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Why the GOP Is Mad at the IEA

On peak oil contention, hurricane names, and smoke over D.C.

Why the GOP Is Mad at the IEA
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Minneapolis is expecting snow tonight. Less than a month ago it was 65 degrees Fahrenheit in the Twin Cities • More than 100 people were evacuated from the small Australian town of Borroloola ahead of severe flooding • It is cloudy in Copenhagen where global climate leaders are meeting to hash out a plan for COP29.


1. EPA unveils final auto emission rules

The Biden administration announced final new emissions standards for cars yesterday, significantly curtailing both the carbon dioxide and the toxic soot and chemicals that spew from the tailpipes of the nation’s light- and medium-duty vehicles. The rules tighten pollution limits gradually over six years, and are slightly watered down compared to the version released last April: While automakers will still have to achieve the same emissions standard by 2032 as what was originally proposed, they will now be able to transition more slowly, explained Emily Pontecorvo and Robinson Meyer at Heatmap. Administration officials argue that giving automakers, dealers, and labor unions more time in the near-term will make for a sturdier rule, and that the cumulative emissions benefits of the final standard converge with the original proposal. The EPA now estimates that EVs may make up anywhere between 30% and 56% of new light-duty sales from model years 2030 to 2032, and by 2032, the light-duty fleet on offer from automakers will emit half as much carbon as vehicles on the market in 2026.

2. GOP lawmakers accuse IEA of undermining energy security

A group of senior Republican lawmakers penned a letter to Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, accusing the group of “undermining energy security” and being a cheerleader for the “energy transition” (quotes theirs). The letter suggests the IEA has lost its credibility as a reliable and objective source of information on fossil fuel markets, and has focused too heavily on clean energy developments and too little on “the things that matter most to policymakers.” The letter is signed by House energy committee chair Cathy McMorris-Rodgers and Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy panel, among others.

As Axiosnoted, the attack “has real-world stakes. The agency's work is constantly cited by policymakers, academics, journalists and civil society groups.” The IEA’s forecasts that oil demand could peak by 2030 have perturbed fossil fuel producers. OPEC sees growth continuing at least through 2045. Earlier this week the CEO of Saudi Aramco called a fossil fuel phase-out a “fantasy.”

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  • 3. Otis and Dora retired as hurricane names

    The names Otis and Dora have been retired from the list of potential hurricane names because of their links to devastating extreme weather events. The World Meteorological Organization has six lists of names for northeast Pacific hurricanes that it uses over and over again, so it’s not uncommon for two different storms occurring years apart to have the same name. But a name is removed if a storm is “so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for obvious reasons of sensitivity.” Hurricane Otis struck Acapulco in October last year, killing 51 people and causing $3 billion in damage. Dora played an “indirect meteorological role” in Maui’s massive wildfires, which killed more than 100 people and caused at least $4 billion in damages. Otis and Dora will be replaced with the names Otilio and Debora. Climate change is warming the oceans, resulting in stronger hurricanes.

    4. Brush fire smoke hurts D.C.’s air quality

    The smell of smoke lingered over Washington, D.C., yesterday, and the air quality dropped as haze from brush fires burning in Virginia and Maryland drifted over the region. Strong winds and dry weather made for ideal fire conditions, and the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the area in the evening. This photo, apparently taken in the Bergton area of Virgina, shows thick smoke coming from the fires:


    5. Biden administration proposes another offshore wind auction for Gulf of Mexico

    The Biden administration wants to hold another offshore wind auction in the Gulf of Mexico as it pushes ahead with its goal of installing 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by the end of the decade. Yesterday the Interior Department proposed the sale – which would be the second auction in the region – for sometime this year, though the date hasn’t been nailed down. More than 400,000 acres would be up for grabs for development, paving the way for enough wind energy to power 1.2 million homes. The first sale, held last year, resulted in just one lease, “underscoring the middling interest in building wind farms in the region, where wind gusts aren’t very powerful and electricity is already cheap from prolific oil and gas production,” as E&E Newsexplained. The administration plans to hold four sales in the Gulf this year.


    “While changes in governments may well affect the pace of energy transitions — accelerating them in some cases, slowing them in others — they won’t alter the fundamental direction of travel.” –IEA executive director Fatih Birol writing in the Financial Times


    Jessica Hullinger

    Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London. Read More

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