Big Oil V the World review – how can these climate crisis deniers sleep at night?This shocking documentary series reveals the lies oil lobbyists told to undercut democracy, prevent action against global heating – and bring our planet to the brink Al Gore described it as “in many ways the most serious crime of the post-world war two era, whose consequences are almost unimaginable”. Can you guess which one the former vice-president meant? Genocide in the former Yugoslavia? Genocide in Rwanda? The attack on the twin towers? The oxymoronic “war on terror” that produced – rather than eliminated – terrorism? The nuclear arms race? The invasion of Ukraine? The crimes of Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot? Or other ones I haven’t the space to cite?Gore is in fact referring to a very specific moment that occurred on 25 July 1997. That day, the US Senate voted by 95-0 for the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, ruling that the US should not sign a climate treaty that would become known as the Kyoto protocol – despite the Clinton administration’s desire for the US to be a world leader in the fight to cut greenhouse gas emissions. It meant that Clinton would only be allowed to take action when developing countries – particularly India and China – were bound by the same strictures.‘What we now know … they lied’: how big oil companies betrayed us allRead moreThe worry, touted by purported experts (many of whom were briefed and funded by US oil companies), was that Kyoto would be a disaster for the US. Imposing strict emission controls on the US – while industrialising nations such as India and China were not similarly constrained – would cost the US upwards of 5,000 jobs, put more than 50 cents on a tank of gas, whack up electricity bills 25% to 50% and put the struggling US economy at a competitive disadvantage in international markets. Or so it was claimed.Jane McMullen’s excellent and shocking first instalment of a three-part series, Big Oil V The World (BBC Two) reveals another reason for senators Robert Byrd and Chuck Hagel’s resolution. For many years, the big oil lobby had poured scorn on the growing scientific orthodoxy that humanity is hurtling towards a climate catastrophe and that the leading reason is the rise in emissions of greenhouse gases.What I didn’t know, and this documentary helpfully explains, is that the US’s largest oil company, Exxon, had labs filled with researchers who had produced detailed reports showing the reality of the climate crisis. That research, though, was suppressed.The bitter irony, clinched by one of the company’s former climate scientists, Ed Garvey, was that Exxon could have been part of the solution rather than the problem. Garvey worked on Exxon’s carbon dioxide research programme from 1978 to 1983, when it was closed because falling gas prices made it seem an expendable luxury.Garvey also recalls that there were scientists at Exxon developing alternatives to fossil fuels such as solar power and lithium batteries. But their work was shelved. The future of the planet, Garvey suggests, was deemed less important than Exxon’s short-term profit.Although the Clinton administration in which Gore served had from the outset committed itself to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to their 1990 levels by 2000, and leaders of industrial nations such as the British prime minister, John Major, called for even deeper cuts, the Senate resolution effectively destroyed the president and his vice-president’s hopes of the US leading the world. Instead, the US, through its inaction, helped hasten the climate catastrophe we now live in.To clinch this rhetorical point, the programme repeatedly cuts from talking heads to scenes more hellish than those imagined by Dante or Milton. Floods in China, a fiery hellscape in California, storms lashing Louisiana and, in one shot, battering an Exxon gas station.After seeing such images, I wonder how Hagel, who sponsored that 1997 Senate resolution and went on to become defence secretary, sleeps at night. He was among the climate crisis deniers this documentary catches up with to hear them repent. Off-screen, the excellent interviewer asks Hagel if he feels he was misled, given that Exxon, whose execs lobbied him before the Senate vote, was making a concerted effort throughout the 1990s to cast doubt on the reality of the climate emergency and the role of human activity in increasing global temperatures – even though their own scientists were telling them that the science was sound.“We now know about some of these large oil companies … they lied,” says Hagel. “Yes I was misled. Others were misled. When they had evidence in their own institutions that countered what they were saying publicly – they lied.” If the truth had been told to Hagel and other climate crisis-denying senators, would the situation be different? “Oh absolutely,” says Hagel. “I think it would have changed the average citizen’s appreciation of climate change and mine. It would have put the United States and the world on a different track. It has cost this country and it’s cost the world.”Last August, the UN secretary general António Guterres said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working group’s report confirming the link between human activity and rising greenhouse emissions is “a code red for humanity”. That Senate resolution, McMullen’s film argues, contributed to our climate emergency.No one in this programme explores the hideous political ramifications of this terrible state of affairs, namely that the virus of capitalism (in the form of big oil) undercut democracy through a sustained campaign of disinformation. How easy it proved for corporations to sucker politicians such as Hagel to subvert not just the will of the people but the wellbeing of the planet. If McMullen’s film has a moral, it’s that democracy must be healthy enough to resist commercial lobbying, so that we don’t get fooled again. In 2022, that seems an unlikely scenario.TopicsTelevision & radioTV reviewTelevisionDocumentaryClimate crisisFactual TVOilOil and gas companiesreviewsReuse this content More
Environmentalists condemn Biden administration’s offshore drilling planPolicy would ban new ocean drilling but allow up to 11 lease sales in Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s south coast Joe Biden’s administration on Friday unveiled a five-year offshore oil and gas drilling development plan that blocks all new drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans within US territorial waters while allowing some lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s south coast.The plan, which has not been finalized, could allow up to 11 lease sales but gives the interior department the right to make none. It comes two days after the US supreme court curbed the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to respond to the climate crisis.Environmental groups criticized the plan, and some expressed concern that the administration was backing away from the president’s “no more drilling” pledge during a March 2020 one-on-one debate with Bernie Sanders.Biden at the time said, “No more drilling on federal lands, no more drilling, including offshore – no ability for the oil industry to continue to drill – period.”Environmental groups also argued that new leasing would impede the Biden administration’s goal to cut carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2030 in an effort to keep global heating under the threshold of 1.5C (2.7F).“President Biden campaigned on climate leadership, but he seems poised to let us down at the worst possible moment,” said Brady Bradshaw, senior oceans campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The reckless approval of yet more offshore drilling would mean more oil spills, more dead wildlife and more polluted communities. We need a five-year plan with no new leases.”Wenonah Hauter of Food & Water Watch said: “President Biden has called the climate crisis the existential threat of our time, but the administration continues to pursue policies that will only make it worse.”On Friday, the interior secretary, Deb Haaland, said she and the president “had made clear our commitment to transition to a clean energy economy”. The department’s proposal, she said, was “an opportunity for the American people to consider and provide input on the future of offshore oil and gas leasing”.California passes first sweeping US law to reduce single-use plasticRead moreThe proposal to sell off 11 leases must go through a series of reviews and a period of public comment that is likely to be contentious. Most of the new leases would be offered in parts of the western and central Gulf of Mexico, far from where legislators have outlawed new drilling near Florida.The executive director of Healthy Gulf, Cyn Sarthou, said the organization was troubled by the apparent change of policy.“Now is not the time to continue business as usual,” Sarthou said. “The continuing threat posed by climate change requires the nation to focus on a transition to renewable energy.”Nearly 95% of US offshore oil production and 71% of offshore natural gas production occurs in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. About 15% of oil production comes from offshore drilling.The proposed leases come after sales in two regions of the Gulf were abandoned because of legal challenges.Advocates for the oil industry welcomed the new proposal, including the Democratic senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.“Our allies across the free world are in desperate need of American oil and gas,” Manchin said in a statement. “I am disappointed to see that ‘zero’ lease sales is even an option on the table.”One of the proposed new leases could be granted in Alaska’s Cook Inlet, an area that is already highly vulnerable to the effects of climate breakdown. “This decision is incredibly disappointing in the face of ongoing climate impacts that are already being deeply felt by our community around Alaska,” said the advocacy director at Cook Inletkeeper, Liz Mering.Mering added: “Alaskans have worked to ensure that Lower Cook Inlet remains this incredible place for our fisheries and tourism industry, which support a thriving local economy. Thirty-three years after the horrific Exxon Valdez disaster, Alaskans still remember and recognize the risk of more oil fouling our waters, killing our fish and hurting Alaskans.”The proposal came a day after the administration held its first auction of onshore lease sales, drawing bids of $22m from energy companies seeking drilling rights on about 110 square miles of public land across Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.After the sale, the Western Environmental Law Center attorney Melissa Hornbein said: “Overwhelming scientific evidence shows us that burning fossil fuels from existing leases on federal lands is incompatible with a livable climate.”TopicsBiden administrationJoe BidenOilGasUS politicsCommoditiesClimate crisisnewsReuse this content More
The Guardian view on Biden’s risky gamble: betting on lowering oil pricesEditorialThe climate agenda risks being derailed by energy market disruptions caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine Joe Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia this month highlights the paradox of American power. The US has the economic heft to punish an opponent – but not enough to alter the behaviour of a determined adversary. Sanctions will see Russia’s economy contract by 9% next year. But Washington needs more nations to join its camp to halt Moscow’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Mr Biden has been forced to prioritise war objectives over ethics in meeting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who the CIA says ordered the barbaric murder of the prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi.The havoc that Russia’s war has caused on the world’s energy markets is contributing to an economic crisis that is playing into the hands of Mr Biden’s domestic opponents. This highlights the west’s failure to confront the climate emergency with a less carbon-intensive economic model. The green agenda risks being derailed by sky-high hydrocarbon prices. This scenario could have been averted if western nations had accelerated their net zero agendas by driving down energy demand – the lack of UK home insulation is one glaring failure – and spending on renewables to achieve energy security. Instead, this week the G7 watered down pledges to halt fossil fuel investment over fears of winter energy shortages as Moscow squeezes supplies.Boycotts and bans against Russia, even as they take a toll on the global economy, will cause ordinary Russians hardship. But this has not moved Vladimir Putin. Soaring crude prices fuel Moscow’s war machine. A price cap on Russia’s petroleum exports might choke off the cash. But a concern is that China and India will buy Mr Putin’s oil at a price that still lets the Kremlin profit. Clever technical solutions mask hard choices. Sanctions drive up energy prices for consumers unless there are alternative supplies available. Right now, to bring down oil prices means producing more planet-destroying energy. That requires US engagement with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both of which bear responsibility for the disastrous Yemen war. Washington might have to woo Venezuela and Iran, nations which will play Moscow off against the west.The US is pursuing a three-pronged strategy: increasing pressure on Russia; getting more oil into markets to bring prices down; and allowing central banks to raise interest rates to levels that look as if they might cause a recession. The latter is designed to signal to oil producers that energy prices will collapse. The painful recessions of the 1970s and early 1980s played a part in bringing down oil prices after energy shocks – and contributed to the Soviet Union’s disintegration. But this took 15 years. Mr Putin’s Russia may not be as powerful as its forerunner. It might be more brittle than the Soviet Union. But there are few signs of imminent collapse.As the west seeks to reduce its reliance on Russian hydrocarbons, there seems to be a global “gold rush” for new fossil fuel projects defended as temporary supply measures. The risk, with the US as the largest hydrocarbon producer, is that the world becomes locked into an irreversible climate catastrophe. Europe might become as reliant on US gas as it once was on Russian gas. Donald Trump proved America could be an unreliable ally. Rightwing supreme court justices have hobbled Mr Biden’s power to limit harmful emissions. Meanwhile, China has emerged as a world leader in renewable energy as well as the metals on which it depends. Mr Biden had wanted to transition the US away from oil. Yet during his time in office the sector’s market value has doubled because prices have risen. Jarringly, as the climate emergency grows ever more urgent, fossil fuel appears the pivot on which the war in Ukraine will turn.TopicsUkraineOpinionClimate crisisJoe BidenUS politicsSaudi ArabiaMohammed bin SalmanOileditorialsReuse this content More
Biden’s proposed federal tax cut on gas could cost dearly in the futureExperts warn cutting the 18 cents will take a toll on highway upkeep and cause prices to rise further when the holiday ends America’s hard-pressed drivers may be about to receive a holiday. On Wednesday Joe Biden called on Congress to suspend the federal tax on gas and diesel until September as the country struggles with soaraway costs at the pump. But experts warned the tax holiday is unlikely to have a major impact on prices and will probably further harm the US’s already battered roads and bridges. If the tax cut even gets passed.Biden’s ‘cursed presidency’: gas prices are latest headache as midterms loomRead moreBlaming Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for the surge in gas prices Biden proposed cutting the 18-cents-a-gallon federal taxes on fuel until September and called on states to cut their gas taxes too. “Together, these actions could help drop the price at the pump by up to $1 a gallon or more. It doesn’t reduce all the pain, but it will be a big help,” said Biden.The tax cut’s first obstacle may be its last. The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, called the plan an “ineffective stunt” and other critics in his own party may join Republicans in blocking any cut.But with prices still soaring and midterm elections looming the administration is increasingly looking for ways to spare the public from prices at the pump, currently averaging at just under $5 a gallon.The non-partisan Tax Foundation called the plan a “uniquely ill-suited policy for addressing rising prices”. Pointing out that the money from the tax is the primary funding source for highway construction and its suspension could cost $10bn in funding.“Anything that could help the price at the pump is good, but it’ll come at a significant cost to the federal government that supposedly uses that money for the highway fund to maintain highways,” said Mark Finley, fellow in energy and global oil at the center for energy studies at Rice University.US energy economists also warn that dropping taxes on gasoline – a similar program has been suggested in the UK and other countries – does not address the fundamental issues of high demand.In a February report, the committee for a responsible federal budget found a federal gas tax holiday could “further increase demand for gasoline and other goods and services at a time when the economy has little capacity to absorb it”.“Gas prices are high because supply and demand are tight in the US and around the world both for oil and refined products. The prices are a signal that producers should produce more and consumers should consume less. You don’t fix the problem and you may exacerbate it, if you try to hide those signals,” said Finley.Moreover, prices may surge when the tax is lifted, according to a study released from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Earlier this year, Maryland introduced a month-long gas tax holiday. The study found that prices rose when it expired and the tax may have cost the state $100m.Other states have tried similar measures. New York suspended its 16-cents-a-gallon tax this month for the rest of the year. Others, including Georgia, Florida and Connecticut, are cutting the tax but for shorter periods. California may send $400 to every registered vehicle owner.The debate over energy prices threatens to become one of the most contentious of the election season. This week, Exxon Mobil said global oil markets may remain tight for another three to five years, largely because of a lack of investment since the pandemic began. Biden has responded to rising prices at the pump – and a decline in his approval rating – by lobbying Opec+ countries, which include Russia, to accelerate production increases.Biden will travel to Saudi Arabia next month to ask the kingdom to turn on the spigots. But studies indicate that the Saudis are themselves at the limits of current capacity. The venture comes with a political cost, undercutting the administration’s commitment to renewable energy and an election pledge to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” state after the murder of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.Other measures that the administration has undertaken to reduce energy costs, including releasing millions of barrels of crude oil from the strategic petroleum reserve and greater ethanol blending, have not turned the tide on rising prices. According to Ed Hirs at the University of Houston’s department of economics, Biden’s actions, including a stern letter to refiners to produce more gasoline and diesel, will not keep the average price at the pump from reaching $6 by September.The debate over energy has in a sense been misframed, said Hirs. “We don’t see lines at the pump, there is no shortage of oil, all we see is a higher price and that’s in essence because Opec wants a higher price,” Hirs says.The message to the US consumer is equally blunt. After 2008, when oil hit $147 a barrel, US automakers had to accept government bailouts as the consumers jumped away from gas-guzzling SUVs and pick-up trucks.“If the war in Ukraine continues we could easily see the same thing by this time next year,” Hirs predicted. “We have to think of this in a different way. A lot of folks in the west think we’re entitled to gasoline and diesel, in the same way we’re entitled to iPhones. But we haven’t operated the economy like that.”Put plainly, there’s little the administration can do. “We’ve reached a point where supplies of gasoline, diesel and crude oil are below our five-year averages, so it appears we’ve been exporting as much as we can,” said Hirs. “As long as the conflict, really between the US and Russia, persists, the EU nations will be additional buyers. So the fellow in London looking to fill his car, and the woman in France, are competing with someone on I-95.”TopicsOilUS politicsBiden administrationanalysisReuse this content More
‘Incontrovertible evidence that this [war] has been a strategic disaster for Russia’ – White House
Biden: Putin may be in ‘self-isolation’
Romney: $10bn ‘agreement in principle’ over Covid relief
Biden confirms draw on oil reserves to lower gas prices
Pelosi wants inquiry on Russia’s ‘crimes against children’
Oil prices plunge as Biden mulls 180m barrel release
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Biden confirms draw on oil reserves to lower gas prices
Joe Biden says his plan to release 1m barrels daily from the US strategic oil reserves will: “Ease the pain families are feeling right now, end this era of dependence and uncertainty and lay a new and new foundation for true and lasting American energy independence.”
The president is speaking live at the White House to announce the move, which he said would last up to six months and which will represent the largest ever draw ever on the country’s emergency supplies.
“I know how much it hurts,” he said of rising gas prices that have followed the decision by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine.
“Putin’s price hike is hitting Americans at the pump.” More
Biden’s ‘cursed presidency’: gas prices are latest headache as midterms loomIn his 14 months in office, the US president has grappled with Covid, inflation, the Russia-Ukraine war and energy prices – and seemingly can’t catch a break The left are urging a green energy revolution. The right are sounding a battle cry of “Drill, baby, drill”. And American voters, tired of political excuses, are feeling angry.Will Biden’s handling of the Ukraine crisis prove popular with US voters?Read moreRising gas prices pose a fresh election year headache for Joe Biden. Republicans accuse him of pushing “a radical anti-US energy agenda”. Democrats put the blame on greedy oil companies and the assault on Ukraine by the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin.While some argue that crisis offers opportunity, consumers are feeling the pinch in the latest knotty problem for a US president who, after 14 months in office, seemingly cannot catch a break.“Biden has a cursed presidency,” observed Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota. “He’s gotten nailed by the continuation of Covid, by inflation being out of control, by a lunatic leader in Russia and now soaring energy prices that are hitting voters in the pocketbook. They want to be able to get gas for their cars and not spend a hundred bucks.”Prices at the pump, which hit a record high of $4.43 a gallon on average last weekend, were rising long before Russia invaded Ukraine as demand recovered from coronavirus lockdowns. But in announcing a ban on US imports of Russian oil, Biden sought to reframe it as “Putin’s price hike”.Republicans, however, saw a political cudgel with which to beat him. They argue that Biden campaigned on a promise to “wage war” on domestic energy production, signed an executive order to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and suspended or halted oil and gas leases on federal lands.Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, tweeted: “Nobody buys Democrats’ efforts to blame 14 months of failed policies on three weeks of crisis in Europe. Inflation and gas prices were skyrocketing and hurting families long before late last month. The White House needs to stop trying to deny their mistakes and start fixing them.”Republicans have also condemned the White House for reportedly considering deals with autocratic regimes for a back-up oil supply, undermining Biden’s moral authority at a critical moment on the world stage. Former president Donald Trump told supporters at a rally in South Carolina: “Now Biden is crawling around the globe on his knees begging and pleading for mercy from Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela.”Their solution? Vastly increase domestic oil and gas production to end reliance on foreign countries. Introducing legislation to that end, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri said: “To be strong and free as a nation, we must be energy independent. My bill will reverse Joe Biden’s disastrous energy surrender that has allowed Russian energy dominance and instead open up American production full-throttle.”But critics say that, while “energy independence” appears a resonant campaign slogan, it is based on false premise. The price of oil is set on the global market, not by domestic producers. The US exported more petroleum than it imported in 2021, according to the Energy Information Administration, while also increasing overall crude oil production.Nikos Tsafos, an energy and geopolitics expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies thinktank in Washington, said: “We are energy independent by the definition that people use. We are a net exporter of energy and it doesn’t do anything to protect us, which is not a surprise to anyone who has ever thought about energy markets.”There is a different potential culprit. Consumer gas prices usually move in tandem with oil prices but this week, when oil prices fell below $100 a barrel as China’s Covid-19 outbreak threatened demand, there was little relief for at the pump. Democrats accuse giant oil corporations, already raking in billions of dollars, of profiteering.Biden wrote in a tweet: “Oil prices are decreasing, gas prices should too. Last time oil was $96 a barrel, gas was $3.62 a gallon. Now it’s $4.31. Oil and gas companies shouldn’t pad their profits at the expense of hardworking Americans.”Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, and Frank Pallone, chair of the House of Representatives’ energy and commerce committee, requested that oil company chief executives testify before Congress on 6 April. Schumer said on the Senate floor: “The bewildering incongruity between falling oil prices and rising gas prices smacks of price gouging.”In an interview with the Guardian, Ed Markey, a Democratic senator for Massachusetts, pointed out that oil companies already have all the land they need to heed Republicans’ plea to “drill, baby, drill” – but will not do it because it is contrary to their business model.“Chevron, Exxon, BP, Shell – they made a combined $75bn in net profits last year and, despite all their crocodile tears right now about this crisis, they’ve already announced that they’re going to return $38bn to their shareholders instead of taking the $38bn and beginning to drill on the 12,000 leases that they have on federal land in the United States for oil and gas,” Markey said.“The reason they’re not going to do it is that they are hypocrites, they are liars. They don’t want to drill because if we produce more oil, that would lower prices for consumers. So it’s all one big lie.”Markey, who helped devise the Green New Deal platform to wean America off fossil fuels at home or abroad, welcomed Biden’s move to tap into the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which contains 600m barrels. But he added: “In the long term, we need a technology revolution. If we do it, we’re going to be looking at all these companies and countries in a rear-view mirror historically.“We need to go to ‘plug in, baby, plug in’. We need wind, solar, battery storage technologies, all-electric vehicles, all the other innovation technologies that reduce greenhouse gases, but also back out the need for oil and gas in our economy, the European economy, the economy of Japan and all of our allies.”Does Biden, juggling so many crises, still get that?Markey replied: “I was part of a meeting with the president last Wednesday night and he once again made a commitment to his effort to achieve that energy technology revolution in our country.”There is also grassroots pressure on Biden. More than 200 environmental and indigenous organizations signed a letter demanding that he use the Defense Production Act, normally deployed by presidents in wartime to force companies to make weapons, to compel businesses to produce solar panels, wind turbines and other clean energy sources.John Paul Mejia, national spokesperson for the Sunrise Movement, a youth movement to stop climate change, said: “The playbook of fossil fuel executives is clearer now than ever. They have used the crisis of war to surge prices at the expense of working people and the takeaway from this is that it is incredibly dangerous and anti-democratic to have an economy dependent on fossil fuels.“We need Biden to use the Defence Production Act to take decisive measures on the urgency, scope and scale of this crisis and transition to clean, renewable, reliable energy.”Biden has given little hint of such a move as he relies on Congress to take action. But his signature Build Back Better plan, which would have poured about $550bn into the clean energy and climate business, appears to be going nowhere fast. One of the chief obstacles is the Democratic senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who recently told an energy conference that he was “very reluctant” to see the development of electric vehicles. A key vote in the evenly divided chamber, Manchin has taken more money in political donations from fossil fuel interests than any other senator.Mejia added: “One of the things to view that’s specific to the United States right now is that the crook executives in the fossil fuel industry have a strong hold over American politics in the sense that they have incredibly powerful politicians bought out like Joe Manchin.“At this moment what we’re seeing, especially ahead of elections too, are the so-called conservative Democrats suddenly overnight flipping and pretending to be working-class champions as they morph themselves into caring about what working people are feeling at the gas pump right now. But they’re really just fulfilling their allegiances to their big oil donors.”Opinion polls suggest Biden’s handling of the war in Ukraine has broad public approval but, with hints of a fresh coronavirus wave, his list of problems never seems to shorten. Whatever the causes of inflation, history suggests that voters may punish him at the ballot box.The president’s legislative ambitions for the climate crisis and other priorities are about to collide with midterm elections in which all signs point to Republicans winning the House and possibly the Senate. Biden could find himself spending the second half of his presidency vetoing laws rather than signing them.Jamal Raad, co-founder and executive director of the campaign group Evergreen Action, said: “If there was ever a moment of need for moving to a 100% clean energy economy was more clear that now, I don’t know when would be with a fossil fueled enabled leader attacking another country and throwing the whole fossil fuel global market into chaos. I do believe this is a make-or-break moment.”TopicsJoe BidenUS politicsOilUS foreign policyCommoditiesfeaturesReuse this content More
Big oil could bring US gas prices down but won’t – so hit it with a windfall taxRobert ReichIn the US, in times of crisis, the poor pay the price and the rich cash in. Democrats know it doesn’t have to be this way This morning I filled my car with gas, costing almost six dollars a gallon. My car is a Mini Cooper I bought years ago, partly because it wasn’t a gas-guzzler. Now it’s guzzling dollars.Putin and Trump have convinced me: I was wrong about the 21st century | Robert ReichRead moreWhen I consider what’s happening in Ukraine, I say what the hell. It’s a small sacrifice.Yet guess who’s making no sacrifice at all – in fact, who’s reaping a giant windfall from this crisis?Big oil has hit a gusher. Even before Vladimir Putin’s war, oil prices had begun to rise due to the recovery in global demand and tight inventories.Last year, when Americans were already struggling to pay their heating bills and fill up their gas tanks, the biggest oil companies (Shell, Chevron, BP, and Exxon) posted profits totaling $75bn. This year, courtesy of Putin, big oil is on the way to a far bigger bonanza.How are the oil companies using this windfall? I can assure you they’re not investing in renewables. They’re not even increasing oil production.As Chevron’s top executive, Mike Wirth, said in September, “We could afford to invest more” but “the equity market is not sending a signal that says they think we ought to be doing that.”Translated: Wall Street says the way to maximize profits is to limit supply and push up prices instead.So they’re buying back their own stock in order to give their stock prices even more of a boost. Last year they spent $38bn on stock buybacks – their biggest buyback spending spree since 2008. This year, thanks largely to Putin, the oil giants are planning to buy back at least $22bn more.Make no mistake. This is a direct redistribution from consumers who are paying through the nose at the gas pump to big oil’s investors and top executives (whose compensation packages are larded with shares of stock and stock options).Though it’s seldom discussed in the media, lower-income earners and their families bear the brunt of the burden of higher gas prices. Not only are lower-income people less likely to be able to work from home, they’re also more likely to commute for longer distances between work and home in order to afford less expensive housing.Big oil companies could absorb the higher costs of crude oil. The reason they’re not is because they’re so big they don’t have to. They don’t worry about losing market share to competitors. So they’re passing on the higher costs to consumers in the form of higher prices, and pocketing record profits.It’s the same old story in this country: when crisis strikes, the poor and working class are on the frontlines while the biggest corporations and their investors and top brass rake it in.What to do? Hit big oil with a windfall profits tax.The European Union recently advised its members to seek a windfall profits tax on oil companies taking advantage of this very grave emergency to raise their prices.Democrats just introduced similar legislation here in the US. The bill would tax the largest oil companies, which are recording their biggest profits in years, and use the money to provide quarterly checks to Americans facing sticker shock as inflation continues to soar.It would require oil companies producing or importing at least 300,000 barrels of oil per day to pay a per-barrel tax equal to half the difference between the current price of a barrel and the average price from the years 2015 to 2019.This is hardly confiscatory. Those were years when energy companies were already recording large profits. Quarterly rebates to consumers would phase out for individuals earning more than $75,000 or couples earning $150,000.Republicans will balk at any tax increase on big oil, of course. They and the coal-industry senator Joe Manchin even tanked the nomination of Sarah Bloom Raskin to the Fed because she had the temerity to speak out about the systemic risks that climate change poses to our economy.But a windfall profits tax on big oil is exactly what Democrats must do to help average working people through this fuel crisis. It’s good policy, it’s good politics and it’s the right thing to do.
Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few and The Common Good. His new book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, is out now. He is a Guardian US columnist. His newsletter is at robertreich.substack.com
TopicsOil and gas companiesOpinionOilCommoditiesEnergy industryUkraineRussiaUS domestic policycommentReuse this content More
Saudi executions are glossed over for oilImproved human rights | A chant for Putin | Dame Caroline Haslett | Boycotting P&O During his trip to Saudi Arabia, Boris Johnson praised the country’s improved human rights record (Boris Johnson upbeat on Saudi oil supply as kingdom executes three more, 16 March). As only three men were executed during his visit there, compared with 81 at the weekend, is that what Johnson means by an improving human rights record?Jim KingBirmingham During the Vietnam war, when Lyndon B Johnson was US president, demonstrators chanted daily outside the White House: “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” The same question would no doubt be asked of Putin by Russians (Survivors leaving basement of Mariupol theatre after airstrike, say officials, 17 March), if they did not live yet again under a repressive dictatorship.David WinnickLondon Alas, Dame Caroline Haslett can’t quite claim Haslett Avenue, Crawley, in the name of balancing up memorials to women (Letters, 17 March). Crawley Development Corporation declared the new road in the name of her father, Robert, a popular railwayman, rather than the electrifying dame herself.John CoobanCrawley, West Sussex Can you publish a list of all companies owned by P&O and its parent firm DP World, so that we consumers can ensure we never use them again (‘Scandalous betrayal’: MPs condemn P&O Ferries for mass sacking of 800 staff, 17 March)?Michael Griffith-JonesLondonTopicsSaudi ArabiaBrief lettersBoris JohnsonHuman rightsMohammed bin SalmanOilUS politicsVladimir PutinlettersReuse this content More
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Biden: Russian oil will no longer be acceptable in US ports
Biden expected to ban Russian oil imports
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Joe Biden’s decision to ban imports of Russian oil increases the economic pressure on Vladimir Putin – but it is not without risk.
On the face of it, the announcement from the White House looks like a bit of a free hit, given the fact that Russia accounts for just 7% of the oil imported by the world’s biggest economy. Three-fifths of Russia’s oil exports go to the EU, only 8% to the US.
Even so, Biden is taking a gamble for three important reasons.
The first risk is that a toughening up of sanctions has given another upward twist to oil prices. American motorists were already paying higher pump prices and as the US president admitted, they will soon be paying even more. Oil prices are up by 70% since the start of the year. The Oslo-based consultancy Rystad Energy has predicted a complete ban on Russian oil and gas could send crude prices to $200 a barrel. The previous milestone was $147, reached in 2008.
The second risk is that Biden’s action fractures the western coalition against Putin, which has been solid. While support from the UK means the US is not going it alone , other European countries have misgivings. That is hardly surprising, because the EU gets 40% of its gas and just over a quarter of its oil from Russia.
The third risk is that Putin gets in his retaliation first by cutting off supplies. The EU has announced steps to reduce its dependency on Russian oil and gas, and the crisis could well have the effect of speeding up the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. But in the short term the loss of such a big chunk of its energy supply would result in weaker growth and higher inflation.
Here’s our story on Biden’s ban:
Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine, is meeting today with Ketanji Brown Jackson, the nominee chosen by Joe Biden for supreme court.
Susan Collins’ meeting with Ketanji Brown Jackson has lasted about 90 minutes so far.
March 8, 2022
Here’s a snapshot of Joe Biden in Fort Worth, Texas today:
Biden upon landing in TX responds to @mikememoli question about what he’s going to do about rising gas prices: “Can’t do much right now,” he said. “..that’s Russia’s fault.” pic.twitter.com/l6iOBZCrfA
March 8, 2022
.@POTUS at Fort Worth VA Clinic with veteran John Caruso, who demonstrated an “exoskeleton” that allows spinal cord injury patients to experience walking and standing.Biden told him he’s working on making them more widely available. pic.twitter.com/9xt2gZpVvY
March 8, 2022
The BBC will resume all English language reporting in Russia after temporarily suspending operations following the passage of the new law regarding “fake news”.
Read more here:
Poland ready to deploy all MIG-29 jets to US for Ukraine
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has been begging the world to send planes to aid Ukraine in the fight against the Russian invasion. Today Poland said they were ready to deploy all its MIG-29 jets to Ramstein Air Base in Germany and put them at the disposal of the US.
US lawmakers have been pushing for Joe Biden to facilitate the transfer of fighter aircraft to Ukraine from Poland and other Nato and Eastern European countries following a plea from Zelenskiy over the weekend. Yesterday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it was a matter of logistics in what was preventing the US in helping get Polish planes to Ukraine. She repeatedly said the decision was up to Poland on whether to aid Ukraine with planes. “We are not preventing or blocking Poland,” she said.
“It is not as easy as just moving planes around,” Psaki said. She pointed out that they would be taking off from a Nato airbase in Poland. “And where do they land?”
Victoria Nuland, US undersecretary of state, said today that the move by Poland was not preconsulted and came as a surprise.
In a hearing right now @UnderSecStateP is asked if the US coordinated with Poland on its MiG-29 announcement.“Not to my knowledge. I was in a meeting where I ought to have heard about that just before I came. So I think that actually was a surprise move by the Poles.”
March 8, 2022
OK. Here is what UnderSec Nuland, who is talking to Senate Foreign Relations rn, said about the Great Polish MiG Move. 👇 She made no commitment here about the U.S. facilitating the transfer of these jets to UKR. Quote per C-SPAN auto-transcript. pic.twitter.com/CUVSTkKwTq
March 8, 2022
at 4.11pm EST
Joe Biden is set to deliver remarks in Fort Worth, Texas in a few hours along with Denis McDonough, the secretary of veteran affairs, on expanding access to health care for veterans affected by military environmental exposures such as burn pits.
Seung Min Kim
BABA is taking off in Fort Worth pic.twitter.com/e3hBY8ulvg
March 8, 2022
The election administrator in Texas’ largest county has said she will step down after her office faced scrutiny over errors in the state’s 1 March primary. The administrator, Isabel Longoria, announced she would step down 1 July.
Longoria’s office said there were 10,000 ballots – 6,000 Democratic and 4,000 Republican – that had erroneously not been included in the unofficial results from the primary. Her office also faced criticism for delays in reporting election night results.
Harris county commissioners created an office dedicated to election administration in July 2020. Longoria was appointed to that office in October 2020. At the time, she was serving as a special adviser to election officials on voting rights.
Lina Hidalgo, a Democrat and the top executive in Harris county, said on Tuesday she had requested a change in leadership in Longoria’s office.
Here’s a quick update on the omnibus package, and the Ukraine funding that is included in it.
To recap: Congress must pass an omnibus package to fund the US government by the Friday deadline or risk a shutdown. Aid to Ukraine as well as Covid relief funds are expected to be part of that package – but while Republicans and Democrats are butting heads as expected on Covid relief funds, there appears to be quite a bit of bipartisan cooperation around Ukraine funding.
The White House requested $10bn on Friday. Lawmakers upped that number to $12bn last night. And now:
NEW: @LeaderMcConnell says the Ukraine aid amount is now $14 billion. It’s ballooned from $6.4B to $10B to $12B to $14B
March 8, 2022
Guilty verdict in first January 6 trial
The first Capitol rioter to go to jury trial has been convicted on all five charges he faced. More