Gas, greens and brownouts: The energy war is boiling over

Gas, greens and brownouts: The energy war is boiling over

President Joe Biden’s signature climate law is nearly two years old, and the tug-of-war over its future is only getting more fierce.

The Biden administration is facing election year pressure from progressives to move more quickly to phase out fossil fuels, at a time when the U.S has become an oil and natural gas superpower.

At the same time, conservatives and former President Donald Trump are threatening to gut the law and its hundreds of billions of dollars in clean energy spending if they take back power in Washington — though more than a few Republicans are coming to its defense.

And supporters of the law, including a growing number of businesses and communities that stand to benefit, are anxious for the administration to spend the money faster.

A recent POLITICO analysis found that less than 17 percent of the $1.1 trillion in direct spending that Biden’s climate, infrastructure, technology and pandemic relief laws provided for climate- and energy-related needs had been spent as of April — with six months until the election. A gusher of private investments triggered by the IRA’s clean energy tax breaks has also faced headwinds.

Even Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm acknowledged that the pace of the rollout has been slower than some would like, though she argued more progress will be visible soon.

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) accused the Biden administration of harming red states with its fossil fuel policies, particularly singling out its proposal last month to end new coal leases in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana, the nation’s biggest coal field.

“It’s a terrible policy,” Lummis said. “Until we have sources of base load to replace coal, we still need coal in this country.”

Both Granholm and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel pushed back on fears that one major move by the administration — a pause on new licenses for natural gas exports — would leave U.S. allies short of energy.

Granholm noted that the department has already authorized permits for far more gas exports than the country is actually carrying out. (In fact, the nation’s export capacity is expected to double by 2028.)

U.S. companies have the ability to export 14 billion cubic feet per day of liquefied natural gas, she said, the largest capacity in the world — and that figure could jump to 48 billion cubic feet with projects that have permits but have yet to be built.