Trump Administration Backs Oil Industry in SCOTUS Climate Case
Bloomberg Law, November 23, 2020
The Trump administration threw its weight behind oil companies on Monday in a Supreme Court dispute that could affect climate litigation across the country.
In a new amicus brief, Justice Department lawyers urged the high court to side with BP Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp., and others in a highly technical dispute involving appellate review of a jurisdictional fight in Baltimore’s climate case against the industry.
Government lawyers also touched on an underlying debate in the case: whether claims from Baltimore and similar plaintiffs belong in state or federal court.
The looser grip of gasoline prices on consumer budgets
Ben Geman, Axios, November 24, 2020
A speech Friday by Esther George, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, offers an interesting high-level look at the economic influence of gasoline prices and why it may never be the same.
The big picture: Gasoline prices account for a smaller share of household spending than they once did — about 4% in the 1980s to roughly 2% last year, though it’s much higher for low-income families.
The intrigue: The pandemic is changing the picture even more. Per George, “The COVID-19 shock could further loosen the grip of gasoline prices on consumers’ budgets and reduce the already lowered sensitivity of consumption to changes in the price at the pump.”
How it works: Gasoline demand plummeted when commuting went way down due to working from home and job losses, and while there’s been some revival, it’s still below pre-pandemic levels.
What’s next: “One thing that seems unlikely to ever bounce back fully is the amount of commuting,” she said.
“With many workplaces offering, or likely to offer, increased workplace flexibility, not only is gasoline demand likely to be lower, but it is also likely to be more elastic.”
Mercedes tackles cobalt mining issues
Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News, November 17, 2020
Mercedes-Benz says it will follow its supply chains all the way back to the mines, if that is what it takes to ensure that the lithium and cobalt going into its rapidly expanding line of electric vehicles is produced with high environmental and human rights standards.
“Our aspiration is very clear – we want our products to contain only raw materials that have been mined and produced without human rights violations,” said Renata Jungo Brüngger, a board member of both Mercedes-Benz and Daimler AG, responsible for integrity and legal affairs.
“If there are any indications of risk, we take another, closer look at the supply chain. This involves us going beyond the direct suppliers and creating transparency – if necessary, all the way back to the mine,” Brüngger added.
Interior Department contender says Biden would target Trump Arctic drilling push on first day
Valerie Volcovici & Nichola Groom, Reuters, November 23, 2020
President Donald Trump’s last-minute push to allow controversial drilling in part of Alaska’s Arctic will be an early target for the next administration, according to Senator Tom Udall, a contender to lead the Interior Department under Joe Biden.
The New Mexico Democrat was speaking of the Trump administration’s plan to pull off a sale of oil drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before Biden, who wants to ban new drilling on all federal lands and waters as part of a strategy to fight climate change, becomes president on Jan. 20.
“I would expect that there would be real scrutiny and analysis of these last-minute kinds of deals that are being done,” Udall said in an interview, adding that he expects they could be overturned by the courts. “That’s an issue that needs to be looked at on Day One.”
The Interior Department, which manages federal and tribal lands, last week issued a request to energy companies to identify tracts in the refuge to be offered for sale. That puts the administration on a timeline that could bring a lease auction by mid-January, only days before Biden takes office.
CLIMATE CHANGE CONVERSATIONS
U.S. oil industry group pledges to fight possible Biden fracking limits
Laura Sanicola, Reuters, November 23, 2020
If U.S. President-elect Joe Biden tries to restrict development of oil and gas drilling on federal lands, the American Petroleum Institute (API) will use “every tool at its disposal” including legal action, chief executive Mike Sommers said in an interview with Reuters on Monday. Biden has said he supports a ban on new gas and oil permits — including fracking — on federal lands.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a drilling technology that has allowed the U.S. oil industry to vastly boost output in recent years, making the United States the world’s largest producer of crude oil. Environmental groups oppose fracking, saying it pollutes groundwater and exacerbates climate change.
Sommers said the API looks forward to working with the incoming Biden administration on energy but would “draw the line” if Biden implemented restrictions on lands that were “always meant for multi-use.”