THE LIGHTBULB

"Molecules of U.S. freedom.” “Freedom gas.”

That's the latest way the Trump administration has decided to describe fuel that oil and gas companies are selling abroad.

Both of those turns of phrase showed up Wednesday in an Energy Department news release containing an otherwise humdrum announcement that the department is approving additional exports of natural gas from a terminal in Texas. 

In a statement, Mark W. Menezes, the undersecretary of energy, celebrated the United States for "spreading freedom gas throughout the world." Steven Winberg, assistant secretary for fossil energy, added in his own statement,"I am pleased that the Department of Energy is doing what it can to promote an efficient regulatory system that allows for molecules of U.S. freedom to be exported to the world."  

Trump critics quickly latched onto the phrasing for ignoring a flip side to “freedom gas”: its contributions to global warming. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who is running for president on a platform focused on climate change, called the statements a “joke.”

Others, such as journalists Gilad Edelman and Ryan Teague Beckwith, said headlines about the news release might as well have come from the satirical newspaper the Onion.

 

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, was in a less jovial mood, citing the release as another example of the executive branch reaching "Orwellian new heights in its propaganda" in a statement.

The choice of words is the latest linguistic flourish from an administration promoting an “energy dominance” agenda — that is, one in which the United States focuses on expanding all forms of energy production, including fossils fuels, in an effort to make the country a net energy exporter.

The news release is also the latest effort by the Trump administration to highlight one facet of that agenda — its expansion of the number of gas export terminals on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

This month, President Trump flew to Louisiana to christen a newly constructed portion of a liquefied natural gas export terminal there. An additional three terminals are under construction nationwide to help bring the recent boom of fracked gas to international buyers in South America, Europe and Asia.

But during his speech Trump went off-topic, mocking Democrats such as Pete Buttigieg ('Boot-edge-edge"), Elizabeth Warren (“Pocahontas”) and Bernie Sanders (“crazy”) each seeking to unseat him from the White House in 2020.

Still, Jason Bordoff, founding director of Columbia University’s Center for Global Energy Policy, told The Washington Post's Steven Mufson there is a “kernel of truth” to the White House rhetoric because U.S. gas provides an alternative to energy from Russia, which has used its trade relations as a cudgel against regional rivals such as Ukraine by cutting off its energy supply.

But Bordoff added: “I worry about the extent to which rhetoric like this risks politicizing a commodity whose very benefits derive from the fact that it is market-driven.”

Read more here:

Climate and Environment
Trump administration proclaims political benefits of gas exports
Steven Mufson
THERMOMETER

— "They just keep washing in": In October 2016, for no apparent reason, the carcasses of tufted puffins, which should have already journeyed south for the winter, began turning up on the shores of St. Paul Island in Alaska. Now scientists in a paper published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One theorize this once mysterious “mass mortality event” is at least partially attributable to the changing climate.

How? The Post's Brady Dennis reports that "several years of significant warming and reduction in sea ice has resulted in troubling changes, such as the migration of certain “forage fish” such as capelin, juvenile pollock and other energy-rich prey that puffins and other birds depend on to survive. The authors suggest the climate-fueled shifts that probably affected the food supply."

Science
Some national parks are experiencing the first-hand effects of climate change, with hotter and drier conditions than the rest of the United States.
Liz Weber
OIL CHECK

— Shareholders at Exxon and Chevron reject climate resolutions: During the annual meetings of the two U.S. oil majors, shareholders rejected a series of climate-related resolutions, the Houston Chronicle reports. Only one fourth of ExxonMobil stockholders, for example, voted in support of a resolution asking the company to assess the health risks expanding petrochemical operations in storm- and flood-prone areas, according to the corporate accountability group As You Sow. And only one third of Chevron shareholders approved a resolution asking the company to report on how it plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

It was only two years ago when financial firms led a shareholder rebellion against Exxon management by passing a resolutiuon instructing the oil company to report on the impact of global measures designed to keep climate change in check. The win buoyed the hopes of activist shareholders seeking to further pressure oil companies to reduce emissions.

What has changed since then? Since 2017, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission under Trump has made it more difficult it get such resolutions "micromanaging" corporate executives on the ballot, The Post's Steven Mufson reports.

The Sierra Club is the latest green group to announce it will put significant resources into the 2020 election in order to put candidates who vow take action on climate change in office.
DAYBOOK

Today:

  • Energy Secretary Rick Perry is scheduled to speak at the Governor’s Energy Summit.
  • The Nuclear Regulatory Commission holds a briefing on the Nuclear Regulatory Research program.

Coming Up:

  • The Carbon Utilization Research Council, the Global CCS Institute, and the Carbon Capture Coalition continue briefings on carbon capture on Friday.
  • EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler speaks at the National Press Club on June 3.
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds an event on climate preparedness on June 5.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is scheduled to give the keynote address at the 5th Washington Oil & Gas Forum, which will be held on June 5 and 6.