Ground Shifts Under Oil/Gas Industry as Biden Takes Office

January 21, 2021

Working on a piece about the new energy landscape. A well-known expert told me that by 2022, the only climate debate would be whether Republicans can handle it better with a market-based approach.
For now, big signals from Biden and industry seeking to catch up.

Washington Examiner:

The American Petroleum Institute said Thursday that it supports the direct federal regulation of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from current and existing oil and gas operations.

The position is a shift and concession by the largest oil and gas trade group, which is trying to position itself as willing to cooperate with certain aspects of President Biden’s aggressive agenda to combat climate change while opposing other efforts to limit fossil fuel production.

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a greenhouse gas more potent but shorter-lived in the atmosphere than carbon.

“This is a new position for API, but we think given where the industry is at this time and the continued importance of reducing methane, it was critical we update this position as the administration changes,”

API CEO Mike Sommers told the Washington Examiner in an interview. “We look forward to working with the Biden administration in the right way to regulate methane, and we welcome the opportunity to be in the room as they make this new regulatory regime a priority.”

API previously backed the Trump administration’s elimination of direct regulation of methane, arguing that existing regulations that indirectly capture methane, along with state rules and voluntary actions by companies, are sufficient. That position drew the ire of big oil majors, some of API’s own members, who argued a lack of methane rules undermines the U.S. natural gas industry’s future as it seeks to play a role in the transition to cleaner energy.

Several big oil companies, including BP, Shell, and ExxonMobil, and large independents like Pioneer Natural Resources, called on the Trump era Environmental Protection Agency to abandon its plans to eliminate methane curbs. Many of those companies asked the EPA not just to maintain the Obama-era methane limits for oil and gas wells built or modified after 2016 but to extend those regulations to all existing operations.

API had especially opposed regulating existing sources because it would trigger controls for a much larger number of oil and gas operations and be more expensive for smaller producers.


BERLIN (AP) — World leaders breathed an audible sigh of relief that the United States under President Joe Biden is rejoining the global effort to curb climate change, a cause that his predecessor had shunned.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron were among those welcoming Biden’s decision to rejoin the the Paris climate accord, reversing a key Trump policy in the first hours of his presidency Wednesday. 

“Rejoining the Paris Agreement is hugely positive news,” Johnson wrote on Twitter. Britain, which is hosting this year’s U.N. climate summit, looked forward to working with the Biden administration on the issue, he said.

Macron likewise tweeted his joy at the U.S. rejoining the Paris pact, saying that with Biden, “we will be stronger to face the challenges of our time. Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet.” 

The accord, forged in the French capital in 2015, commits countries to put forward plans for reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which is released from burning fossil fuels.

Former President Donald Trump had questioned the scientific warnings about man-made global warming, at times accusing other countries of using the Paris accord as a club to hurt the U.S.

By contrast, Biden put the fight against climate change at the center of his presidential campaign and on Wednesday immediately launched a series of climate-friendly efforts to bring Washington back in step with the rest of the world on the issue.

“A cry for survival comes from the planet itself,” Biden said in his inaugural address. “A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear now.”

Experts say any international efforts to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), ideally 1.5C (2.7F), as agreed in the Paris accord would struggle without the contribution of U.S., which is the world’s second biggest carbon emitter.

Scientists say time is running out to reach that goal because the world has already warmed 1.2 C (2.2 F) since pre-industrial times

Houston Chronicle:

WASHINGTON — In a shift, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Tuesday it would support a “market-based” approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adding momentum to increasing calls for a tax on carbon emissions.

“We believe that durable climate policy must be made by Congress, and that it should encourage innovation and investment to ensure significant emissions reductions,” the chamber’s statement on climate change now reads. “U.S. climate policy should recognize the urgent need for action, while maintaining the national and international competitiveness of U.S. industry and ensuring consistency with free enterprise and free trade principles.”

The statement comes the day before President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office, amid wider appeals from U.S. corporations for a federal carbon tax that would apply to emissions from all industries.

Last year the Climate Leadership Council, which includes companies such as Exxon Mobil, JPMorgan Chase and AT&T, pitched a carbon tax plan to Republicans and Democrats in Congress that would create a $40-per-ton tax on all carbon emissions.

One of the officials they enlisted was Janet Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve whom President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate as Treasury Secretary.

“This is the most cost effective and market friendly way to reduce carbon emissions. It creates powerful incentives for businesses and households to switch to lower carbon energy sources and reduce energy use,” Yellen said last year. “It replaces the need for more cumbersome environmental regulations.”

The Chamber of Commerce did not specifically endorse a carbon tax, with Marty Durbin, the groups senior vice president of policy, writing, “this update to our climate position is not intended to exclude any of those options, but rather to strengthen overall support for market-based solutions.”


The fatal blow to Keystone XL is a major victory for a coalition of opponents who have fought the fossil fuel project for well over a decade. The fight defined a new era for the environmental movement.

In the early Obama years, national environmental groups placed a lot of faith in legislative efforts at the federal level without building power at the grassroots — a strategy then symbolized by the failed cap-and-trade bill in 2009. In the wake of that defeat, and with the legislative route cut off after Republicans swept the House of Representatives in 2010, the Obama administration turned to executive action. One of those key moves included introducing in 2014 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan to regulate climate emissions from power plants, though its implementation was eventually blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court as the plan was ensnared in legal challenges. 

At that point, environmental groups took the climate fight to the grassroots level. And instead of looking at market-based solutions like cap-and-trade, they turned to a “keep it in the ground” strategy, focusing on blocking new supplies of oil, gas, and coal, as well as fossil fuel infrastructure.

And the science supports activists’ calls to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The United Nations says that governments need to wind down fossil fuel production at a rate of six percent per year over the next decade in order to have a shot at meeting a 1.5-degree Celsius warming target and avoiding catastrophic climate impacts.   

This anti-fossil fuel development push, however, was not embraced universally by all environmental groups, and conflicted with President Obama’s “all of the above” mantra when it came to the types of energy actions and solutions he would pursue, but the keep-it-in-the-ground strategy became increasingly mainstream for activists in the second Obama term and into the Trump era.


3 Responses to “Ground Shifts Under Oil/Gas Industry as Biden Takes Office”

  1. grindupbaker Says:

    The “wind down fossil fuel production at a rate of six percent per year over the next decade in order to have a shot at meeting a 1.5-degree Celsius warming target” is excessively silly as regards fact/reality of course. It’s great to have “targets”, gives purpose & all that social thing unrelated to fact/reality. The global heater was averaging 440,000 gigawatts 2015-2020 which includes an ENSO selection. The “…rate of six percent per year…” means it’ll be bumped to 580,000 gigawatts at 2030 rather than 640,000 gigawatts, so it’ll give warming trailing to negligible after ~0.52 degrees of warming above present rather than ~0.58 degrees of warming above present, ending at ~1.77 degrees of warming rather than ~1.83 degrees. The last 50 years of building that global heater can’t be undone by such a sub-heroic effort as “wind down fossil fuel production at a rate of six percent per year”. The Sunshine would need to be blocked a bit and heroic changes made to reduce existing atmospheric CO2 and CH4, and this suggestion above by Greenman’s source is just feel-good junk-science nonsense, terrific socio-political stuff.

  2. redskylite Says:

    Refining the remaining 1.5C ‘carbon budget’ – This from Carbon Brief 19th January 2021:

    “For the 1.5C target, we estimate a range of 230-440bn tonnes of CO2 (GtCO2) from 2020 onwards, which corresponds to a one-in-three to one-in-two chance of not exceeding 1.5C of global warming since pre-industrial times.

    This is equivalent to between six and 11 years of global emissions, if they remain at current rates and do not start declining.

    However, we emphasise that the remaining carbon budget is not a single number, but rather a distribution that reflects the probability of meeting a target – that is, the greater the chance of meeting the budget, the smaller amount of CO2 that can be emitted.”

  3. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Biden’s from Delaware.

    Wilmington’s up in the hook, and vulnerable to storm surge funneling up Delaware Bay, producing a higher storm surge than further south.

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