Saturday, March 2

Biden’s war-time tool

With help from Kelsey Tamborrino and Alex Guillén

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President Joe Biden may wield emergency powers under the Defense Production Act to try to boost U.S. battery production.

Biden is also preparing to release 1 million barrels of oil per day from the SPR and and EPA may temporarily lift summer restrictions on ethanol blends in a push to bring down gasoline prices.

FERC and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission huddle today to scrutinize plans to beef up cybersecurity and reliability.

HAPPY THURSDAY! I’m your first-time host, Catherine Morehouse. Congrats to Connor McAllister from Sen. Daines’ office for being the first to know Squidward paid a whopping $25 for the pie-shaped bomb in the classic “Spongebob” episode “Dying for Pie.” For today: What is the highest unclimbed mountain in the world? Send your tips and trivia answers to [email protected]. Find me on Twitter @cmorehouse10.

Check out the POLITICO Energy podcast“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:””,”_id”:”0000017f-e1a2-d202-ad7f-e3f29bb00000″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-e1a2-d202-ad7f-e3f29bb00001″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>Check out the POLITICO Energy podcast — all the energy and environmental politics and policy news you need to start your day, in just five minutes. Listen and subscribe for free at“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:””,”_id”:”0000017f-e1a2-d202-ad7f-e3f29bb00002″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-e1a2-d202-ad7f-e3f29bb00003″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”> On today’s episode: Canada’s latest climate plan.

BIDEN MAY TAP INTO WAR POWER: Worried that the U.S. will fall behind in production of batteries needed to power the growing fleet of electric vehicles and provide storage for wind and solar generation, Biden is considering using his wartime executive authority to boost development of critical minerals, POLITICO’s Josh Siegel, Zack Colman, Jordan Wolman and Tanya Snyder report.

Prominent bipartisan lawmakers including Sen. Joe Manchin (D- W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) previously urged Biden to invoke that authority under the Defense Production Act in order to stimulate production, as the war in Ukraine exacerbated previous supply chain constraints, allowing prices for battery minerals like nickel, lithium and cobalt to spike.

And Biden could draw support from industry and environmentalists alike: CEO of the National Mining Association Rich Nolan said the move would send a “strong signal” to markets. And Public Lands Director at the Center for Biological Diversity Randi Spivak called the news “highly encouraging.”

Buy-in from environmental groups and Democrats may be attributed to reassurance from the Biden administration that the effort would not circumvent or speed up current permitting and environmental reviews for extraction. Instead, the plan would rely largely on investment incentives by expanding the list of critical materials covered under the DPA, which could allow companies to secure money from a wartime fund intended to maintain a U.S. industrial base during wartime.

BARRELLING AWAY FROM PUMP PAIN: Biden is considering yet another release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — this time of 1 million barrels of oil per day — to try to bring down crude oil and gasoline prices. The White House has sought to pin the rise in pump prices on Russia’s war in Ukraine, but prices were rising even before the invasion.

Bloomberg first reported the likely release, which could be announced today when the president is expected to further detail out the administration’s plans to relieve pain at the pump. The average retail price has ease a bit from the recent record, but still remains near $4.24 per gallon, a level that voters are sure to notice every time they fill up.

The administration late last year announced the release of 50 million barrels from the strategic reserve — alongside other countries — to fight price spikes, and committed to another 60 million this year after the war began.

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MINING FOR ANSWERS: Senators on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hear today from critical minerals experts on how the U.S. can establish its own domestic supply chain to support the growing clean energy industry.

Chair Joe Manchin wants to see the U.S. establish stronger mining and processing capabilities — while also strengthening supply chains with friendly nations like Canada and Australia in order to wean off dependence on Russia and China, according to his opening statement, shared with ME. He also intends to echo previous calls for Biden to use the DPA to boost domestic production.

And Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) plans to chide Biden for his lack of action on supply chain issues, even though the materials are needed for the U.S. to reach the administration’s clean energy goals, according to a preview of his remarks shared with ME.

“Currently, the United States is 100 percent dependent on imports of 17 key minerals. We are over 50 percent dependent on imports of another 29 minerals,” Barrasso will say. “If President Biden doesn’t reverse course and stand up to mining opponents in his own party, this will only get worse. It will mean that we will continue to fund our adversaries.”

Among the testifiers is Scott Melbye, president of the Uranium Producers of America. Though the nuclear fuel was officially removed from the U.S. list of critical minerals earlier this year, Republican lawmakers questioned that decision during a confirmation hearing for Biden’s nominee to head the Department of Energy’s nuclear energy office — and DOE has indicated uranium could reappear on the list.

ME FIRST – GROUPS CALL ON CONGRESS TO UNDO OFFSHORE MORATORIUM: Seven groups with diverse interest in offshore wind are pressing lawmakers to repeal the 10-year moratorium on offshore wind leasing in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, which is set to take effect on July 1. A provision in the stalled House-passed Build Back Better bill would have undone the Trump-era moratorium, and a similar measure was included in the House’s COMPETES Act. It was not, however, included in the Senate’s version of the China competitiveness bill.

The groups complain the looming moratorium puts a cloud over the energy and economic potential of offshore wind. “In essence, much of the south had a vital and reliable renewable energy resource taken away from it, along with the jobs and economic development it would bring,” says the letter, which was signed by the National Ocean Industries Association, the Business Network for Offshore Wind, American Clean Power Association, National Association of Manufacturers, Southeastern Wind Coalition, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Waterways Operators.

MORE TAX CREDITS PLEASE: A coalition of more than 100 manufacturers of clean energy components is urging the president and Congressional leadership to push long-term tax credits through reconciliation to boost transmission, energy storage and green hydrogen. In a letter sent to Biden, Senate Majority Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and two committee chairs on Wednesday, the group argued such tax provisions could provide a much-needed boost to the domestic supply chain — and create more U.S. jobs to boot.

“With these policies we can lower energy costs and grow our manufacturing base, but without them our supply chains will remain strained and our clean energy future will be at risk,” said Scott Moskowitz, director of market strategy and public affairs at solar module manufacturer Q CELLS America, in a statement.

DEMS PRESS FOR NEW TAX ON OIL PROFITS: Democrats in both chambers are calling for legislation that would cut into oil company profits with the aim of providing consumer relief at the pump. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) led a push Wednesday to pass the the Big Oil Windfall Profits Tax Act that would force big producers to pay 50 percent of the difference between the current price of a barrel of oil and the pre-pandemic average price per barrel between 2015 and 2019, and return that money to consumers as rebates.

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A separate push, spearheaded by Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) urges Democratic leadership in the House to pair the push for rebates with a repeal of oil and gas subsidies.

BIOFUEL UNDER REVIEW: EPA is reviewing the potential to allow summer-time sales of E15 fuel amid the spike in fuel prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, two people familiar told ME. Reuters first reported on Wednesday that the Biden administration is considering temporarily removing the restrictions on the blends of up to 15 percent ethanol. And one of the people told ME that EPA’s Office of General Counsel is specifically considering its options available to facilitate the summer-time sale of E15.

The White House already signaled earlier this month“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”″,”_id”:”0000017f-e1a2-d202-ad7f-e3f29bcd0003″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-e1a2-d202-ad7f-e3f29bcd0004″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>already signaled earlier this month it was looking at lifting the ban to bring down the price of gasoline, though it offered no other specifics. EPA press secretary Nick Conger did not comment on the reports Wednesday, but said in a statement that the agency is “considering a range of options across the Administration to help mitigate impacts from Russia’s actions on American consumers.”

The news is sure to please ethanol advocates and corn-state lawmakers who have called on the president to use his authority to lift the summer-time restrictions in a bid to give consumers access to lower cost fuel — particularly after an appeals court last year vacated the Trump-era rule that extended the sale of E15. Bipartisan senators earlier this month, led by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), also wrote to the White House on the issue. “Restoring year-round E15 would provide American drivers with a cleaner, lower-cost fuel option,” Thune added Wednesday evening.

American Petroleum Institute Vice President of Downstream Policy Ron Chittim, however, said in a response that there “is no clear pathway for EPA to establish year-round sales of E15.”

For your radar: President Joe Biden will deliver remarks this afternoon on his administration’s actions to reduce energy and gas prices.

FERC GOES NUCLEAR: FERC and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are joining forces today to tackle grid reliability and cybersecurity, in a joint open meeting led largely by the agencies’ staff. Included on the agenda is a rehash of FERC and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s joint report on last year’s Texas freeze that shut down half of a major nuclear power plant in the region.

NRC will also discuss development of cybersecurity rules for new advanced reactors as part of its efforts to create standards for a hoped-for wave of small nuclear plants, according to a slide deck released before the meeting. And the North American Electric Reliability Corporation will share its assessment of long-term reliability concerns: According to NERC, Texas, California, and U.S. Northwest all face reliability risks due to a lack of flexible generation to meet peak demand during extreme weather events.

HOME SWEET HOME: The Energy Department is accepting applications from states, tribes and territories for $3.16 billion in new funding provided by the bipartisan infrastructure law to increase energy efficiency by retrofitting low-income homes, the department announced Wednesday. The pot of funding comes through the agency’s Weatherization Assistance Program that is designed to address the entire home, including by updating insulation, heating and cooling systems and appliances.

“The 3.2 billion that we’re mobilizing today is about 10 times what we currently spend on retrofitting homes every year,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told reporters. “We’re going to be helping those families save money on their bills. It’s going to create over 8,500 jobs nationwide. It’s going to clean up our air and it’s going to deliver a big win for the climate.” She added that the projects must prioritize U.S.-made iron, steel and construction materials.

DOE also announced Wednesday new building energy code requirements for federal buildings that will begin in April 2023 to ensure all new buildings and major retrofits comply with the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code and the 2019 American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers Standard 90.1 building energy codes.

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The department also proposed new efficiency standards for residential room air conditioners and pool heaters, marking the first new efficiency standards for appliances or equipment that DOE has developed and proposed under the Biden administration, according to the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.

ME FIRST — REPORT FINDS EFFICIENCY RULES SAVING AT THE PUMP: A report released today from the Natural Resources Defense Council finds that clean car and fuel economy standards have saved individual customers hundreds of dollars at the pump. The report finds new vehicles subject to more stringent federal fuel standards have saved households on average $630 to $840 dollars annually.

And it found that new EPA standards finalized at the end of the last year are poised to save customers $210 billion to $420 billion in fuel costs through 2050 by cutting U.S. gasoline consumption down by more than 440 million barrels.

RED STATES ASK 5TH CIRCUIT TO BLOCK SOCIAL COST OF CARBON: Louisiana and other red states on Wednesday asked the full 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a recent panel decision that stayed a district judge’s injunction against the social cost of carbon — if you haven’t had your coffee yet, that means they asked the appellate court to once again block the administration’s use of the analytical measure. In an en banc petition filed last night, the states argued that the panel had made several errors worthy of reversal. Somewhat ironically, that includes an argument that the panel failed to give the states their due “special solicitude” in determining whether they have standing to challenge the social cost of carbon — quoting the standard set by the Supreme Court in its landmark 2007 ruling on EPA’s climate authority in Massachusetts v. EPA.

What’s next: Further briefing likely will take at least a few weeks, and it’s unclear how long the 5th Circuit may take to act. The panel that issued the stay earlier this month consisted of two Obama appointees and one from George W. Bush. But the 5th Circuit overall leans more conservative, with 12 of its members appointed by Republican presidents and five by Democrats. Still, Louisiana’s case has been criticized by some conservative legal scholars like Jonathan Adler, and it’s not clear that a majority of the court will want to overturn the panel.

RUSSIA REFINES RUBLE DEMAND: Russia clarified it will not immediately demand EU gas buyers pay in rubles, after Germany and other Western countries made it clear they were uninterested in renegotiating contracts. Russian President Vladimir Putin had asked state-owned exporter Gazprom to finalize currency changes by the end of the month, but a spokesperson for the Kremlin on Monday said the rules would not be operational by Thursday. “Payments and deliveries are a process spanning a certain period of time,” he said. “It’s not like it’s delivered tomorrow and must be paid for [immediately in rubles]. It spans a longer period for purely technological reasons.” Read more from Zosia Wanat.

“Can the world overshoot its climate targets — and then fix it later?,” via Grist.

“Collins to give Supreme Court nominee Jackson a GOP vote,” via POLITICO’s E&E News

“Watchdog knocks EPA for major delays on air toxics regulations,” via POLITICO


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