Biden Could Trade a Climate Win for Ukraine Aid

ClimateCongress Joe Biden
Biden Could Trade a Climate Win for Ukraine Aid

The Biden administration may be open to rolling back its pause on liquified natural gas (LNG) facility approvals in return for the passage of a Ukraine aid package in Congress, according to reporting from Reuters. This would undo what many saw as a significant climate victory from Biden, at a time when his careful dance between the oil derricks and smokestacks risks alienating voters who want to see legitimate progress on the issue.

Biden paused the permitting process for pending and future LNG export facilities in January, angering the fossil fuel industry and elating climate advocates. The facilities, which are sprouting up in record numbers as the U.S. has taken over as the world’s biggest exporter of LNG, each help lock in millions of tons of excess emissions over the coming decades — the same decades the world is supposed to use to get to net-zero emissions. The pause was seen as an acknowledgement of that conflict; undoing it might be seen as a betrayal.

According to the Reuters report, the argument from the White House would be that ending the pause would have no impact on near-term LNG exports, since it only affects facilities that are not yet built and operating. An industry source familiar with the ongoing discussions told Reuters that the administration “can tell the climate folks substantively nothing has changed.”

From an emissions perspective this may be true if only the next couple of years counted, but ignoring the future in order to have something we want in the present is sort of climate change’s whole deal.

The aid for Ukraine has been stalled on Capitol Hill for several months, with opposition from some corners of the Republican caucus. Speaker Mike Johnson has suggested ending the LNG pause could help grease the wheels for a vote in the House, which would likely win with a substantial majority. Of course, Johnson also could claim a victory in his home state of Louisiana, where a major LNG export facility is awaiting approval.

Climate activists are not likely to take the “nothing has changed” claim to heart. After Biden issued the pause, the praise was effusive; a spokesperson for Oil Change International called it “one of the most significant actions ever taken by a U.S. president to stop the dangerous expansion of fossil fuels.” The Sierra Club’s executive director said the pause “makes it clear that the Biden administration is listening to the calls to break America’s reliance on dirty fossil fuels.” The president of the League of Conservation Voters said it “sends a clear signal that the administration is taking the global commitment reached in December to transition away from fossil fuels seriously.”

If such a momentous step is considered standard trade fodder for Capitol Hill maneuvering, the idea that Biden grasps the difference between climate change and other policy issues is on tenuous ground.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin