GOP’s Energy Package Is Dead In The Water Without Dem Support. Here’s A Possible Way Forward
American energy security is an issue of paramount importance. Democrats should see H.R. 1 as a solution. If H.R. 1 doesn’t pass, Republicans must push for bipartisan compromise on two of its key components: environmental permitting reform and critical mineral production support.
The House recently passed a Republican bill titled The Lower Energy Costs Act, H.R. 1, an effort to drive down energy prices and secure long-term energy independence through permitting reform, critical mineral production support and new leases for oil and gas. Although the policies within H.R. 1 will deliver abundant, affordable energy, Democrats remain opposed.
H.R. 1’s permitting reform and critical minerals support ought to appeal to Democrats, as they would clear a path for clean energy projects and secure the materials necessary for a clean energy transition. While supporting oil and gas production is good policy, Democrats won’t compromise on it.
Republicans should prioritize the most viable bipartisan policies: permitting reform and critical minerals support.
The bill faces steep Democratic opposition: President Joe Biden has promised to veto H.R. 1 once it comes across his desk, with the White House saying it would replace “pro-consumer policies with a thinly veiled license to pollute.”
In mid-March, Democrats in the House and Senate railed against H.R. 1. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said it’s a “wishlist for big oil,” and Rep. Pramila Jayapal said that while she’s open to discussing permitting, “it can’t be things that are… going to set us backward on our clean energy targets.”
Democrats are unlikely to budge on new leases for oil and gas too, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez saying oil and gas companies “already have thousands of unused permits on public lands and yet they want even more.” Because direct support for oil and gas is a bipartisan nonstarter, permitting reform and critical minerals support must be the primary focus for Republicans.
Bipartisan agreement on energy is possible. 29 House Democrats supported Representative Gary Palmer’s H.R. 1 amendment to stop the Biden administration from placing restrictions on gas stoves and 21 supported Rep. Ronny Jackson’s amendment requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to study which regulations have negatively affected energy independence.
Republicans should continue this approach — small victories will move the needle on energy independence more than sweeping reforms.
The Inflation Reduction Act passed by Democrats last year provided increased subsidies for wind and solar projects. Those won’t do any good when excessive permitting holds up renewable projects and the critical minerals you need to produce solar panels and batteries almost all come from China.
If Democrats really want to boost American clean energy, they would accept the permitting reform and critical minerals support in H.R. 1.
NEPA, the “Magna Carta” of federal environmental laws, establishes procedural requirements for all federal agencies to follow when considering a new construction project. It is also arguably the single biggest roadblock to new clean energy in America.
While NEPA was well-intentioned in its efforts to protect the environment, it has had the opposite effect — something that many Democrats agree with, including Sen. Schumer, who supports streamlining permitting for clean energy projects.
NEPA disproportionately impacts clean energy projects: 42% of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) active NEPA projects are related to clean energy (like wind and solar), transmission, or conservation, while only 15% are related to fossil fuels. And while the U.S. has 42 Megawatts of operational offshore wind, 18,581 Megawatts of new projects are bogged down in permitting, the majority of which are awaiting a NEPA analysis to be completed.
H.R. 1 would streamline the NEPA approval process by narrowing the scope of environmental reviews on energy projects. A key component of H.R. 1’s permitting reform is a requirement that all environmental assessments must be completed in one year and environmental impact statements in two years.
H.R. 1 also limits judicial interventions to 120 days following the completion of the environmental review. This is significant considering the average completion time for a NEPA review is 4.5 years.
In addition to permitting reform, H.R. 1 empowers domestic critical mineral production by allowing mining projects like lithium, nickel and cobalt — essential components of batteries — to fast-track the NEPA permitting process. It also requires that uranium be considered a critical mineral, overturning a decision by the Biden administration to remove it from a federal list of critical minerals because they deemed it an ineligible “fuel mineral.”
China’s near-monopoly of critical minerals such as rare earth metals and lithium, and Russia’s dominance over the uranium supply chain necessitate that we onshore these essential supply chains as much as possible — and “friendshore” them when onshoring is impractical.
H.R. 1’s permitting reform and support for essential supply chains would do more for clean energy in America than any mass subsidy. Republicans must continue to champion these particular aspects of H.R. 1 in the hopes that Democrats put aside their partisan differences to support American energy independence.
Benjamin Khoshbin is a Contributor for Young Voices, where he writes on energy and environmental issues. He is also a Senior Account Executive at ROKK Solutions, a bipartisan public affairs firm in Washington, D.C. You can follow him on Twitter at @BenKhoshbin
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