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The Week in Climate Hearings: The Corrupt Oil Party is Ending in a Haze of Discontent

Also: Energy efficiency, trout limitations, and space mining

The Dubai climate talks, literally choked by oil and gas pollution.

Tennessee tornadoes left least 6 dead and dozens hurt on Saturday before the same mega-storm pummeled the northeast with rain, wind and snow; on the other side of the globe, it’s 110°F in Sydney as Cyclone Jasper nears Queensland. Halfway in between lies the COP28 climate summit in Dubai.

We’ve discussed the miasmic influence of the global fossil-fuel industry on COP28, but it’s not just metaphorical. The city-state’s air is a toxic haze from the United Arab Emirates’ massive oil and gas production. According to the Emirati hosts, the eye-watering smaze choking the negotiators is “sandstorms from the desert.

That’s not the only Emirati smokescreen. Protesters at the COP28 climate summit demonstrated on Saturday for imprisoned human rights activists in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, the past and current host of the negotiations. Obeying U.N. orders, the protesters folded over their posters to hide the Emirati detainees’ names from view, and avoided saying the words “Egypt” or “United Arab Emirates.” During the talks, the Emirates is conducting a mass trial of nearly 90 political prisoners on terrorism charges, including Ahmed Mansoor, who has been jailed since 2017. The death penalty is a possibility.

The United States has earned the “biggest, baddest” Colossal Fossil award for blocking negotiations on the next to last day of COP 28, leading to a “grossly insufficient” and “incoherent” near-final draft that avoids calling for a phase-out of fossil fuels.

In contrast, a Dutch-led coalition of a dozen nations committed to “publish an inventory of their own fossil fuel subsidies within a year, with the aim of creating a clear strategy for eliminating them.” China and the United States did not join the effort. Canada is the one major fossil-fuel producer to sign on.

Naveena Sadasivam tried to keep up with the whirlwind climate activist Harjeet Singh, the head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International, the network of non-governmental organizations that pushes the diplomats for meaningful action every COP.

Not to worry, though, next year’s COP will be hosted not by a Middle Eastern petrostate, but by an Eastern European petrostate. After Russia vetoed every other option, Azerbaijan was selected to host COP29.


ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods, whose company is running greenwashing ads in The New York Times, Axios, Punchbowl News, Politico, etc. during COP28, is confronted by Climate Defiance activists at a Chemical Marketing & Economics gala in New York City, December 8, 2023.

On Wednesday evening at 6 pm, the Green New Deal Network is hosting a happy hour/holiday party at Sonny’s Pizza. Everyone except for Darren Woods and other fossil-fuel industry representatives are welcome.

On Thursday morning, from 8 am to 10 am, The Hill is offering a free breakfast forum on energy efficiency and cutting carbon pollution featuring Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), climate denier and COP28 polluter Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) (who “pressed U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry to slow down proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules meant to improve vehicle fuel economy”), Department of Energy official Carla Frisch, and top energy-efficiency lobbyists Paula Glover, Jamal Lewis, Steven Nadel, and Rose Stephens-Booker. The event is sponsored by the Samsung lobbying shop.

Tuesday, December 12

There are two hearings on Tuesday about the future of critical-mineral mining. At 10:15 am, the House Natural Resources oversight subcommittee has invited witnesses to discuss space mining! At 2:30 pm, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources mining subcommittee holds a more prosaic hearing on Sen. Martin Heinrich’s (D-N.M.) Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act (S. 1742) and Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto’s (D-Nev.) Mining Regulatory Clarity Act (S. 1281). Witnesses include federal mining-policy officials, Trout Unlimited CEO Chris Wood, and National Mining Association COO Katie Sweeney.

At 10 am, a House Financial Services subcommittee chaired by Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) will hold a hearing on strengthening energy sanctions on Russia, Iran, and Venezuela; witnesses include Dr. Anna Mikulska on Russia, Dr. Ryan Berg on Venezuela, and Claire Jungman on Iran.

House Natural Resources subcommittees are holding two hearings on Tuesday:

  • At 10:30 am, Reps. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) receive witness testimony on two fossil-fuel-subsidy bills from Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) and a bill to expedite geothermal projects by Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Calif.). One of Hageman’s bills, H.R. 5482, purports to fight “energy poverty” by fighting regulations on oil, gas, and coal projects—strangely it does not mention energy efficiency or the costs of fossil-fuel pollution on at-risk communities. The witness speaking against the bill is just-transition expert Dr. J. Mijin Cha.

  • At 2 pm, Reps. Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.) and Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) spar at a hearing on the lower Snake River hydropower dams in the Columbia basin. The federal government is open to dismantling the dams to save endangered salmon and steelhead populations. Witnesses include Trout Unlimited’s Lindsay Slater.

It’s a busy day for those who speak for the trout.

Wednesday, December 13

Wednesday offers two serious policy hearings from House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittees:

Thursday, December 14

At 9 am, Senate Energy and Natural Resources chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) oversees a marathon markup of 23 bills, including legislation on federal lands management, small-scale hydropower, wildlife, and federal water management.

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