Energy & Environment — Summer scorcher

The U.S. faced a weekend of seriously high temperatures and the Biden administration is claiming to have saved Americans money at the pump.

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack BudrykSubscribe here.

US faces high heat as climate legislation flops

The U.S. faced scorching heat over the past few days, with more than two dozen states experiencing heat warnings and many Americans being exposed to temperatures higher than 90 degrees this past weekend.  

  • The deadly weather is severe on its own, but it’s also a sign of what’s to come as the planet heats up due to climate change.
  • And the sweltering conditions highlight Congress’s inability to pass meaningful legislation to combat the issue.  

“We will see worse going forward simply because climate change will continue to make the planet warmer and warmer,” said Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist and dean of the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability. 

High temps all around: Over the past few days, temperatures in much of the country hit triple digits.

  • In Texas, record-breaking temperatures reached 115 degrees in Wichita Falls, with 110 hit in other cities in the state and in Oklahoma.
  • Newark, N.J., also hit a new record at 102 degrees, with the temperature’s recorded at the city’s airport topping 100 for five days straight.
  • Boston also hit 100 degrees on Sunday.  

And the heat has been lethal in multiple locations, while sending many to the hospital.

  • A person died from heat exposure in New York City on Saturday, while Dallas County, Texas, also reported a heat-related death last week.
  • Maricopa County, Ariz., confirmed 12 heat-related deaths between July 10 and July 16, though it’s not clear whether the deaths actually occurred on those days or if they were just added to the state’s existing totals during that period.
  • As of last week, Tulsa’s emergency medical services had responded to 85 heat-related illnesses — which can include heat exhaustion or stroke — so far this month. Sixty of those people were hospitalized.  

The big picture: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 600 people in the U.S. each year are killed by extreme heat, though other studies put the figure much higher.

A 2020 study looking at counties representing about 62 percent of the U.S. population found that in those alone, there were an average of 5,608 heat-attributed deaths each year between 1997 and 2006. 

Chris Uejio, a professor at Florida State University, said that heat can negatively impact the cardiovascular and respiratory systems as well as the kidneys and that research is emerging on its impacts on mental health and dizziness. 

The people most at risk typically include the elderly, people with preexisting conditions, those who are pregnant, infants and young children, the homeless and those who can’t afford to pay for air conditioning and cooling, Uejio said.

Read more about the high temperatures here.

Biden claims savings from oil reserve releases

Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) releases in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prevented a further gas price increase of up to 40 cents per gallon, according to estimates released by Treasury Department officials on a call with reporters Tuesday.

  • The releases, which began in March as the Russian invasion disrupted international energy markets, have been the largest in U.S. history.
  • Although gas prices had already begun climbing due to increased demand compared to 2020, the Treasury Department estimates the SPR releases prevented a further spike of 20 to 40 cents on average, officials said.  

“Even with gas prices falling, the president knows they’re still too high,” Aviva Aron-Dine, deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, said on the call. “That’s why the administration continues to work towards a price cap for Russian oil that will keep supply on the market while driving Putin’s revenue down, and continues engaging with industry to expand refining capacity.”

Catherine Wolfram, the Treasury’s deputy assistant secretary for climate and energy economics, said the 20-40 cent estimate was based on two separate calculation approaches, the details of which are set to be outlined in a forthcoming blog post.  

The calculations are “trying to estimate something that didn’t happen, which is what the gasoline market would have looked like without the SPR releases,” she said. “We need to make assumptions on … how responsive the market is to new volume coming on the market.” 

Read more here.

EU AGREES TO CUT GAS USE, WITH SOME EXCEPTIONS

The European Union on Tuesday reached an agreement under which member nations will cut their use of natural gas by 15 percent, but with some exceptions.

  • The agreement aims to make the savings ahead of this winter, as natural gas is often used in home heating, to prepare for potential disruptions from Russia.
  • But the agreement comes with a caveat that nations that aren’t connected to other EU members’ gas networks can be exempt.  

The agreement comes as Russia has already cut back the natural gas it is supplying to some European countries amid its invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions from other countries.

QUOTABLE

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Moscow’s reduction of natural gas output to Europe “gas blackmail” after Russian gas giant Gazprom said it would be reducing daily flows to just half of what it is currently providing daily.

  • “This is an overt gas war that Russia is waging against a united Europe – this is exactly how it should be perceived,” he said in a Monday address. “And they don’t care what will happen to the people, how they will suffer – from hunger due to the blocking of ports or from winter cold and poverty … Or from occupation. These are just different forms of terror.”
  • “The gas blackmail of Europe, which only gets worse every month, is needed by a terrorist state to make life worse for every European,” he added.  

Read more here from The Hill’s Caroline Vakil.

ON TAP TOMORROW

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee will vote on whether to advance the nomination of Joe Goffman to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s air and radiation office. Goffman has been leading the office in an acting capacity. He previously served in the Obama administration and played a role in creating the Obama-era power plant rules that the Supreme Court recently said went beyond the agency’s authority. 
  • The EPW Committee will also hold a hearing to examine the development of projects and implementation of policies that support carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Six House staffers arrested while protesting in Chuck Schumer’s office (Axios
  • Corporate Carbon Offset Company Accidentally Starts Devastating Wildfire (Vice
  • ‘A moral imperative’: how southern ministers are trying to change minds about the climate crisis (The Guardian
  • Yellowstone is this town’s golden ticket. Climate change risks that. (The Washington Post

ICYMI

🥑 Lighter click: Bipartisan legislation naming

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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