Republican Garret Graves’ data-driven approach to the climate crisis

An influential lawmaker weighs in on the GOP approach to U.S. energy policy.

June 21, 2024
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Image credit: Anne Bailey

Image credit: Anne Bailey

Among Republicans in Congress, few, if any, have wielded as much influence on climate and clean energy as Louisiana Representative Garret Graves.

In the past few years, Graves served as the ranking member on the House Select Committee on Climate and ran the Republican Task Force on Energy, Climate, and Conservation. He also played a central role in last year’s debt ceiling negotiations, which included a bipartisan deal on infrastructure permitting reform that the Biden administration later revised, to many lawmakers’ chagrin.

In this special episode of Political Climate, Graves sits down with co-host Emily Domenech in his Washington office to dig into Congress’ record on climate, as well as his own. In the interview, Graves champions natural gas, calls for an emotion-free approach to lowering emissions, reflects on the impacts of climate change on his home state, and considers the future of U.S. energy policy, among other topics.

Later in the show, all three hosts gather to discuss Graves’ comments, find consensus, and highlight areas of disagreement. (On June 14, after both Emily’s interview and the hosts’ discussion, Graves announced that he will not seek re-election this November.)

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Julia Pyper: All right, guys. What is your best Louisiana story? Emily Domenech, do you have some good ones? Have you spent some time there?

Emily Domenech: So you got to go out and see one of their coastal restoration projects on an airboat, and they literally show where they are building new land managing levees so that they can rebuild their land that they're losing to wash out essentially. It's really cool.

Julia Pyper: Yeah, love a success stories. Brandon, anything from you before we move on?

Brandon Hurlbut: Yeah. I visited PosiGen, which does solar panels and energy efficiency for low-income communities on their homes. And spoke with some of their customers while I was there and from the money they saved on solar and energy efficiency, these are people that live month to month. One of them was able to afford medicine that they previously could not afford, and another was able to take this old man and was able to take his wife on a date to a movie and he hadn't been able to do that in many years. And so really brought home the impact that these clean energy technologies can have.

Julia Pyper: Well, with that, let's get further into it. Welcome to Political Climate. I'm Julia Pyper. Among Republicans in Congress, few, if any, have been as influential on climate and clean energy as Louisiana representative Garrett Graves. In the past few years, Graves has served as the ranking member on the House Select Committee on Climate and ran the Republican task force on energy climate and Conservation. He also played a central role in last year's debt ceiling negotiations, which included a bipartisan deal on infrastructure permitting reform that the Biden administration later revised to many lawmakers chagrin. In today's episode, Graves sits down with our very own Emily Domenech in his D.C office to take into his record and Congress too.

We'll hear about what they've done right on climate and emissions reductions where the GOP and Democrats whiffed and what the future holds. Then later in the show we'll unpack Graves comments, where do we agree and where is there some friction between his perspective and our own? We should also note that on June 14th, after we recorded this interview and our follow-up conversation, Representative Graves announced that he won't be seeking re-election this November.

Unfortunately, our commentary, and in other words, our attempts to squeeze some juicy gossip out of Emily, didn't make it into this episode, but we will definitely chat about Graves departure and what it means for the GOP writ large in an episode to come. All right, that's all coming up on Political Climate.

As always, I'm joined by my co-hosts, Brandon Hurlbut and Emily Domenech. Brandon served as chief of staff in President Obama's Energy Department and went on to found Boundary Stone Partners and Overture VC. Hello, Brandon.

Brandon Hurlbut: Hey, I'm going to see President Obama tomorrow night at the Big L.A. fundraiser with President Biden, Obama, George Clooney, Julia Pyper Roberts, Jimmy Kimmel.

Emily Domenech: Just a few of your closest friends. Oh, there he goes. Name-dropping celebrities. Want to see your Rolodex.

Julia Pyper: That was Emily Domenech. She served as Senior Energy Advisor to Speakers of the House, Kevin McCarthy and Mike Johnson, and is now a senior Vice President at Boundary Stone. Hey, Emily.

Emily Domenech: Hey y'all. How you doing?

Julia Pyper: Good. I'm actually back in DC this week. I just last night celebrated the SEIA, Solar Energy Industries Association's 50th anniversary at a lovely gala at the National Portrait Museum, which is just such a D.C moment to be in such a stunning venue. And I'll note that there was a bipartisan presence there including Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks who came and addressed us. So just all around great event and kudos to SEIA for reaching that milestone. Well, I'm excited to get into this interview. Emily gets props for bringing in Representative Graves. She said she would do it and she delivered. It's so nice to have actual lawmakers on the show and hear from them directly. So anything else you want to say before we jump into this interview, Emily?

Emily Domenech: Yeah, so I think you read a little bit of Congressman Graves bio, but he has really truly been at the forefront of energy and climate policy for Republicans. He was a staffer early in his career. He led the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority for Louisiana his home state, and he actually negotiated the settlement with BP following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. But the thing I like about him, and part of why I wanted to bring him on Permitting pod of course, is that he's always been really engaged in permitting, not just as a lawmaker, but as a staffer.

He managed a lot of NEPA reviews and he knows how to get things built. So when you go to Louisiana, if you talk to people, they talk about roads and levees and conservation projects, chances are he was engaged in getting those projects funded and built. So he really understands kind of the urgency of needing to be able to build things here in America, and I think that shapes a lot of his perspective. I tell folks all the time, there are so many really smart, technically savvy folks in Congress who are doing good work, but you don't tend to see them on TV. So it's good to give people an opportunity to meet someone or hear from someone that they wouldn't typically hear from.

Julia Pyper: Great. Well, more questions to come, but for now, let's turn to that interview.

Emily Domenech: I wanted to call this first segment that we're doing today, Meet Your Congressman, but the truth is if you're from South Louisiana or Central Louisiana, you've absolutely already met my guest for today. Probably because he got a road or a levee or a conservation project built in your parish or in the district. So for that, I'll hand it over to my guest to introduce himself. Welcome to the pod.

Rep. Graves: Hey, thanks, Emily. Garrett Graves from South Louisiana represent about a dozen parishes in the Baton Rouge, New Orleans and coastal area.

Emily Domenech: So part of why I wanted to have you on this podcast is you've been like a longtime leader in Republican climate and energy policy, and I think frankly a lot of that stems back to your background in Louisiana and working in this area for a long time. So can you start by telling us a little bit about one or two of your personal experiences that inspired you to get involved in climate and energy policy?

Rep. Graves: Sure. Look, growing up in South Louisiana, I just spent all of my time outside whether it was fishing, hunting or more likely just finding trouble in the outdoors. And as I got older, I began leading wilderness courses and would spend weeks or months in the outdoors during the summers, and I just absolutely love it. And so that's one too, and probably a little bit more topical is after Hurricane Katrina, I got tapped to rebuild the levees in the coastal wetlands after that major storm had such a devastating impact on our state.

And you think for just a minute as you're trying to figure out the best solutions, where do we build levees? How do we build levees? Which areas do we relocate? One of the things you have to do is you have to look at how are these things going to perform under different scenarios? And so that means looking at what happens at storm frequency, storm intensity, what happens with things like sea rise. And so as someone who's trying to protect these communities, the people that I love, people that I've known and grow up with, you're looking at these ranges of sea rise and look, we've measured sea rise in South Louisiana. So some people may go out there and deny this stuff's happening, black and white data, we've measured it. And so this became very real to me and a really important issue for us to get right.

Emily Domenech: So in Congress, obviously you were the ranking member on the Select Committee on the climate crisis, and you were the chair of the Republican task force on energy climate and conservation. What do you think left-leaning voters get wrong when it comes to the Republican climate and energy policy?

Rep. Graves: Sure. So look, first of all, let me make an admission here. I think for a number of years, Republican positions and messaging on climate was wrong. I just want to come straight out of the gates and say that I think it was wrong. But I think more recently, if you look at data, if you look at facts, you'll see that many of the policies that have been pushed by Republicans have actually resulted in better outcomes. And when I say better outcomes, I'm measuring that by things like looking at what is actually... And let me be clear, truly lowering emissions. I think you have to look at other factors like affordability of energy. I think you have to look at other factors like reliability of energy. And so whenever you look at some of those things and you look at the math and the science, Republican policies have largely resulted in lower emissions, affordable energy and reliable energy sources.

And don't take my word for it. You can go back and look for example at the head of the International Energy Agency that said that US emissions reductions have been the greatest in world history, in world history. And when you go back and you trace that to actual policies or sources, I know people don't want to hear this, but again, sometimes the truth hurts. The reality is that one of the most things that has been done is transitioning to natural gas in addition to conservation and efficiency efforts. And so look, we've got to be very careful about letting this become an emotional issue. And instead, I think it's really important that we stay focused on facts because the wrong policies could really cause devastating consequences to our economy. Obviously the affordability of energy, which is one of those things that really transcends all aspects of the economy and really pushing people into energy poverty, which could be a huge mistake. And we've got to make sure that we're being very thoughtful and following evidence whenever we're making decisions on energy policy.

Emily Domenech: One of the things I talk about a lot on the podcast is how if we only focus on implementing the best available technology here in the United States regardless of cost, all that does is offshore our emissions. What do you think republicans can better communicate in how to solve that problem? How do we deal with this as a global issue as opposed to something that we only deal with here at home?

Rep. Graves: Yeah. And so that's a great point because oftentimes people will look at climate just through a domestic lens, and that's a huge mistake because if you come in and the analogy is you squeeze the balloon too much in the United States by putting too much regulation, by trying to force markets and directions they don't want to go. What's going to happen is you are going to force some of the manufacturing, you're going to force some of the energy overseas or in other countries. Those countries will not have, do not have the energy policies or the environmental policies of the United States does. So said another way, it will actually result in a net increase, a net increase in global energy emissions, which is a huge mistake. So you've got to be very thoughtful and careful about how you move forward on energy and on environmental policy in a way that ensures that the United States, and it's a great statistic. United States can continue leading the world in reducing emissions.

And one little factor with the United States has led the world over about a 17-year period. We've reduced emissions more than about the next six or seven emissions reducing countries combined. Now conversely, if you move in a direction that forces the offshoring of manufacturing the offshoring of energy, during the period that we've reduced energy more than any other country in the world, China has increased for every one ton of emissions we've reduced in the United States. China's increased by five or maybe even six tons. And so this is obviously having a net negative effect on the planet because right now China's emitting more than all developed countries combined. So we use five things. It's about reliability, it's about affordability, it's about cleanliness of the energy source, it's about export ability of the energy technology, and it's about security of the supply chain. Making sure that we're dependent upon US resources or those of our allies we can depend upon.

Emily Domenech: So that's a good segue to talking about the Biden administration's climate policies. What would you consider to be the most and least effective climate-related components of the Biden administration's agenda? So IRA, IIJA, et cetera.

Rep. Graves: Let's just look at numbers. The first couple of years, the Biden administration actually had a net increase in emissions. And if you look back during the previous administration, you had a net decrease. It was about 2.5% decrease per year in emissions under the previous administration. And we watched emissions go up over 6% the first year, over 1% the second year. And so you've got to be careful about things that emotionally may feel right. But at the end of the day, results and emissions going in the wrong direction. And also remind you, you've had the additional adverse effects of we had a decrease in reliability of energy sources, we've had a decrease in energy security, meaning we're becoming more dependent upon foreign energy streams. And then affordability is an obvious one. I mean, just look at gasoline prices, look at our utility bills, and I'll say it again, it's one of those things that just has this cascade effect all through the economy.

So you ask the question about what's been least and most effective? Things like the IIJA components of it that come in and are so heavy-handed from an economic perspective that they're forcing markets where they don't want to go or where they can't stay. It's not a secret to you or anyone else that Congress, that this country has become more polarized. So think about this for just a minute. We had Obama administration policies that were further left. You had Trump come in who swung the pendulum to the right. Now you have Biden swinging much farther back to the left. Think about it, if you're an energy company, think about it, if you're an investor and you're looking at this pendulum swing, you have no certainty, no predictability.

So what we've got to be doing is we can use things like economic incentives, but we've got to ensure that the economic incentives are just the thing that sort of knock it over the top, not the things that are going to try and fundamentally manipulate markets in places where they won't stay otherwise. IRA, the Inflation Reduction Act has way too much economic incentives in regard to 40 and 50-year-old technologies like solar and wind.

I think that's problematic. I think some of the things that make sense is doing some of the right sizing of economic incentives for things like carbon capture and I think even direct air capture. While a little bit more complicated, I do think that those two tools are going to be really important in our long-term. The last thing I'll say is that the Inflation Reduction Act did have a provision that I know some people were kicking and screaming about, but it required that we do lease sales for Gulf of Mexico energy. So let's look at numbers. The EIA, the Biden Administration Department of Energy projects that you're going to have an increase in natural gas demand by about 50... Excuse me, an energy demand by about 57%. So you're going to have demand go up by 57% over the next 30 years. So if you have that kind of increase, and we know that the lowest carbon intensity energy on the planet in terms of conventional sources of the Gulf of Mexico, we've got to be leasing these sources.

It helps out with economic activity, helps out with trade deficit and ensures that we're supplying some of the cleanest energy available to some of these global demands that are out there. So really important that we use that for natural gas sources, for example, to meet this growing global demand, the Biden administration has not implemented the law as it was intended. And that they have blocked or prevented these lease sales moving forward. And I'll say it again, if we know that there's going to be a surge in global energy demand as these Third World countries start demanding energy, we should be meeting it with the cleanest sources that are available, including oil and gas resources because those are projected to be needed for decades and decades to come. And so I think this administration is making a huge mistake by blocking these lease sales from moving forward. And all it's doing is it's giving a gift to countries like Russia, countries like Iran, countries like Venezuela that are already stepping in and filling the void. So just really boneheaded policies are incredibly problematic.

Emily Domenech: So let's put a pin in the IRA for a moment and move on to my favorite topic for this podcast.

Rep. Graves: Or stick a dynamite in it.

Emily Domenech: Yeah. Which of course is permitting, specifically Biden's NEPA 2.0 rule, which recently was finalized. You obviously played a central role in the debt ceiling negotiations that led to an early version of the permitting reform policy. They claim the NEPA 2.0 is built on. But your quote in response to the rule was that the administration "acted in bad faith" in order to advance their flawed climate agenda and that the current NEPA reforms will lead to "more frivolous" litigation and biased project evaluation. Let's unpack this a little bit, both the bad faith negotiations and what the rule means for litigation and other problems in the future.

Rep. Graves: First, I want to commend everybody that was involved. We had a huge negotiation that I think was one of the most consequential permitting and regulatory reforms in decades. And of course, NEPA really hasn't ever been truly amended. And so this is a law that's been around for decades and decades. We made 35 pages of changes and all sorts of reforms that are focused on a few different things. One is streamlining, but the other is trying to refocus that process truly on the environment rather than all these other ancillary things or distractions. In the rulemaking process, I think what happened is the White House relitigated some of the negotiations that quite frankly, they lost. And what they've done is they've done things like muddying the waters on the one and two year shot clocks that require you to finish an environmental assessment in one year and an environmental impact statement in two years.

They have muddied the waters in terms of requiring that some climate considerations be thought about while not properly thinking about as we discussed earlier, what does this do to the net global environment? If we come in and put too tight of restrictions on how this is viewed in the United States, the term reasonably foreseeable impacts is a term that we used in the bill. I think that they have gone to unreasonably foreseen impacts and in some cases in the way that they have really broadened the definition. And then we had the chair of the council environmental quality before our committee weeks ago where I was asking her about their use of the term important versus the term significant. And she said in her response that they intentionally tried to avoid the use of significant whenever, as you know, significant was the term that we intentionally used in the law.

So I think she probably created a little bit of fodder for litigation there. But bottom line is that this was designed to streamline the environmental process, the regulatory process, while remaining focused on the environment. And I think what they've done is they've really muddied the waters again by their ambiguous definitions, by their ambiguous timelines. And it's not going to result in the outcomes that we all desire to be able to execute faster to build projects. And whether you're building a road or you're building a solar array and transmission, you're not going to be able to build these in reasonable timelines. We have seen this kill projects over and over again, green projects as well as gray projects. And I just think that it was short-sighted, and I think you're going to see litigation come back and probably force the court to do a course correction.

I think if we had about another 24 hours, we actually would've been able to negotiate something on judicial review. And right now you're seeing somewhere around 115 lawsuits a year that are filed on NEPA projects. The statute of limitations is too long. So sometimes you'll have plaintiffs that will sit out there for years after a record, a decision is made, and then they'll throw a lawsuit out there further dragging this process on. And I remind you, a NEPA evaluation can take five years, even 10 years or longer, and some that I've been involved in.

And so you're potentially adding, as I recall, I think the average lawsuit takes two years or so to resolve, maybe two and a half. The majority of them are resolved in the government's favor, which means a waste of time and money. And so judicial review, in my opinion, is one of the biggest issues that needs to be addressed. I think there does need to be a balance with sort of education or communication to the community, letting them know if you put judicial review time clock in there, making sure that people are aware that this is going on so they can participate in the process.

Emily Domenech: So moving forward a little bit to next Congress and post-election, we hear a lot from our listeners that they're really concerned about a potential second Trump presidency. And that they think he's going to dismantle all of the clean energy wins and get rid of the tax credits and just trash the whole thing. Do you think there's merit in that argument or are people frankly taking the rhetoric over what the policy is really going to look like if Trump comes into office?

Rep. Graves: Well, look, anybody can sit here and try and forecast what's going to happen. I think that one of the best ways to make an informed decision or thought on how a second Trump administration would operate in the energy and climate space is by looking at how they operate in the first administration. And one example that I think is really telling is you may recall the Obama administration's clean power plan. And so they had set a goal of reducing emissions by 32% off of a 2005 baseline. So again, reducing emissions 32% off a 2005 baseline. But what they did is they tried to be very prescriptive about the energy technologies that were used to achieve those objectives. So of course, Trump comes in and he undoes that. And so I'm sure that most people's initial reaction that, oh, great, so that means emissions went up even greater.

No, here's the truth. Rather than hitting that 32% goal in 2030, they actually hit a 34% reduction in 2019, 11 years early. So look, we can go out here and we can be prejudiced and we can say, "Oh, Trump's going to do this and he's going to undo that and he's going to botch this." But two [inaudible 00:22:42], one is what I just mentioned. As a result of Trump allowing this to be a technology neutral approach, allowing innovators to innovate, you actually hit or exceeded the objective, exceeded the Obama target 11 years early. And secondly, just bringing you back that during the Trump administration, you had an average of a two and a half percent reduction in emissions over that four-year administration. And so look, sometimes you have to separate the rhetoric from the fact, but I much prefer math and science.

Emily Domenech: So building off the Trump question, what does the future of Republican climate policy look like? In the last two years, we had a task force. We have a growing conservative climate caucus. What do those policies actually look like? Because what I get a lot from folks in the climate community is you don't really have a plan. You don't really have technology that works, you don't have anything. You're just paying lip service so people don't yell at you anymore.

Rep. Graves: Yeah, yeah. So I think that... Again, I think you got to look at past performance number two. I think that what you'll see moving forward is a less emotional policy because I think that's been dangerous and it hasn't resulted in the right outcomes. I think that you'll see a policy that much more reflects science and math. For example, if we're going to have a global energy demand, including for oil and gas that's going to be surging over the next 30 years, then let's look in the United States and around the world and determine where you have the lowest carbon intensity sources. I think it's really important that we continue this parallel path of deploying things like wind and solar, things like wave and geothermal, obviously ensuring that we have a nuclear strategy moving forward, not following suit of what California tried to do at Diablo Canyon and what Germany has done that are being back filled with dirtier sources right now, emissions-free electricity, 20% of our domestic portfolio is being provided by nuclear power.

So it's going to be a true all of the above strategy, looking not at energy sources and trying to say, "We've got to move entirely in a renewable direction."

And instead saying, "Let's stay focused on emissions, emissions reduction."

And if somebody comes up with solutions that truly reduce emissions domestically and globally, then I think we've got to listen to what they have to say. We need to be agnostic as to the energy source. Look, if you're hitting zero emissions and you're providing electricity at competitive market rates, we need to all be saying amen to that and not coming out there and putting a bullseye on a certain energy source or stream because that has been crystal clear that it's going to result in energy security issues and it's going to result in higher emissions as we've seen over the last few years.

Emily Domenech: Okay, so last question. What do you consider to be the capstone of your work in Congress so far, and what's on your list to accomplish next?

Rep. Graves: Yeah, well, I appreciate that. So look, I'm going to split that one up in two pieces because in our office, we focus a lot on home. We're very parochial about what we do. You would not have been able to fish if we had not worked on this issue related to the management of some of the Gulf of Mexico fish species and a sustainable management plan. And so we have done a ton of work there and it's been great. We have been able to bring in ultimately billions of dollars in funds for coastal restoration or ecosystem restoration. Louisiana's losing a record acres of land, we lose a football field about every 90 minutes. We've lost over 2000 square miles of our coast. And so that we've been able to bring in billions of dollars in road projects, billions of dollars in new resilience projects or adaptation projects.

So look, those are the things at home that I think if you go ask any of the people we represent that they will tell you are their one, two, and three top priorities and greatest successes. But then you also look at the national level and I think, look, you can't overlook the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the largest savings in American history. We did it on a bipartisan basis. Nearly two thirds of Congress supported the legislation, just a massive, massive win in this polarized environment that we're operating in right now. And so all sorts of wins there, including the renegotiation or the reforms or modernization to NEPA. So I think that would probably be the biggest thing that we've done here. It was a real honor to be involved in that. Looking forward, look, one of the biggest things that we've got to look at moving forward is having a regulatory structure that's compatible with our infrastructure agenda.

And right now, I think they totally contradict one another. It's like you have one group of people that are developing the regulations for the environment and permitting and things like that, and you have a totally separate group of people that are building infrastructure things, everything from roads to renewable energy, and they're not talking to one another and they're entirely incompatible. And so one of the big things that I want to work on next Congress, we're going to have a new highway bill, and I want to work on a regulatory structure that makes sense, that strikes that proper balance of looking at the environment, respecting and protecting it, but also ensuring that we're not obstructing or preventing projects from moving forward.

Emily Domenech: Okay. I lied. I have one more question for you. How many NEPA reviews have you prepared in your career? Because you're not a normal Congressman, you're somebody who did real work before you came here.

Rep. Graves: Well, so as we discussed earlier, rebuilding the levees and the coastal wetlands, I had the chance to be involved or lead about 25 billion worth of infrastructure projects, resiliency projects. And I think through that and through some of my previous life work, probably done close to about 200 NEPAs and so been through quite a bit, some of them that have been incredibly complicated and taken, and I'm embarrassed to admit this over 10 years and other ones that we've been able to do record time and do an EA in 65 days.

Emily Domenech: Way too many reviews for sure. Well, Congressman, thank you so much for joining us and we hope we can have you back on the pod in future.

Rep. Graves: Thanks, Emily, appreciate it.


Julia Pyper: Brandon, let's get your feedback here. So what are the issues or arguments that Graves raised that you found the most compelling? Let's start there.

Brandon Hurlbut: I was hoping to be more inspired, so I'll say a few things. One, I did like that he said that Republicans had been wrong on denying climate in the past. That was nice to hear. But at the same time, Emily Domenech, do you know this member of Congress from Wyoming, Hageman? Is that right?

Emily Domenech: Yeah.

Brandon Hurlbut: Last week during a hearing, she called climate investors, she said, "You are evil." Hageman alleged a climate cartel of investors and advocates are colluding to force companies to address climate change. I think that's a good thing, not evil. So I'm not sure that the messaging has changed all that much. The other thing that I wanted to get into in the discussion with both of you as well is the representative takes credit for emission reduction during Trump. But we had a pandemic where the entire economy was shut down. Everybody was in their homes. He talks about Republican policies leading to those emission reduction.

Emily, I'm curious, what are the Republican policies that achieve those? I mean, I didn't see much specificity. He talked about natural gas, which we know burning it is less emissions than coal, but the life cycle emissions of natural gas may not be any better than coal. There was a letter that 180 scientists signed to President Biden when there was this debate about the pause on LNG exports. And that letter included the scientific conclusions that they had reached, which is that the life cycle emissions of natural gas are equivalent to coal. So I'm wondering what are the policies that he was speaking of that led to these emissions' reduction, and do you agree that it's kind of odd to take credit for those reductions when it happened during a pandemic?

Emily Domenech: So I will note the statistic he's citing for the emissions that happened under Trump is year over year emissions. So it's not just the last year, it's not taking it as a four-year chunk. It's showing a steady decline in emissions. So I think that answers your question about we're not just taking credit for pandemic emissions. In the same way that I think it's not fair to necessarily ding President Biden for the fact that emissions go up in his first two years because it's an economic recovery. So we look at year over year for a reason because that gives you more of a picture of the trajectory that the economy is going. I love the natural gas story because frankly, fracking is something that came about of a really unique marriage between innovators and engineers in the private sector and researchers at a national lab.

It's not something that we mandated. It's not something that we put from the top and said it had to happen. And in fact, the natural gas revolution, frankly, is the thing that made us be able to meet our emissions goals way sooner than we're projected under the Obama administration's clean power plan. That is a fact. You can go and look at the goals that they published. You can go and look at the emissions targets that we hit in 2019. It was 11 years earlier than we were supposed to hit those emissions targets. That's a good thing. And the point there is that we did not need a top-down regulatory structure to make that happen. The market did it on its own.

Brandon Hurlbut: What do you make of those emissions reductions coming from massive increase in deployment of solar, wind and batteries versus when you're producing all this natural gas, you are unleashing methane as well. When you look at those life cycle emissions, I'm not sure that that is really moving the needle.

Emily Domenech: You can pull the numbers from EIA and the EPA to see what our emissions are for the year, they calculate those. I think renewables are certainly a part of it. And I think you heard that in Congressman Graves' statement that this is very much a, We want to see everything succeed here. But I do think it would be a little disingenuous to say that our emissions reductions from 2005 to 2019 were because of big solar and wind deployments. Certainly we increased our solar and wind deployments, but incrementally the shift is way smaller than the shift between coal and natural gas.

Brandon Hurlbut: So what I'm hearing you say though is that the Republican policies are basically just not over-regulated.

Emily Domenech: I think that's one part of it. I mean, I think if you listen to the rest of the interview, he talks about how there's... For example, we talked a little bit about the IRA and we talked about the pieces of the IRA where there's tax credits that we think are things that incentivize innovative behavior. He talked about direct air capture, so figuring out ways to incentivize the innovative technology development is a big part of it. The other part of it, frankly, is getting rid of the NEPA rules that make it hard to build everything. So not just building oil and gas and pipelines, but also frankly building renewables and developing the critical minerals that we need here in the United States in the cleanest possible way.

Julia Pyper: That's one thing I picked up on just to double-click on the solar and wind point is when you were talking about the IRA, I think I heard him say that those were tax credits he was not as supportive of, for renewable energy technologies that had been around for 50 years. That's not something he was supportive of continuing to support going forward, which I think is a little challenging, just that we do see this opportunity to make more in America these technologies that yes, have been around, but we haven't really dominated the market like we could, I think here by making them more at home.

Emily Domenech: This comes back to something we've talked about here on this pod before. Where I think there is an opening to work with Republicans on the kinds of tax incentives that again, are about developing capabilities here, 45X, for example. I think that's one where there's plenty of opportunity for us to maintain and continue that tax credit because it's something that shows a tangible, we don't do this here and we need to figure out how to do it better. I think as we've talked about in the context of the IRA, I suspect the most likely outcome even in a Republican wave scenario is resetting the solar and wind PTCs to their pre-IRA levels. I don't think they're going to get repealed

Julia Pyper: Just for everyone's following along, you said ITC, PTC, their investment tax credit, the production tax credit, you mentioned the 45X tax credit. That's for manufacturing... Specifically the manufacturing production tax credit.

Brandon Hurlbut: Emily, I definitely want to dig into this with you because Trump went up on the hill this week and I would love if you have any insights as to what happened there, but what I read was comments from the house budget chair, Jodey Arrington that seemed not consistent with that sentiment. Seems like they want to get rid of these IRA tax credits, and Senator Schumer said this is a serious threat. So wondering... Yeah.

Emily Domenech: So I haven't seen the Jodey quote, but it doesn't surprise me to hear it. I think generally speaking, I think you have Republican members who look at the IRA, they look at the fact that it's tripled in cost and frankly they're heading into a tax year where we're talking about reauthorizing the small business tax cut and the Trump era tax cuts. It's a negotiating strategy. I think maybe a better place to look would be to look at the ways and means committee, which actually authorizes the... Does the tax discussion. And look at the work that Chairman Jason Smith did in this past year. They're not quite to the point where they're talking about IRA or the big tax cut extensions, but they produced a bipartisan tax package out of that committee that didn't go into great detail on the energy side. But they worked together to find a balance in that package. I would remind the listeners here that Garrett Graves is on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee. So his background is less in the tax space than it is in the permitting development side.

Julia Pyper: Oh, interesting. Brandon, is there anything you took away from that that was noteworthy on the permitting discussion?

Brandon Hurlbut: I think, again, as we've highlighted in the past, this is where there is common ground. That is something where I agree with Emily Domenech and I do think that some of the concerns they've raised about how some of these adjustments to the policy could actually slow things down in an unintentional way is something that needs to be seriously addressed.

Julia Pyper: Kumbaya, my lord... I'm kidding. All right, let's dive back into some of the meteor topics you covered in this discussion. So one thing Representative Graves raised was about the importance of recognizing the interplay between domestic and global emissions. And his point was that offshoring natural gas production, for instance, will lead to increased emissions. Brandon, I want to start with you on this one.

Brandon Hurlbut: You're right, it's a global challenge. The US is 18% of all the emissions. So even if we solve it here, it won't have the impact that we need because it's not like the pollution just stays over one country, right? So truly a global issue. I just want to see us racing as aggressively as possible to this clean energy transition. And I think continuing to prop up the old traditional energy is harmful. And this is what I don't understand about some of the Republican talking points on this. It's like because China has owned critical minerals and owned domestic solar manufacturing, our position seems to be, well now we can't compete with them on that. Let's just continue to prop up oil and gas. And there's a reason why China is trying to own those markets because they know that those are the markets for the future. And it's almost like... I've used this analogy in the past, it's like streaming is here and it's trying to prop up VHS tapes or your Kodak film and digital is here and you're trying to prop up the old film.

Emily Domenech: I think the Republican perspective is a little bit more of we need everything we've got. And we can't afford to just turn off the switch on our sort of traditional energy sources that have bet frankly power the manufacturing we need to compete with China and will power the manufacturing we need to compete with China for many years into the future. We can't afford to just stop doing that and let Russia or China take over that market. We heard from the congressman that the growth of fossil fuels is kind of inevitable. And Julia, you alluded to it a little bit here because we have a global demand. That's based on the Energy Information Agency's future forecast. They forecast oil and gas continuing to grow through 2050. So if we want to ensure that if people are still using natural gas globally, that they're using the cleanest possible gas that could be produced, that's oftentimes the United States and two, that they have technologies available to help us capture some of that carbon.

We can do that by making broader investments like we talked about in our last show about carbon capture technologies, about carbon utilization. So it's something people have a motivation to capture whether they're in a low income country or not, and also ways that help that technology be something that we can export, not just use here at home where we can afford it. I also, again would say we still live in a universe where China is building new coal plants every single day. So anytime we are not manufacturing here in the United States, we can guarantee that there will be higher emissions elsewhere if that manufacturing is offshore. It's almost a guarantee.

Brandon Hurlbut: But Julia, one of the things that I get also confused about is people keep saying, "Well, we don't have this reliable power yet from clean energy." But I think it's coming so much faster, especially when you see all the batteries that have been deployed in California. One of the statistics that I saw is 87 of the last 96 days, wind, water, solar, and batteries have generated more than a hundred percent of the demand for part of the day each of those days. And so for last Sunday, those technologies met more than 100% of the demand in California for eight and a half hours of the day. And California has 40 million people and is the fourth-largest economy in the world on its own. This is not like a tiny little island that you're meeting that demand with. I mean, so I think is happening faster and we can provide clean, reliable power, I think sooner than people expect.

Julia Pyper: I don't think you're wrong, but I would say the one caveat there is that California has some of the highest electricity prices in the country. And I think that's something we have to address if we want this to be something that is more widely adopted than just in the richest parts of our country.

Emily Domenech: The challenge there though is it's not just the generation sources. Yeah, it's actually the transmission distribution, which is public information on what's driving up those investments. So totally agree. California electricity prices are high. It's just several elements to that. So one thing that stood out to me was his comments somewhat in passing toward the end where he referenced the stat that Louisiana loses around a football field of land every 90 minutes to erosion. That's a pretty wild statistic.

Brandon Hurlbut: Julia do you even know what the size of a football field is?

Julia Pyper: I was actually at the Super Bowl as this podcast was up for this online award, but you had to keep voting every five minutes to keep advancing. So I'm at the Super Bowl, everyone's actually reasonably watching the game, and I'm just on my phone voting up our podcast, which we won.

Emily Domenech: I appreciate your service to the pod, but that is just a tragedy.

Julia Pyper: I know. I was also in my first trimester and was super, super sick. Well, maybe that's a good place to end the show.

This is Political Climate, a co-production of Latitude Media and Boundary Stone Partners, Max Savage Levenson is our producer. Sean Marquand is our technical director. Stephen Lacey is our executive editor. You can get all of our show notes and transcripts at Latitudemedia.com, and if you want us to talk about a specific topic, please email us at politicalclimatepodcast.gmail.com. And please feel free to help spread the word about political climate on LinkedIn, X and beyond. I'm Julia Pyper. We'll catch you in two weeks.

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