The Republicans took control of the Senate in rousing fashion Tuesday evening, and that is good news for fossil fuel interests. Even without a veto-proof majority, here’s what to expect from a redder Senate.
One of the first things Republicans will do is push for a vote on the Keystone XL, the controversial 1,660-mile pipeline that runs from Alberta, Canada, to Texas, and which for the past six years has been at the center of a fight between environmentalists and big businesses. President Obama understands how important the issue is to his green base, but will be under increased pressure to authorize Keystone from Republicans who will dare him to veto it.
With U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski is expected to chair the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the debate over oil exports will take center stage. Big oil is pushing for the ban on oil exports — a legacy of the Arab oil embargoes of the 1970s — to be lifted amid a boom in domestic production. It would seem a no-brainer for a party that is known for free markets and a passion for drilling. But not all Republicans are for lifting the ban, with some expressing fears that it could lead to higher gas prices.
Drill baby, drill
Environmentalists are fearful that the Republican-majority will ramp up pressure to expand offshore and onshore drilling in the name of energy independence. Again, Murkowski could take the lead here, and target drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Outer Continental Shelf.
President Obama has so far managed to push his environmental agenda — be that climate change or cleaner air — with Environmental Protection Agency regulations that largely bypassed Congress. The Republican majority can be expected to go after everything from the EPA’s plans to cut power plant emissions to strengthening the ozone standards, possibly by blocking funds to develop or implement the rules, or by attaching riders to appropriations bills that would limit the power of the EPA.