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Sparks

Republicans Are Doing Ideological Loop-the-Loops Over LNG

It’s silly season on the Hill.

The Capitol.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

On Tuesday, North Dakota Republican Kelly Armstrong insisted Congress needs to put actual muscle behind all its talk of environmental justice. Freedom Caucus member Debbie Lesko of Arizona made an argument for reducing worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. South Carolina’s Jeff Duncan, who has repeatedly voted against economic assistance for Ukraine, made the case that the United States is all that stands between Kyiv and Putin.

Confused? Dizzy? Disoriented? I can hardly blame you.

This, unfortunately, is all part of the Republican Party’s fossil fuel defense strategy. In the first of two hearings on the Hill this week concerning the White House’s pause on approving new permits for facilities to export liquified natural gas, Americans got a good preview, but you can plan to see a lot more of it.

In addition to the hearings, the party will also reportedly convene an “energy week” later this month to promote the “Unlocking Domestic LNG Potential Act,” which aims to stop the Department of Energy’s “interference” in approving LNG exports and put such decisions in the hands of the more conservative-friendly Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. (Earlier attempts to do the same have so far failed to make it through the Democrat-controlled Senate). The gameplan appears to be straight out of The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 playbook for a Republican presidential victory this November.

In practice, the strategy looked a lot like Republicans on the House Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Subcommittee raising traditionally liberal talking points to undermine the Biden administration’s order. By their topsy-turvy logic, the administration should not pause approving new export terminals because natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel, and thus our best bet for fighting climate change — an argument that is still under considerable debate in the scientific community, and coming from these folks is especially weird. It’s not every day you hear a Republican witness praise “the world’s call for cleaner energy,” as Toby Rice, the CEO of the largest U.S. natural gas producer, EQT Corp., did on Tuesday.

House Republicans kept up their Opposite Day bit by:

  • Insisting Biden take into account the “environmental justice” of low-income Americans whose electricity could be affected by a hypothetical end to natural gas production — something that, to be clear, is not currently on the table. They also cited the human rights of miners in the Congo and China who toil for the minerals used in renewable energy production. While that is a concern for sure, it was hard not to feel the cynicism of the argument when Americans near LNG export terminals suffer greatly, too.

  • Making the case that un-pausing LNG permitting is critical to America’s continued support of European allies in the face of Russian aggression — even when many of them have voted to block Ukrainian aid and will even do so again later today.

  • Eric Cormier, a Republican witness and the senior vice president of entrepreneurship and strategic initiatives at the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, claimed investment in the export terminals is necessary because coastal Louisiana needs to rebuild from its repeated hurricanes and floods — apparently missing the irony of making such an argument in a warming world. He also dismissed the pollution caused by LNG, claiming the export terminals are not built near significant population centers, and in doing so confirmed the fears of frontline residents who say their health and livelihoods have been intentionally sacrificed for the sake of industry.

  • Rice, the natural gas CEO, also claimed that the Biden administration’s LNG pause is part of an activist “playbook” of delaying and introducing uncertainty, even when delay and doubt are literally out of the fossil fuel playbook against climate change action.

Needless to say, the whole charade could make you start to feel a bit loopy, and that was even before an argument broke out over the meaning of the words “pause” versus “ban.” Republicans repeatedly used the B-word to refer to the LNG permitting pause, though Republican witness Brigham McCown, the director of the Hudson Institute’s American Energy Security Initiative, put his foot in his mouth when he claimed, “This is a ban, and I don’t think we’re going to see the pause end until after the presidential election.”

Democrats and their lone witness, lawyer Gillian Gianetti of the Natural Resources Defense Council, put on a good (if weary) face pushing back on Republicans. “The repeated references to this action as a ban, as a fan of The Princess Bride, makes me think of Inigo Montoya,” Gianetti quipped at one point: “They keep saying the word ban, but I don’t think they know what it means.”

But ranking member Diana DeGette of Colorado perhaps encapsulated the hearing best in her opening round of questioning. “I can’t help sitting here thinking that the silly season has begun,” she told her colleagues.

She’s not wrong, either. Silly season is just getting started.

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Jeva Lange profile image

Jeva Lange

Jeva is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Her writing has also appeared in The Week, where she formerly served as executive editor and culture critic, as well as in The New York Daily News, Vice, and Gothamist, among others. Jeva lives in New York City.

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