Republican senators cited a study commissioned by America’s largest oil and gas trade association in its criticism of Deb Haaland, Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Department of the Interior, during a confirmation hearing last week.
Two Republicans on the Senate’s committee on energy and natural resources referenced the study, which has been widely criticized by conservationists, as they questioned Haaland, a United States Democratic representative from New Mexico, about her past statements on energy issues and the Biden administration climate plans.
The issue in particular was the administration’s 60-day hiatus on new federal oil and gas leases, which several senators wrongly characterized as a “ban.”
All Republicans on the committee have received significant campaign contributions from political action committees and oil and gas employees, and some are personally engaged in the industry, as recently reported by The Guardian and the Center for Media and Democracy.
Haaland, who would be the first Native American cabinet secretary, supports the Green New Deal and opposes fracking on federal lands. As Home Secretary, she would implement Biden’s climate agenda, which, while relatively ambitious, may not go as far as she would prefer.
While criticizing Haaland and Biden’s stance on federal leases, two of the senators cited the projected job losses from the ban on federal oil and gas extraction that stemmed from a study commissioned by American Petroleum Institute (API). API is the nation’s largest oil and gas trade association and spent millions of dollars to help elect Republicans to Congress in the 2020 cycle.
John Barrasso of Wyoming, the highest ranking member on the committee and a main recipient of the Senate of oil and gas contributions, he cited the institute’s September 2020 study three times during hearings, and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi mentioned it once.
On February 23, Barrasso listed The job losses projected by the study for the states the committee members represent, leading with New Mexico’s state of Haaland (62,000 jobs) and its state of Wyoming (33,000).
“My question is for you: why not let these workers keep their jobs?” Barrasso asked.
Conservationists have criticized the study. It considers a permanent ban on new and existing leases, not the current 60-day break for new leases only, and predicts job losses over a two-year period. The DeSmog energy news website indicated that these anticipated job losses far exceed the total number of employees in the oil and gas extraction industry, and they described the claim as “staggering.”
The industry has nearly “500,000 acres of federal public land leases that have yet to be developed, more than 31,000 oil and gas wells on existing federal public lands, and a pool of ~ 5,000 approved but unused federal public land drilling permits” , according to the executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center.
“This API and Western Energy Alliance Chicken-Little routine shouldn’t fool anyone,” said Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, a nonpartisan conservation and advocacy organization.
“The oil industry ‘studies’ that Barrasso and the company continue to cite are directly contradicted by oil executives themselves, who rightly point out to investors that they are sitting on tens of thousands of approved drilling permits and tens of thousands more. unused oil leases “.
Western Energy Alliance is a trade group of more than 200 oil and gas companies that is suing Biden’s management over its hiatus in the new leases. in a Press release announcing the lawsuit, cites the API study and another study that the Western Energy Alliance secretly funded and was written by a professor who has received funding from the Charles Koch Foundation and is known for publishing industry-funded propaganda.
At other times during the hearings, Barrasso referenced the API study job loss figures for New Mexico and Wyoming and their national estimate of nearly 1 million jobs lost. The senator claimed that the loss of revenue from the production of oil and gas on federal lands would cost the educational systems of the states, a claim that API promoted in its “EnergyCitizens” ad campaign last fall.
Barrasso has another possible conflict of interest. He owns up to $ 500,000 in stock in Berkshire Hathaway, a conglomerate whose subsidiaries carried oil pipelines. 8% of natural gas consumed by Americans in 2019.
Hyde-Smith, whose campaigns have received $ 357,000 of oil and gas pacs and employees, aforementioned The API report’s claim of 14,000 jobs lost over two years and potentially $ 32 million in lost income in his state, Mississippi. He also listed the projected 68% national decline in offshore natural gas production by 2030 and a large increase in oil imports.
“By stopping this production of essential fossil fuels, Mississippi’s jobs alone would be decimated,” Hyde-Smith said.
Haaland corrected Hyde-Smith, reminding him that the Biden administration had stopped, not prohibited, new leases.
The Barrasso and Hyde-Smith offices did not respond to requests for comment.
Marcela Mulholland, political director of the progressive polling and research group Data for Progress, said: “Republican senators like John Barrasso and Cindy Hyde-Smith, whose campaigns are funded by fossil fuel billionaires, have tried for years to push the narrative that voters must choose between a livable planet and good jobs.
Voters don’t buy it. Data for progress vote shows that voters across the country reject the notion that job creation and the clean energy transition are mutually exclusive. The reality is that launching a full government mobilization to stop climate change has the potential to create millions of good jobs across the country. “
The Energy Committee will vote on whether to advance Haaland’s nomination on Thursday. With the endorsement of Maine Republican Susan Collins and conservative Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Haaland is expected to pass the test.
API has been generous to Republican candidates, including those on the energy committee.
In 2020, API gave $ 5 million to the Senate Leadership Fund, which spent tens of millions of dollars to elect Republican committee members Steve Daines of Wyoming ($ 24.7 million), who pledged to block Haaland’s nomination, and Roger Marshall of Kansas ($ 17.5 million). The Super Pac also spent money to help Collins and attack Democratic committee members John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Mark Kelly of Arizona.
In 2018, Barrasso’s most recent election year, API’s Pac donated $ 7,500 to your campaign. In 2020, Hyde-Smith’s most recent election, gave $ 2,000 to your campaign. In that cycle, the Pac contributed $ 19,500 to the energy committee senators, all Republicans.
API funds national political committees that also support state Republican candidates, having donated $ 125,000 to the Republican Governors Association, $ 50,000 to the Republican Attorneys General Association, and $ 25,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee in 2018.
The institute has also donated to organizations funded by Charles Koch, such as Americans for Prosperity and the Cato Institute.
Oil and gas boosters avoid talking about Biden’s plan to create 10 million clean energy jobs. While the transition from fossil fuel jobs to high-paying green jobs can be challenging, the world needs to dramatically reduce its fossil fuel consumption by 2030 to avoid climate change-induced droughts, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. persons. , according to a 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Furthermore, the effects of the climate crisis are already costing the US huge amounts of money and are expected to sue hundreds of billions annually by 2090. In 2020, US hurricanes, wildfires, and other disasters, many of them caused or intensified by the climate crisis, cost $ 95 billion.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism