As a strong supporter of the fossil fuel industry, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) received more contributions oil and gas companies than any other industry during his nearly ten years in political office.
But in the face of record gas prices and energy supply constraints exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Stewart is finding common ground with the Biden administration on at least one issue – the need to accelerate investment. in renewable energies.
“We should be moving towards green energy as much as possible,” Stewart said in an interview with Yahoo Finance Live. “But in the meantime, we can’t turn away from the absolute necessity of carbon-based fuels while we try to develop some of the other opportunities.”
Stewart echoed sentiments expressed by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm at the IEA ministerial meeting this week, where she argued that measures to increase oil production to deal with surges in short-term prices did not necessarily have to come at the expense of the transition to green energy.
“It’s not either or either. It’s binary,” she said.
Lawmakers face mounting pressure to deal with exorbitant costs for Americans, as traders warn of $200 a barrel of oil. While the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline moderated this week, it is still $1.37 higher than a year ago, according to AAAamplifying calls for immediate action to bring relief.
It has created a political divide in the aisle, with lawmakers from both parties facing a potential backlash from voters looking to blame them for rising gas prices in the upcoming midterm elections. The Biden administration has accused oil companies of withholding production, pointing to the 9,000 unused drilling permits the government has granted for oil and gas production. While Republicans, including Stewart, have pointed the finger at the Biden administration’s climate policies, accusing the administration of stunting industry growth.
“[The administration] says that all this inflation, especially in energy, is due to Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine and of course that is nonsense. That’s not true,” Stewart said. “[Americans] learn about the steps the Biden administration has taken to contain and restrict U.S. oil and gas exploration and development. It’s been 15 months now. »
President Biden has contradicted these claims, saying industry pumped more oil into the United States in his first year in office than in Donald Trump’s first year in office. Biden also said the country is on track for record oil production next year.
“It’s just not true that my administration or my policies are holding back domestic energy production,” Biden said earlier this month, announcing a U.S. ban on Russian oil imports.
Stewart’s comments this week mark at least a softening of the rhetoric. It also underscores the delicate balance lawmakers must strike to address rising oil prices while acknowledging the growing impact of climate change.
A United Nations report last month warned that any delay in reducing carbon emissions would lead to catastrophic impacts, with climate-related disasters quadrupling, even if temperature increases were limited to a few tenths of a degree more.
“We will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all,” the report said.
Stewart touted his efforts at home to accelerate the transition to green energy, including developing green lighting for wind and solar farms on federal lands and securing millions of dollars in funding for geothermal research in the University of Utah.
“Having the cheapest fuel and energy possible is important to the American economy and the people,” Stewart said. “So I agree with the [Energy] Secretary… it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
Akiko Fujita is a presenter and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AkikoFujita
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