The Climate Bill’s Oil & Gas Provisions Are Worthwhile Tradeoffs

Senators Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin shocked Washington on July 27 by announcing that they had reached a deal on a climate bill. Dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the bill includes $369 billion in spending on climate action. If passed, it would be the most important climate legislation in U.S. history and would be a key step toward the United States achieving the emissions reduction goal that U.S. President Joe Biden presented at the Glasgow climate summit in November 2021.

Samantha Gross, Fellow, Cross-Brookings Initiative on Energy and Climate, The Brookings Institution

Samantha Gross

Director – Energy Security and Climate Initiative 

Fellow – Foreign PolicyEnergy Security and Climate Initiative

As you would expect, the bill has been getting a ton of attention, some of it frustratingly misleading. It represents a compromise designed to get all 50 Democratic senators on board and includes some provisions intended to be helpful to fossil fuel producers. Most notably, it requires the U.S. Department of the Interior to lease 2 million acres in federal lands onshore and 60 million acres offshore each year for oil and gas development (or whatever acreage the industry requests, whichever is smaller). These quotas must be met to allow federal leasing for onshore and offshore renewables development, respectively.

CLIMATE BENEFITS VASTLY OUTWEIGH OIL AND GAS LEASING

There is a certain irony in pairing new oil and gas development – a key cause of climate change – with development of renewable energy – a key solution. And as you might expect, some in the environmental movement are howling. “It’s self-defeating to handcuff renewable energy development to massive new oil and gas extraction,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, also calling the bill “a climate suicide pact.” In an online statement, a senior scientist at 350.org called the bill a “sham” and said that it “contained so many giveaways to the fossil fuel industry” that it “turns all of the gains in addressing the climate crisis into a moot point.”

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