and and programs?
Stephen Mufson [00:12:10] I mean, I think, yes, it’s the short answer. And I think a lot of qualified people are back in government and trying to make things work. But it’s still tough. Just to reinforce what Jen was saying before, I mean, the Securities and Exchange Commission came into office two years ago with with the desire to to come up with regulations about disclosure of your environmental situation. And they still have they still don’t have it. So so, yeah, you’re just starting the clock on most of these things. And and here’s an example of an agency that’s been working on some and it’s seen as and this is what that agency does, you know, is to try to come up with risks and and to evaluate risks and and they still can’t get it quite done.
Bill Loveless [00:13:04] You know, what’s interesting, too, Steve, is that, you know, in years gone by, I know when I when I was covering energy policy, Securities and Exchange Commission and Treasury were not among the agencies or uppermost on our list of beats.
Stephen Mufson [00:13:19] You know, although, you know, in fairness to the Treasury there, we have tax credits for all kinds of things. And the Treasury’s actually pretty good at doing that. And it doesn’t require bureaucracy. You’re not carrying stuff. You’re not you know, so I would say that I’m less worried about the tax credit issue at Treasury than I would be about the Green Bank.
Bill Loveless [00:13:44] Right. And of course, those credits are important as they pertain to people buying electric vehicles as various qualifications placed on that by the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as credits for solar and wind and other forms of clean energy.
Stephen Mufson [00:14:01] Well, in addition to getting things done, you know, there’s this whole question about getting things done by American companies. That’s an important part of the act, is to say that you get these tax credits if you’ve made your product in the United States. And that’s going to create another whole raft of issues, not to mention not being very popular among some of our trading partners who’ve had who trade with us.
Bill Loveless [00:14:28] Yeah. And that came up again back, you know, when President Macron of France was in Washington, that the and at the end of the year, he raised that very issue in terms of its potential for unfair competition between the United States and Europe. And it could be some form of retaliation from the EU.
Jennifer Dlouhy [00:14:46] You know, absolutely right. Clearly, the administration is trying to navigate this with its partners. There’s been a lot of discussions with German officials, with EU officials, with with France. In some ways, it feels like it’s you know, it’s a new era for for trade policy being wrapped into with with climate concerns and objectives, kind of folding into that space ever more. And so what comes out of these discussions over the domestic supply chain requirements for the EV tax credit, for instance, I think will be kind of a good indication of of how aggressive will see countries be in embedding climate policy and, you know, in trade policy.
Stephen Mufson [00:15:29] I mean, one of my favorite examples from this past year has been the struggle to reopen an aluminum smelter in the Pacific Northwest. This would seem like a no brainer, right? They’ve got a lot of hydropower in the Pacific Northwest. You have a kind of left leaning private equity fund and the machinists and politicians in that region, everything pulling in the same direction except the power authority doesn’t want to sell the power. And, you know, after a year of of negotiating the things, you know, the talks have collapsed. So and this is just one smelter providing one thing for one type of vehicle or, you know, certain types of vehicles and and it can’t get done. And I just shudder to think how long it’s going to take us to get a lot of other things done in these new kinds of supply chains.
Bill Loveless [00:16:25] And overlaying so much of this is is permeating right in the the the obstacles that arise and trying to permit new infrastructure such as transmission lines so you can move wind and solar power around the country. You know, there was talk at the end of last year that maybe Congress would finally vote on a permitting bill as part of a deal that Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, had struck with the Democratic leaders in the Senate to get passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. It didn’t happen. I mean, it just it just broke down. Is that so many on both sides of the aisle, Republican and Democrat, agree on the need for permitting reform or are there specific views on the matter? Very. Some would argue this is perhaps one of the biggest issues that Congress could or should take up when it comes to climate issues in the new Congress. What do you think is the outlook for that going forward, Jen?
Jennifer Dlouhy [00:17:28] You know, I, I think it’s going to be really challenging to find the compromise, partly because of the politics around this. I mean, everyone, as you said, there’s so many folks that that agree on the need for a permitting reform. And yet the consensus kind of ends there when you start talking to Democrats about what they see. It certainly isn’t anything that looks like a weakening of the National Environmental Policy Act in the deep analysis that it requires of, you know, major transportation and infrastructure and energy projects. And then there are all these political concerns kind of clouding the space with Republicans not eager to be seen rewarding Joe Manchin for kind of demanding this as the price for his vote on on the IRA. So all of that complicates this, infuses an already tough atmosphere with more challenge and just the narrow division in the Democratically controlled Senate, the Republican controlled House, and the dynamic of, you know, a final two years of a president’s first term, I just think it’s a very complicated place to be trying to legislate, despite the clear need to kind of rationalize some of this process, particularly for transmission, electric transmission.
Bill Loveless [00:18:41] You were talking before Jan and Steve about some of the regulations that have been at work for some time. Where might we see some final decisions relatively soon from, say, the Environmental Protection Agency on emissions? This year.
Jennifer Dlouhy [00:19:02] Well, they are working. The EPA is working conservatively on that methane proposal that they’ve had in the works for for two years now. More quickly, they will actually be proposing some action on methane fee that was required under the IRA, that the idea is that this is kind of a a penalty for emissions that along with regulations controlling methane leaks from oil and gas equipment and requiring equipment upgrades will help really clamp down on that problem. So I think by March or April, the EPA is intending to get kind of its first blueprint out for implementing that methane fee. We’re also going to see work this year on a stab at power plant regulation. There’s a number of power plant rules that they are working on. But most key here is a rule tackling greenhouse gas emissions from these power plants after, you know, the Clean Power Plan that that was created under the Obama administration and after a Supreme Court case last year, that kind of provides a little bit of guidance about how that regulation probably should be crafted inside the fence lines with limits on, you know, what can be done at the facilities themselves.
Bill Loveless [00:20:10] And tailpipe emissions from vehicles. That’s there’s been some action taken by the administration in its first two years, but more expected sometime in the future.
Jennifer Dlouhy [00:20:21] Right. The question is, what will the EPA in concert with D.O.T. do the Department of Transportation do to limit tailpipe emissions for vehicles after model year 2027? The current standards, which they revised and updated by one year, only go through model year 2026. And a real chief question is, is how they might the federal government might follow the lead of California and other states and kind of pursuing a zero emission vehicle or electric vehicle future, especially after 2030.
Bill Loveless [00:20:56] You know, Steve, I the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. We could do a whole separate podcast on that and we don’t. And all that’s before FERC right now, and we can leave that for another day. But just to mentioned, you know, it’s expected in 2023 to finalize proposals concerning how regional transmission lines are planned and paid for. And and, you know, how these projects will be go forward nation wide and the majority of which are for solar, wind and other carbon free resources and or involve them or the transmission of them, how they link up to the grid. But the outlook for for the FARC is uncertain now. Senator mentions objections to the renomination of FERC Chairman Richard Glick means that the commission will have just four commissioners rather than five two Democrats, two Republicans in January. So I guess it goes without saying that that’s an important agency to watch, too. And the uncertainty over its membership at the moment, anyway, makes it makes it difficult to figure what might happen there.
Stephen Mufson [00:22:01] Yeah, well, FERC has had a lot of tough times in the last couple of administrations. Trump is also kind of at war with them. And actually some Republican members turned out to have much more independence, much more of an independent streak than they’d been expected to have. So, you know where we are now. I still, like you say, I think transmission is a is the key thing. The CEO of Edison International told me it takes him eight years to get permitting done for a transmission line. And that’s just way too long because, you know, we’re expecting utilities to change the nature of the grid by 2030 or so. Well, that’s that’s only seven or eight years away. It’s it’s tough because a lot of these lines cross over environmentally sensitive areas, especially when you’re talking about going from, say, New Mexico or Arizona into southern California. So I think it’s a it’s a tough road ahead for the FERC, even even in the best of circumstances to try to get these things done in a timely way.
Bill Loveless [00:23:14] Yeah. Yeah. It is a it has been an interesting time for the FARC. And but yet it is such an important player here is in terms of energy policy and energy regulation. And reminds me to you know, we talk about transmission and all this is probably getting aside a bit from what what we might be, you know, from our discussion of recent laws passed and all. But Jan, I noticed, you know, you’ve done a fair amount of reporting on offshore wind in recent months. There’s been a lot of activity there with the federal government approving leases for areas including offshore California for the first time. And of course, the advantage of offshore wind, it said, is that for areas, heavily populated areas like the northeast, it’s a way, you know, of getting clean power onshore without the need for extensive new transmission lines. Just perhaps you could just remind us of what’s happened on offshore with the federal government’s activities over the past year and if we should be looking for any action on that front in this year.
Jennifer Dlouhy [00:24:27] Yet this is a big year for offshore wind because we could see the very first commercial scale offshore wind project start delivering and generating electricity by the end of the year in federal waters. We, of course, have a pilot project off the coast of Virginia and a project in state waters off Rhode Island. But those are very, very small. And we’ve got two projects that are possibly going to be producing power in Atlanta and Atlantic waters by the end of the year. The Interior Department is just racing ahead and in reviewing so many of these applications and to install wind turbines off the East Coast, primarily at this point, although they have sold leases just recently off the California coast, off the West Coast, they’ve got about a dozen projects that they’re looking at. And, you know, they’re trying to move these pretty expeditiously. There’s a good number of concerns from from certain local groups, including, you know, landowners that are concerned about sightlines, as well as fishermen concerned about their catch. Even some environmental is raising concerns about, you know, the right whale on the East Coast and potential damage to its habitat. So there’s a lot to be worked through here. The president has set a goal of a 30 gigawatts of offshore wind installation. And by the end of the decade and whether it’s floating wind off the coast of California or, you know, projects that are installed directly into the seabed, the U.S. is. The regulators are clearly trying to meet that goal. One thing to watch here is that you do have some competition for very limited onshore connection points to come into the grid. And so, you know, first movers have some advantage in being able to get those sites. And, you know, it’s not real clear if the pace of offshore wind development will slow as the opportunities for interconnection disappear or dwindle. And then, you know, frankly, the current inflation situation, the supply chain woes that are hitting, you know, every company and every consumer in America are also affecting this industry. And we’ve seen some signs of caution, a slowdown, even a desire to renegotiate electric contracts from some of these developers. So, you know, that’s that’s something that could also play out this year.
Bill Loveless [00:26:46] Yeah, that’s come a long way, Steve. I mean, offshore wind has been so much talk about it, you know, over the years. And of course it’s been you know, it’s been a a boom and in Europe and other parts of the world, but not here in the United States. I’m always proud as a native Rhode Island or to hear people talk about that small project off the coast of Rhode Island, off BLOCK Island. But it’s it seems to be gathering. Gathering some has a wind at its back perhaps right now.
Stephen Mufson [00:27:16] Yeah. No I think that’s that’s that’s right. I mean, the United States is sort of behind Europe when it comes to some of this offshore wind, especially England. But it makes it makes sense because our main population centers are along the East Coast. You know, years ago, people talked about trying to harness wind from the Great Plains and bringing it across the country to the East Coast or into Chicago. But this is much, much simpler. And I think this is kind of where things are heading now. There. You know, it does provide, I think, some American expertise because some of these wind turbines and floating floating ones in particular draw on some of the same expertise that people have in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas wells.
Bill Loveless [00:28:03] Right. Right. John, I want to get back to something you mentioned earlier when we were talking about the need for the Biden administration to act sooner rather than later on implementing new regulations and new policies. You know, there’s that something called the Congressional Review Act, and it’s timing is important here. Can you explain that to us?
Jennifer Dlouhy [00:28:27] The Congressional Review Act has gained actually in importance just in the last few years. Really. It’s it used to be a pretty obscure law, a way that that enabled a law that enabled Congress, the House and the Senate to essentially overturn a federal regulation that they dislike or that a majority of them dislike on an expedited basis. So in the Senate, it’s not subject to filibusters. It’s only a majority vote that’s required to overturn this. It does still require the president to sign it. And so if you are, say, a Republican controlled House and you want to use this law to overturn a regulation imposed by the Biden administration, well, this year, if even if it gets to the president’s desk, it’s unlikely to be signed by Biden himself. But it’s really powerful at the change of administrations when especially when it goes from one party to the other. So if you know, so it creates a lot of risk for a president in doing rules and finalizing rules and in the final stretch of their administration. So, you know, that’s why we’ll see. That’s one of the reasons we’ll see this administration work to get rules finished before the last six months or so of next year. The theory deadline that matters most usually is about six months out from the end of a year. And so the administration may be working to complete these rules so that they’re just not easily overturned. Should a Democrat not be in the White House after this first term?
Bill Loveless [00:29:58] Right. Right. That’s an important consideration. Well, with enactment of major legislation seemingly off the table this year, just because of the split in the Congress, investigations seem to be the Republicans priority next year. And, of course, we’ve you know, we can expect to see a lot along those lines. Where will they be pointing their spotlight, Steve, when it comes to to two energy and climate issues?
Stephen Mufson [00:30:29] Well, I think oversight, oversight, oversight there. I think it’s unlikely that we’re going to see some action out of the Congress because the Democrats still control the Senate and the White House. But I think we are going to see the Republicans in the House flexing their muscles and dragging corporate executives in front of the Congress to answer questions about. Practices such as ESG, environmental sustainability and governance. And I think that a lot of companies are worried about this. This isn’t the sort of thing your average CEO has trained for. We’ve seen a little bit of it in the past because they have brought chief executives of big oil companies before Congress to testify. But I think we’re going to see more of it, especially BlackRock will probably be the the main case and we’ll see how they do at communicating their message. They had a little bit of a dry run in Texas a little while back and one of the state legislative bodies and it wasn’t a great opening act, but we’ll see. I think a lot more of that in the in the new Congress, in the new House.
Bill Loveless [00:31:54] What was the difficulty in Texas, Steve? Just simply trying to articulate what some of the obligations would be, the S obligations would be.
Stephen Mufson [00:32:03] Yes. And I think also, you know, just the assertions made by members of the committee, if you go back and look at some of the testimony of of Democrats, Al Gore testified before energy and commerce at one point, and Energy and commerce members weren’t really listening to him. It’s an opportunity for them to rail against whatever it is that the company is doing that they’re that they’re not happy with. So I think we’re going to see, you know, a lot of fireworks. But at the end of the day, I’m not sure how much it’ll mean.
Bill Loveless [00:32:40] Jan, the incoming the woman we expect to be the new chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Catherine McMorris Rodgers of Washington State, has indicated that she plans investigations of Biden, energy and climate policy. She told the Washington Post in November that she will investigate climate. Portions of the Inflation Reduction Act warning against what she said was a, quote, political agenda that is forcing a green energy transition that jeopardizes our reliability and increase costs. What might we expect of that committee, which is a rather powerful one in the in the U.S. House of Representatives?
Jennifer Dlouhy [00:33:19] Stephen kind of already said it. Oversight, oversight, oversight. I mean, they are not going to, you know, tap the brakes on their plans to grill anybody and everybody about, you know, administration policies, about corporate policies. And they’ve made it very clear that they are going to be investigating, you know, so much of the administration’s policies and attitude toward energy development. So, Eddie, and see that the House Energy and Commerce Committee, they are going to be looking at implementation of the IRA. There’s talk of on the oversight committee looking at, you know, potential collusion with China and other countries in terms of manufacturing the green tech that that we will need for, you know, clean energy deployment. And of course, at the Natural Resources Committee in the House, they’re going to be scrutinizing, you know, every aspect of the Interior Department’s efforts to tell this oil and gas development, questioning, you know, whether permitting is moving too slow. The leasing is is not happening as expeditiously as it should. You know, all of that will kind of feed into this narrative that the Republicans in the House are advancing about this administration, kind of discouraging conventional oil and gas development at the expense of of American consumers and domestic energy security. So that’s really that’s that’s going to be the big objective over the next few years. And we’re going to see that play out not just through the hearings, but also through legislation that that will get through the House and maybe draw some headlines, but, of course, faces, you know, unlikely action in the Senate.
Bill Loveless [00:34:51] Dan, Stephen, Jen mentions energy security. That seems to be the overriding consideration for Republicans today. And, you know, and in having these discussions, not that energy security hasn’t always been, you know, a concern of you know, of everyone to some one extent or another. But, you know, a few years ago, there was just a lot of, you know, resistance to any any consideration of climate change among the Republican caucus in the House and the Senate. And that seems to change now. I mean, they even came out it came up the House Republicans, McCarthy even came up with the House climate plan back in June. They don’t talk so much about, you know, denying climate or resisting actions on climate change per se. Rather, they talk about energy security a lot. And how does that you know, what’s your view of their interpretation of that term?
Stephen Mufson [00:35:46] Well, I think the main problem is that most Republicans who talk about climate change seem to think that natural gas is a clean energy source, which of course, it isn’t. It’s a fossil fuel like like like other fossil fuels. So I think that that’s one problem that’s right out there to begin with. They also emphasize jobs. And and so I think that when it comes to climate change, the Republicans really aren’t quite all there, even though they they use some of the words sometimes what their their meaning is, is different. I think they have a few projects that they do like. They like trees. They love trees. Congressman Westerman, I think, is ready to push that. And and and his you know, he’ll be embraced on that by other Republicans. But really, what they’re worried about, as you say, is security. They’re angry with Biden for a for for the rules that make it harder to drill in the United States. And they they blame him. For for that and and for and for the US needing to go to Saudi Arabia and urge Saudi Arabia to produce more oil. So that that’s that was something that caused a lot of controversy and I think we’ll hear a lot more about that, even regardless of of whether any of any policy really would have made much of a difference in these circumstances.
Bill Loveless [00:37:28] And these, you know, and these concerns perhaps resonated publicly to some extent when gasoline prices were up averaging around $5 a gallon in the United States back in June. But recently we’ve seen gasoline and the average price of gasoline that the United States today is actually a little bit less than it was a year ago. And and even natural gas prices in the United States, as well as in Europe, have come down quite a bit, although, you know, they’ve been substantially high, especially in Europe. So I just wonder without that, you know, pain at the pump if some of these issues are going to get as much attention publicly as they might have even a few months ago.
Stephen Mufson [00:38:09] Well, I think it’s important to remember that there is a war going on in Europe and it involves, you know, one of the three biggest producers of oil and gas in the world, Russia. So I think that’s got a lot more to do with the price of gasoline than other things going on. And people tend to forget that. I think the the war is really I think what drove prices earlier in the year and there have been a lot of efforts to to bring to enact policies and to get things moving in a way that would reduce reliance on Russia for oil and gas. But that’s that is going to remain an issue, I think, definitely for much of this coming year.
Bill Loveless [00:38:57] You know, each of you have covered these issues for a number of years now in Washington as well as elsewhere. You know, I’d like to to to to close out our conversation by by talking a little bit about how news coverage of energy and climate change has changed since you became involved in it. You know, how how are your news organizations gearing up to report more on these issues? Just start with you.
Jennifer Dlouhy [00:39:31] I mean, it’s it’s just night and day. I started covering oil and gas related issues for another organization around 2010 and then expanded to broader environmental issues about seven years ago. And at that time, climate coverage felt, you know, much more incidental to the beat. You know, even at large news organizations, there might be just a handful of reporters writing with any kind of regularity about climate change. And certainly it was less than a decade ago that many stories still had kind of a standard sentence or two or reference to, you know, how some people disputed the science of climate change. And obviously, you know, that’s not kind of the way we’re engaging today. Now, the reality of climate change, I think, infuses almost every significant energy and environmental story. There are whole teams of reporters, and I’m looking forward to Stephen talking about those at The Washington Post, you know, that are covering every facet of this issue. So instead of one or two reporters, you know, writing about climate change policy, you’ll have a small army of them covering everything from how communities are adapting to the, you know, the impacts of a warming planet and innovative technologies to mitigate emissions to the kind of the health consequences of climate change. There was a fantastic post piece a couple of days ago on an epidemic of kidney disease and Nepalese workers toiling in hot conditions. So, you know, and obviously they’re just deployed around the world even when working for U.S. news organizations. I you know, I see the increase in news coverage. Obviously, it’s coinciding with an increase in scientific awareness and understanding about this threat. But, you know, it clearly makes for a much richer, much deeper conversation, kind of a healthier public debate about how to address these issues.
Stephen Mufson [00:41:01] Yeah, And I think Jen’s absolutely right. I mean, it’s it hasn’t been that long since I was covering energy for the financial desk and Juliet was covering. Juliet EILPERIN was covering environment for the national staff, and that was it. And then we got up to five people, and then we went up to ten, and now we’re close to 35. So needless to say, this changes the whole nature of coverage. Like Jen was saying, where we we cover things that we didn’t cover before. We cover things differently from the way we covered them before. Yes. We used to have to say, you know, climate change, comma, which is yada, yada, yada, and we don’t do that anymore. So I think, you know, and and what do we do differently? We we have a couple people who are just covering policy. We have a couple of people just covering science. We have a couple of people covering solutions, climate solutions. And, you know, so it’s it changes everything. I think everyone’s feeling fairly optimistic at this point. And we I mean, they also I forgot to mention that, you know, we also started out as part of the at one point when we were only five of us, there were we had four different editors from three different staffs. Now we have, you know, one editor and his deputy, and we’re all in our own department. We’re no longer part of national or financial. We’re a freestanding department of our own. And, you know, again, I think that’s just a sign of of the importance that the senior editorial leadership is looking for. Yeah, it’s a statement on their part about how important they think this.
Bill Loveless [00:43:03] Coverage of these topics has certainly come a long way. At Bloomberg, at The Washington Post and at any number of other news organizations. And that’s impressive to see. I always enjoy having this conversation early in the year. Maybe it’s the old reporter in me, but I find it helpful to hear what you see. Reporters see things playing out going forward in the new year, in the Congress, in the administration, in Washington, D.C. and Louis. Steve Mufson, thanks again for joining us today. A Columbia Energy Exchange.
Stephen Mufson [00:43:39] Thank you, Bill.
Jennifer Dlouhy [00:43:40] Thank you.
Bill Loveless [00:43:44] Thank you again, gently. And Steve Mufson. And thanks to all of you for listening to Columbia Energy Exchange. The show is brought to you by the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. The show is hosted by Jason Bordoff, Envy Bill Loveless. The show is produced by Stephen Lacy and Aaron Hartig from Post-Script Media. Additional support from Daniel Proffitt, Natalie Volk and Kyu Lee. Roy Campanella is the sound engineer. For more information about the podcast or the Center on Global Energy Policy, visit us online at Energy Policy dot Colombia, dot edu or follow us on social media at Columbia U. Energy. And if you like what you heard, consider. Giving us a rating on Apple Podcasts. It helps the show reach more listeners like yourself. We’ll see you next week.
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