“The late-summer surge in gasoline prices is heightening the risks that inflation poses for President Joe Biden, and offering Republicans a new chance to pin the blame on his green agenda.
The GOP narrative has a major hole: U.S. oil production — already the highest in the world — is on track to set a new record this year, and will probably rise even more in 2024. But the ever-increasing flow of U.S. crude has failed to keep a lid on gasoline prices, showing once again that a global market drives the fuel prices that shape presidents’ political futures.”
“The 3,000 sailors and Marines arrived in the Middle East on August 6 alongside a deployment of US fighter jets to the region.
What exactly they’ll be doing isn’t yet clear: If US troops were to board commercial ships, the details would need to be worked out with the companies and countries in question. US officials told the Associated Press that such a policy is under consideration. (The Department of Defense did not respond to Vox’s questions for this story by press time.)
The Biden administration says that the Iranian threat to tanker traffic is the reason for the deployment of sailors and Marines. Iran seized two oil tankers in a week this past spring. Iran also intercepted a Tanzanian-flagged tanker on July 6, a day after the US Navy intervened to dissuade Iran from nearly seizing two ships. Iran has said that it sees itself as responsible for the security of the Gulf, not least because of its long coastline, and claimed it has not illegally seized tankers.
Other factors may be contributing to Biden’s decision-making: The US might be thinking about balancing China’s increased presence in the Middle East, as epitomized by the spring’s surprise rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The US also might be responding to concerns from other partners in the region, especially as the US is pushing for Israel and Saudi Arabia to normalize relations. “The noise has increased a lot from Gulf partners, especially as the [Biden] administration is pressuring Gulf partners on a number of different issues, including normalization with Israel,” Simone Ledeen, who served as a senior defense official in the Trump administration, told me. “It’s certainly connected.”
Above all, Iranian actions in the Gulf could affect oil prices. For President Biden, keeping oil prices low has been a priority of utmost importance. It’s partly why he traveled to Saudi Arabia last summer to make up with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. And since then, the Biden administration has sought to reassure Gulf partners like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of US commitment to the Middle East.
This “forward-deployed presence provides US officials with options,” writes analyst Bilal Saab, that would make Iran “think twice before using violence to achieve its political aims.””
“The move to regulate fuel economy came about a few years earlier, following the 1973–74 Arab embargo that suddenly ended the flow of oil from OPEC nations. In the face of skyrocketing oil prices, Congress froze gasoline prices to protect American consumers from pocketbook shock. Then came the hard part. Elected officials sought to require U.S. automakers to build the smaller, more economical cars that unquestionably would have been built had gasoline prices been allowed to rise freely. Yet the fuel economy standards hit passenger sedans hard while leaving light trucks, which were not seen as passenger vehicles, almost untouched.
As the fuel economy standards began to bite consumers, they found that trucks provided comfort and safety no longer available in the downsized sedans. Truck sales surged, and in 1990, Ford placed a four-door body on a Ranger truck frame and introduced the Ford Explorer, a passenger vehicle that satisfied the government’s truck definition. This inspired an explosion of similar SUV production across the industry. Trucks became beautiful, expensive, and highly desirable.”
“All the while, the fuel economy standard for trucks remained less strict than for sedans. To make things even better for U.S. producers, almost-prohibitive tariffs on European light trucks were extended to the rest of the world. Many foreign producers eventually jumped the tariff wall and built trucks and cars here, but the home-grown industry enjoyed an early advantage.”
“OPEC+, meaning the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and its allies, the plus sign, announced it would cut production by over 1 million barrels of crude oil a day. For some context, there are about 100 million barrels of oil produced worldwide each
“Clean energy is rapidly rising on the Texas power grid, but regulators in the Lone Star State are now considering a plan that could give fossil fuels a boost.
The zero greenhouse gas emissions trio — wind, solar, and nuclear energy — provided more than 40 percent of electricity in the state in 2022. It was a year when several Texas cities experienced their hottest summers on record, driving electricity demand to its highest levels ever as fans and air conditioners switched on. Winter proved stressful too, with freezing temperatures last month pushing winter electricity peaks to record-high levels, narrowly avoiding outages.”
“Texas leads the US in oil and natural gas production, but it’s also number one in wind power. Solar production in the state has almost tripled in the past three years. Part of the reason is that Texas is particularly suited to renewable energy on its grid. Wind turbines and solar panels in Texas have a high degree of “complementarity,” so shortfalls in one source are often matched by increases in another, smoothing out power production and reducing the need for other generators to step in. That has eased the integration of intermittent energy sources on the grid.
Coal, meanwhile, has lost more than half of its share in Texas since 2006. For a long time and across much of the country, the story was that cheap natural gas from hydraulic fracturing was eating coal’s lunch on the power grid. Coal was also facing tougher environmental regulations like stricter limits on mercury, requiring coal power plants to upgrade their equipment, and raising electricity production costs.”
“in Texas, natural gas’s share of the electricity mix has been holding around 40 percent for more than a decade. On the other hand, renewable energy has surged as coal withered. Wind alone started beating out coal in 2019 and is now the second-largest source of electricity behind natural gas in the state.
An important factor is that the state has its own internal power grid, serving 26 million customers and meeting 90 percent of its electricity demand. It’s managed by the nonprofit Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT. In the freewheeling Texas energy market, the cheapest sources of electricity become dominant, and wind and solar — with low construction costs, rapid build times, and zero fuel expenses — have emerged as winners.”
“Some lawmakers are now working to tilt the balance toward fossil fuels. “There are different political figures who are trying to incentivize gas power plants or deny, prohibit, or inhibit renewables,” Webber said.
Last year, the Texas legislature passed a law that would prevent the state’s retirement and investment funds from doing business with companies that “boycott” fossil fuels.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said one of his legislative priorities for this year is to secure more support for natural gas-fired generation. “We have to level the playing field so that we attract investment in natural gas plants,” Patrick said during a press conference last November. “We can’t leave here next spring unless we have a plan for more natural gas power.””
“While wind and solar power are ascendant, they are intermittent, and regulators want to make sure there is enough dispatchable power like natural gas to ramp up on still, cloudy days. The new proposal would create a credit scheme that would encourage more of these dispatchable plants to come online and extend a lifeline to some existing generators that are struggling to compete. But it would also raise the costs of electricity production.
Environmental groups like the Sierra Club noted that the proposal leaves the door open for other tactics for balancing electricity supply and demand, like energy storage, increasing energy efficiency, and demand response.”
“There is one key factor explaining why imports to the EU from Russia haven’t fallen further: energy — and its price. During the five years that preceded the war, energy-related products represented two-thirds of all imports from Russia, in monetary terms.
European countries needed to find alternative providers before they could stop buying from Moscow — and even when they reduced their energy purchases, soaring prices meant that cash flows to Russia did not decrease proportionally.”
“The new study includes Exxon’s graphs, models, projections and publications that show it understood how its business would affect the planet, according to the researchers Geoffrey Supran of the University of Miami, Stefan Rahmstorf of the University of Potsdam and Naomi Oreskes of Harvard University. Oreskes previously co-authored the book “Merchants of Doubt,” which detailed the efforts of a small number of scientific researchers who worked to undermine the public’s acceptance of climate science.
“All told, ExxonMobil was aware of contemporary climate science, contributed to that science, and predicted future global warming correctly,” the researchers wrote. “ExxonMobil accurately foresaw the threat of human-caused global warming, both prior and parallel to orchestrating lobbying and propaganda campaigns to delay climate action.”
Exxon spokesperson Todd Spitler rebutted the claims and said the company supports addressing climate change.”
“Exxon’s models aligned with the best science between 1970 and 1990, the paper found. Exxon projected 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.36 Fahrenheit) of warming every decade with a 0.04-degree C margin of error. That figure is close to the 0.19 degrees C rise and 0.03-degree C margin of error derived from 18 government and academic models.
Under one metric, Exxon proved more precise than famed NASA climate scientist James Hansen, who first brought global warming to Congress’ attention in 1988.
“It has been established that, for many years, Exxon’s public affairs strategy was — as a 1988 internal memo put it — to ‘emphasize the uncertainty in scientific conclusions regarding the potential enhanced greenhouse effect,’” the report said. “However, our analysis shows that in their reports and briefings to management, ExxonMobil’s own scientists did not particularly emphasize uncertainty.””