Energy

Dems Continue Anti-Fossil Fuel Crusade As Coronavirus Lockdowns Batter Big Oil, Knock Crude Prices To Single Digits

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Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are among a handful of Democratic lawmakers pushing and prodding regulators to wallop natural gas producers as lockdowns batter the oil and gas industry.

Omar and Tlaib signed a letter Wednesday to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee asking for a moratorium on natural gas-pipeline projects and gas export portals. Such projects pose a danger to the environment and public health, they said.

“There are numerous reports of construction crews nationwide working without proper personal protective equipment and new construction will subject thousands of workers and their families to continuing danger,” they wrote.

Reps. Jamie Raskin of Maryland and James McGovern of Massachusetts contributed to the letter alongside Omar, a Minnesota Democrat and opponent of the oil industry. She expressed support for the ill-fated Green New Deal, which sought to permanently phase the United States off fossil fuels in 2019.

Their letter also suggested that moving ahead with such projects will prevent the public from engaging in a review process. (RELATED: Green New Deal Dems Toss Their Support Behind Report Pushing To Fast-Track Population Control)

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 09: House Oversight and Reform Committee member Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) attends a hearing about the 2020 census in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill January 09, 2020 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony about 'hard-to-reach' communities and how the federal government could work to gather better census data from under-reported groups like Asian Americans, Native Americans, African Americans and recent immigrants. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

House Oversight and Reform Committee member Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“Continuing with business-as-usual during this crisis when so many Americans are unable to participate in the review process will cast a dark cloud over the integrity and results of your proceedings,” they wrote.

FERC is the independent agency responsible for regulating the country’s gas pipelines. Natural gas producers are facing a one-two punch: Mitigation efforts designed to slow coronavirus and an increase in output are creating a gas glut domestically and globally.

Export terminals built over the past several years helped pack the global market to the gills with natural gas, which is used to heat homes and is selling at historically low prices from the United States to China.

Many energy companies that specialize in extraction from shale and fracking are vulnerable because they are highly indebted. Many firms have $86 billion of debt coming due over the next four years, so any dip in oil or energy prices makes it difficult to pay down those debts.

Other Democratic lawmakers are setting their targets on the oil industry more generally. Sen. Ed Markey, for instance, and 39 other House and Senate colleagues sent a letter Wednesday to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin requesting stimulus funds not go to the fossil fuel industry.

“We call on you to ignore the pleas of big oil lobbyists, put consideration of this corporate bailout aside, and instead focus on supporting the workers and small businesses who truly need assistance due to the coronavirus public health emergency,” they wrote.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 100,000 people worldwide, led officials to shut down local economies. As a result, Americans are staying at home and leaving airplanes and cars idle in garages and hangers across the United States, traders and analysts said.

The price of Western Canadian Select, which is typically transported via pipeline, tumbled to a little over $8 a barrel on April 1, according to S&P Global Platts, while the price of West Texas Intermediate fell to just above $10 a barrel at the end of March.

Even worse, a firm that sells commodities reportedly bid less than $0 for Wyoming Asphalt Sour crude.

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