House Republicans Take Aim at Biden Energy Policies, Vow to Install ‘Different Vision’ in 2025

GOP panelists blast DOE for LNG export pause, rising costs, appliance standards, ‘demonizing’ fossil fuels.
House Republicans Take Aim at Biden Energy Policies, Vow to Install ‘Different Vision’ in 2025
A heat exchanger and transfer pipes at Dominion Energy's Cove Point LNG Terminal in Lusby, Md. (Cliff Owen/AP Photo)
John Haughey

The Republican-led House Oversight and Accountability Committee staged its 15th review in the last 15 months of the Biden administration’s energy policies during a two-hour May 23 hearing that Democrats say was orchestrated more as a forum for election-year rhetoric than for a sober assessment of energy policy and Department of Energy (DOE) spending proposals.

DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm was grilled over administration plans to domestically source critical minerals, adopt conservation standards for appliances, advance commercial nuclear power, restore the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, boost electric grid reliability, provide billions in subsidies for renewable energies, its liquid natural gas (LNG) export-permit “pause,” and even how it deals with UFO sightings around power plants.

Much of Ms. Granholm’s give-and-take with panelists was more semantics than substance, such as lengthy exchanges with Reps. Clay Higgins (R-La.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), and Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) on whether the administration’s January “pause” in new LNG export permits is, in effect, a “ban.”

Under the Natural Gas Act’s (NGA) Section 3, the DOE is required to review applications for import or export of natural gas, including LNG, to or from a foreign country and approve those deemed “consistent with the public interest.”

Advances in fracking spurred a natural gas boom. Before 2016, the U.S. did not export LNG. By 2023, it was the world’s top LNG exporter. This year, LNG exports will top 12 billion cubic feet per day (Bcfd) and are expected to increase to 14 Bcfd in 2025—all records, Ms. Granholm said, noting repeatedly that the “pause” does not affect operating and already approved LNG exports.

“By the time all authorized projects currently under construction are complete later this decade, our export capacity is set to reach over 26 Bcfd, more than double our current level of exports,” she said. “The United States will have more LNG export capacity than any other country by more than 40 percent, even taking into account announced capacity additions in other countries.”

Mr. Higgins and other panel Republicans said the DOE overstepped its statutory authority in unilaterally ordering a permitting pause to determine if increasing LNG exports serves “the public interest” in ensuring ample domestic supply keeps prices competitive and maintains the administration’s overriding goals in reducing carbon emissions.

“Why have you issued a long-term ban on export permit approvals prior to determining whether or not exporting LNG is within the public interest?” he asked.

“Number one, we have not issued a ban. Number two, it is not long-term. It is a pause to update our assessment,” Ms. Granholm said. “The assessment will be done by the first quarter of next year. It is not a ban, sir.”

“It is a ban,” Mr. Higgins said, claiming he was “not going to get a straight answer” from the secretary, “which is not a bad answer,” and read into the record the NGA’s Section 3, which states DOE “shall issue such an order upon application unless, after opportunity for a hearing … that the proposed exportation or importation will not be consistent with the public interest.”

There was no such hearing or determination, he said, so the NGA’s language states, by default, that export permits “shall be” issued unless deemed not in the public interest in a hearing. The Obama administration conducted a similar 2014-15 assessment without pausing permits, he added.

“You do not have the authority, nor the precedence, to take the actions that you have, indeed, taken,” Mr. Higgins said. “This pause jeopardizes billions of dollars of interest, American jobs, American families, and a clean reliable energy source that contributes to our national security and energy security and world security by allies. This is yet another illegal action by the Biden administration being forced upon we the people.”

Ms. Granholm said under NGA’s Section 3, the sharp increase in LNG exports provides the statutory authority to conduct a “public interest” review, repeating again it will be done by February 2025 and does not affect any permits already approved.

“You have put in a pause and you saying it’s in the ‘public interest,’” Mr. Donalds said. “But you can’t really identify what the ‘public interest’ is because it’s in the ‘public’s interest’ for prices to go down. It is in America’s ‘public interest’ to limit the ability of the Russian regime to earn more money on the open market with their resources. Wouldn’t you agree with that?”

No, Ms. Granholm said. Determining “public interest” is what the review is about, she said.

“I would argue, madam secretary, that the pause that you are doing is against the law because you have not finalized your parameters, what you’re looking at” in defining “public interest,” Mr. Donalds said. “You do need to execute the permits that are waiting.”

A model of an LNG tanker is seen in front of the U.S. flag in this illustration taken May 19, 2022. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)
A model of an LNG tanker is seen in front of the U.S. flag in this illustration taken May 19, 2022. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said Republicans were asking the same questions they’ve asked for months, with this hearing more about campaign sound bites than a substantive discussion on energy policy.

What impact will the pause have on current LNG exports into “the foreseeable future?” Mr. Raskin asked, hoping to “restore some sense of proportion and reality to the conversation.”

“It has absolutely no impact on any exports happening now,” Ms. Granholm said. “We have authorized 48 billion cubic feet of export of liquefied natural gas—48 billion. That is three times what we are currently exporting. We have authorized another 22 billion (cubic feet)” for export from terminals and projects under construction.”

The “oversight” hearings aren’t about accountability, efficiency, and cost-savings, Mr. Raskin said, but to provide forums for Republicans to tout opposition to the Biden administration’s “war on energy’” and make “convoluted rhetorical claims” that make for good campaign sound bites, but not for thoughtful discussion.

But elections have consequences, and winning the House in the 2022 midterms put GOP chairs in committees, and they will tort their opposition to the Biden administration’s “green energy obsession” as often as they can.

Committee chair Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) said Republicans, not Democrats, are seeking substantive answers to energy policy questions that have dominated Congress since President Joe Biden assumed office in January 2021.

Expect more such hearings into fall, he said.

“While Democrats politicize energy and target American producers,” gasoline prices and electricity costs have increased by 30 percent since 2021, he said.

“Congressional Republicans share a different vision for America’s energy future,” Mr. Comer said. “We will not stand by silently about as an administration subverts America’s energy independence and demonizes this critical industry.”

John Haughey is an award-winning Epoch Times reporter who covers U.S. elections, U.S. Congress, energy, defense, and infrastructure. Mr. Haughey has more than 45 years of media experience. You can reach John via email at [email protected]
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