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Page added on October 29, 2022

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At the peak, but not on track

Public Policy

ARE WE THERE YET? — The world may for the first time be on a policy course to actually stop increasing its fossil fuel use.

The International Energy Agency released projections on Thursday that show current policies will be enough to force a peak or plateau in the use of fossil fuels, even with the supply shocks caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine, as David Iaconangelo reports for POLITICO’s E&E News.

The report credits the U.S.’s Inflation Reduction Act; clean energy targets in China, India and the European Union; and support for renewables and nuclear power in Japan and Korea with putting the world on track to hit peak oil in the mid-2030s.

And it says the loss of Russian fossil fuel supplies doesn’t need to be supplanted by new production elsewhere. Instead, we can tap existing oil and gas fields and capture excess gas that’s currently burned off. Some new export facilities might be needed to shift away from Russian sources, but they can be repurposed for hydrogen later.

The American Petroleum Institute isn’t on board, of course: “Oil and natural gas will continue to play a leading role in the global energy mix well into the future, making continued investment in new production essential to addressing the current energy crisis and avoiding future scenarios where demand outstrips supply,” Frank Macchiarola, a senior vice president at API, said in a statement this week.

Even if it happens, it’s not enough: The U.N. said on Tuesday the world is “nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions” needed to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius, as called for in the Paris Agreement.

And public health experts called out governments’ knee-jerk reactions to the current global and geopolitical crises, including the war in Ukraine, soaring energy prices and inflation, and stressed that health is “at the mercy of fossil fuels.”

The latest Lancet Countdown Report on Health and Climate Change, published Tuesday, points out that the carbon intensity of the global energy system has fallen by less than 1 percent from levels in 1992. Heat-related deaths increased by 68 percent between 2017-2021, compared to 2000-2004. “The climate crisis is killing us,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement on the report, as Helen Collis writes.

BUILDING BLOCKS

TRADE OFFS — The Biden administration’s goals of boosting renewables and reducing reliance on China are at odds.

So says a study published in Nature this week that concludes it may be “difficult or impossible” for the United States to comply with Paris climate goals if it tries to break away from Chinese-made solar supplies in favor of American manufacturers.

The study is the first to quantify the cost savings of a globalized value chain for the solar industry. It found that if three major countries — the United States, China and Germany — impose “strict nationalistic” policies for solar power, it could cause the average cost of a panel to be 20 percent to 25 percent higher by 2030 than it would be otherwise. David has more.

SUSTAINABLE FINANCE

CLEAN CREDITS — The keys to unlocking the gold mines tucked inside the Inflation Reduction Act lie with the Treasury Department.

That’s who’s writing the rules that will determine how $369 billion in clean energy tax credits are parceled out — effectively determining who gets paid and how. It’s also the first step to unleashing what the Biden administration hopes will be a wave of private sector clean energy investment.

The administration is moving quickly to try to finalize the rules. Treasury released a request for comment on six parts of the legislation earlier this month, seeking input on areas that will require clarification in the tax code. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and senior White House adviser John Podesta met Tuesday with 17 utility and labor leaders to receive feedback on the department’s guidance.

The meeting is one of six such gatherings where Yellen and other Treasury officials are planning to solicit feedback from key stakeholders on the law’s implementation.

Benjamin Storrow of POLITICO’s E&E News has more.

WASHINGTON WATCH

FOREVER FARMS — Maine’s congressional delegation and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced legislation this week that would provide relief to farmers who have been impacted by contamination from PFAS, the “forever chemicals” linked to serious human health impacts.

They’re making a play to get it into the farm bill, according to Victoria Bonney, a spokesperson for Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), who sits on the House Agriculture Committee.

PFAS contamination of farmland is an emerging issue in several states and could have national implications. Led by a bipartisan group of senators and representatives, the lawmakers are looking to get their Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act into the massive agriculture package that will be negotiated next year.

The PFAS bill would provide funding for states to increase testing for the chemicals in water and soil, conduct blood monitoring, and pay for things such as equipment for impacted farmers or relocation of commercial farms due to contamination.

It would also create a USDA task force charged with identifying other agency programs to which PFAS contamination should be added as an eligible activity.

EXTREMES

BURN BACKLASH — Forest policy advocates are worried that last week’s dust-up over prescribed fire signals the opening of a new front in the nation’s culture wars, POLITICO’s E&E News’ Marc Heller reports.

Forest policy groups, former Forest Service officials and others close to the management of national forests say they worry that an Oregon sheriff arresting a Forest Service employee on allegations of reckless burning will turn into a national backlash against the use of fire to manage forests that normally burn from time to time.

“I am hearing some concern in the ranks about possible ‘copy cat’ incidents popping up, especially under the current political climate in the nation,” said Steve Ellis, chair of the National Association of Forest Service Retirees, which supports the use of prescribed fire as one of several approaches to managing fire-prone forests.

This is a big deal. Remember: Increased wildfire severity is causing an insurance crisis and cascadingair pollutionissues.

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