Biden’s power over energy – WSJ
The White House’s developing response to a global energy crisis raises a troubling question: If the Biden administration openly discusses restricting energy exports to combat rising consumer fuel prices, what power might it be? she argued to save a planet that she thinks is in crisis?
Because Congress and the courts have ceded power to the executive over the past several decades, the president, if he so chose, could co-opt powerful national security tools to reduce U.S. carbon emissions. As the midterm elections approach, progressives will pressure President Biden to do just that.
Remember that one of Mr. Biden’s earliest decrees declared that climate change is “central” to national security. He promised to “fight the climate crisis with bold and progressive action” which could mean almost anything. The administration began to act on this rhetoric. In September he announcement the creation of a working group âto detect, deter and disruptâ hydrofluorocarbons, a category of powerful greenhouse gases. This alliterative expression is generally reserved for the fight against weapons of mass destruction, rogue states and terrorists.
If climate change is “an existential threat to our lives,” as Mr Biden said in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, then what would the administration not be prepared to do about it? ? Take natural gas. Climate activists used to call it “bridge fuel,” but now describe it as a dangerous pollutant. The Department of Energy can revoke applicable export authorizations under the Natural Gas Act, although it has never done so. The Obama and Trump administrations assured their nervous allies that they could not imagine a scenario where dismissals would ever be necessary. Climate warriors believe that global warming is such a scenario.
The same law allows the ministry to attach “terms and conditions” to its export approvals. A future in which every natural gas liquefaction terminal will have to build facilities to capture, store and use carbon dioxide or install large amounts of renewable energy for local use is quite plausible.
Strangling crude oil exports would only require a few red tape from the Biden administration. An obscure “safety valve” clause allows the president to declare a national emergency and impose licensing requirements on shipments. For Mr Biden, declaring a national emergency would not be too much of a task. Annual declarations of emergency and their routine extension in general have become trivial events.
Refined products such as gasoline and natural gas liquids such as propane are the most released hydrocarbon molecules in the United States. No export authorization is required. This ostensibly privileged position is already under the militant microscope. Alleged collusion on the price at the pump by US gasoline retailers, already under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, provides an easy rationale for restricting consumer fuel exports.
An adventurous White House could go even further to restrict the use of fossil fuels. The Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States is a federal agency authorized to intervene in national security-related transactions involving foreign investors. Its power allows it to ânegotiate, enter into or impose and apply any agreement or condition with any partyâ to these transactions. If climate change is national security, where is the limit on the power of the committee? Foreign investments in domestic energy projects might be subject to scrutiny depending on the technology or infrastructure involved, and âany deal or conditionâ is as broad as it gets. An investing nation could be forced to take climate action within its own borders – move away from coal, tighten Paris bonds, and literally anything else – lest the deal fail. is blocked.
More troubling, American companies could be required to mitigate their climate risk in an incalculable way. Prepare for a world in which cloud computing and blockchain companies are required to install wind turbines and solar panels, and in which their overseas partners are required to divest from African coal plants and Australian coal mines. .
There is a final rung on this political scale. The International Emergency Economic Powers Act authorizes the president to âinvestigate, regulate or prohibitâ virtually any jurisdictional transaction for national security purposes after declaring a national emergency. In practice, this law covers all transactions with the American financial system. These powers have been put to good use against rogue states and terrorists. If climate change is truly an existential threat to humanity, what could be more threatening than a country that refuses to reduce its emissions? Make way for climate sanctions.
Intense litigation would ensue over these “new uses” of existing authority. Court-imposed restrictions on executive power may result, but this will take years. The US government has the power to destroy the financial viability of politically incorrect forms of energy by increasing costs, increasing uncertainty, and discouraging investment, regardless of court results.
Congress should tame the White House and regulatory agencies by legislating specific restrictions on these emergency powers. What the legislature gives the legislature can take away by making a restricted view of regulatory authority a condition of Senate confirmation. Lawmakers should also use budget hearings and the appropriation process to warn ministries and agencies not to exceed their remits, and sign preventative joint letters signaling Congress’ intention to punish regulatory excesses in the sector. Energy. Governors must be prepared for federal officials to jeopardize energy projects vital to their state economies, which could provide opportunities to engage voters, collaborate with their states’ congressional delegations, and pursue legal actions to protect the livelihoods of their citizens.
Mr. Abbey was the Republican Chief Economist on the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (2019-2020) and Director of Strategic Planning at the National Security Council (2017-19).
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