Washington Weekly: March 9, 2022
This Week’s Headlines
- 2008 (and 2012) Redux: When energy prices rose in 2008, we saw an explosion in U.S domestic oil and gas production. Gas prices jumped up again in 2012 and Big Oil dusted off the same playbook to boost production while raking in record profits. With the ongoing war in Ukraine and the importance of Russian oil and gas hanging over Europe, U.S. lawmakers are pushing “drill baby drill” yet again. In a sign of things to come, former Vice President Mike Pence is hitting the airwaves with a $10 million ad buy hammering Democrats over high gas prices, blaming the Biden administration for hampering oil and gas development.
- Friday Funding Deadline: President Biden may have taken office more than a year ago but his government is still being funded at Trump administration levels. After numerous temporary extensions of Trump’s funding parameters, Congress is looking to pass an omnibus appropriations bill this week before a potential government shutdown Friday. Negotiations over higher defense spending and aid for Ukraine are being worked out. The House will vote on the package Wednesday, but with details to finish in the Senate, a short one week temporary extension of the previous continuing resolution is likely to happen.
- Reconciliation Revamp: Senate Majority Leader Schumer laid out in a letter to colleagues plans to discuss a path forward for a budget reconciliation bill containing critical priorities at Senate and House policy retreats on Wednesday. Similar to President Biden’s State of the Union address, Schumer did not mention Build Back Better by name, instead focusing on “fighting rising costs” such as “lower[ing] the rising cost of energy, prescription drugs… health care, and the costs of raising a family.” This new budget reconciliation bill will hopefully be a vehicle for the climate change investments in the stalled Build Back Better Act.
A Deeper Dive
Soaring gas prices as a result of the war in Ukraine and the looming midterm elections have reignited the debate over domestic oil and gas production. One of the last times this played out during the 2008 recession, a fracking boom led to the U.S becoming the largest oil producer in the world, capped off by the end of the crude oil export ban in 2015. Higher prices for oil and gas on the world market make expensive extraction methods – like shale fracking or tar sands oil – economically viable. The expanded production (and the boom-and-bust nature of drilling) have been disastrous for our climate, our communities, and our national security.
Russia’s war in Ukraine demonstrates yet another danger of relying on volatile fossil fuels. Our addition to dirty fuels is a threat to national security and puts the world economy at the whim of authoritarian leaders. While the U.S announced a ban on Russian oil imports Tuesday (in a worthy effort to deprive Putin of revenue), it is simultaneously seeking oil from other countries committing human rights atrocities. The Biden administration has turned to Saudi Arabia to help Europe’s energy situation as the horrors of the U.S backed Saudi war in Yemen continue.
Republicans (backed by the record profits of Big Oil) have doubled down on accelerating the climate catastrophe by calling for increased production of oil and gas. There is no doubt that high gas prices are very painful for people living paycheck to paycheck. Hoping to gain a political advantage from this pain heading into election season, a fresh round of advertisements, new legislative proposals and intensive lobbying efforts have begun to try to pin the blame on Democrats and open up new areas for drilling.
On one hand, these premises and accusations are false, for several reasons. The Biden administration is approving drilling on public lands at a faster rate than the Trump administration. It will take years for petroleum products from any new oil and gas lease sales to hit the market. In addition, oil is a global commodity, and U.S production has little to do with the price.
On the other hand, President Biden and climate champions in Congress are pointing out the simple fact that breaking our addiction to fossil fuels will also break the hold that petro-dictators like Putin have on the world. They are also pushing clean energy proposals and combating price-gouging to back it up. For the oil and gas industry, the facts don’t matter: whenever gas prices go up, they see dollar signs and a chance to lock in more years of drilling.
Make no mistake, these debates are coming to Michigan – or are already here. It will be very important for voters to see through the smokescreen (no pun intended) created by the oil and gas industry. We must support elected officials and candidates that know renewable energy is the solution to the never-ending cycle of volatile energy prices. For our climate, our economy, and for people suffering through war (spurred by dictators propped up by oil) around the world, we must rapidly transition to renewable energy.
The Michigan LCV Difference
Last Friday Michigan LCV hosted a roundtable of community experts and was joined by Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence to discuss environmental justice. The panel was hosted by Ground Mind Strategies’ Londell Thomas, and featured Green Door Initiative’s Donele Wilkins, and Eastside Community Network’s Donna Givens Davidson.
The panel discussion featured important information about the environmental injustices facing Detroit and communities in Michigan. As the planet warms, last year’s flooding is likely to be repeated. As federal resources are deployed to help residents deal with the impacts of climate change, it is imperative that historically marginalized and Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities are prioritized.
Thanks for reading, and have a great week!