A second Trump presidency would undermine IEA’s green focus, advisers say

A second Trump presidency would undermine IEA’s green focus, advisers say
A second Trump presidency would undermine IEA’s green focus, advisers say

If he wins the US presidential election, Donald Trump will likely push to replace the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) so that the energy watchdog returns its focus to maximizing fossil fuel production rather than tackling climate change, according to people familiar with the matter.

The IEA, headquartered in Paris, has for more than half a century provided research and data to governments of industrialized countries to help guide their policies on energy security, supply and investment. The United States provides about a quarter of the IEA’s funding.

In recent years, the organization has broadened its focus beyond oil and gas supply to include clean energy, as member governments seek to help achieve their goals under the Paris climate agreement and accelerate the transition away from dependence on fossil fuels.

This shift has accelerated during President Joe Biden’s term, resulting in energy policy prescriptions that have angered global oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, and come into conflict with Mr. Trump’s self-described “drill, baby, drill” energy agenda aimed at boosting traditional oil and gas industries.

Reuters spoke to five people familiar with Mr. Trump’s ideas on energy, including donors, policy experts and former Trump administration officials, all of whom said Mr. Trump’s predecessor. Biden would likely pressure the IEA to align with his pro-fossil fuel policies if re-elected in November.

Mr. Trump’s campaign declined requests for comment on the matter. Mr. Trump has not spoken publicly about the IEA.

Members of the Heritage Foundation, an organization that has written a policy blueprint for a new Republican administration and is in regular contact with Mr. Trump’s campaign, said they were suggesting that the United States use its influence within of the agency to push for the replacement of IEA director Fatih Birol.

“The United States should certainly develop a strategy to replace the leadership of the IEA,” said Mario Loyola, a senior fellow at Heritage, attacking what he calls Mr. Birol’s emphasis on “fairy tales of the zero objective” while “the demand for fossil fuels continues to increase”.

Mr. Birol declined to comment for this article.

The IEA’s director is elected by member states, but the United States wields considerable influence within the group due to its funding and geopolitical clout. The other 30 members of the IEA are primarily European, but also include Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and South Korea.

If Mr. Trump pushed the IEA to re-emphasize fossil fuels in the global energy mix, he would run counter to the stated position and energy policies of the EU and other major members of the OUCH.

A new Trump administration would prioritize other energy policy measures, such as reversing the Biden administration’s pause on liquefied natural gas export licenses, expanding domestic drilling, or withdrawing states -United by the Paris climate agreement, said Heritage Fellow Mike McKenna, a former Trump energy policy adviser who is in touch with the campaign.

“I think it could be a goal of a change in direction at the IEA in year two,” he said.

Mr. Trump considered cutting U.S. funding for the IEA during his presidency but chose to maintain it, in part because of its relatively low price, Dave Banks, special assistant for energy, told Reuters and the environment at the National Security Council when Mr. Trump was president.

The United States pays about $6 million a year in contributions to the IEA.

But things could change if he is re-elected.

“There is a sense among Republicans that the IEA is actually European-led and favors European views on energy security, which aligns with Democrats’ priorities,” Banks said.

THE TRUTH ABOUT CLIMATE

Since his appointment in 2015 as director of the IEA, Mr. Birol has pushed the agency to place the fight against climate change at the heart of its analyses. The agency predicts that oil demand will peak at the end of this decade.

In 2021, shortly after President Joe Biden took office, the IEA released a report saying it was necessary to quickly end new investments in drilling globally if countries wanted to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as provided for in the Paris Agreement.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which includes Saudi Arabia and other major oil producers, has repeatedly opposed the IEA since then, accusing it last year of vilify oil producers.

Mr. Birol worked for OPEC at its headquarters in Vienna in the early 1990s.

Mr Birol’s green shift has led US Republican lawmakers to accuse the IEA of aligning too closely with the Biden administration’s policy agenda, with two leading Republican lawmakers saying in March that the agency was was transformed into a “cheerleader of the energy transition”.

John Kerry, who served as Mr Biden’s top climate envoy until March, told Reuters just before leaving his post that the Biden administration was “working closely with the IEA”, relying on its modeling and analysis to develop some of its key policies aimed at decarbonizing the U.S. economy by 2050.

Mr Kerry refuted the claim that the IEA had an ideological bias towards green causes.

“Because of the climate crisis and the leadership of the IEA, the IEA is really striving to become the voice of truth on the climate challenge,” Mr. Kerry told Reuters in March.

The IEA has defended its analyzes as independent and fact-based.

The IEA’s scenarios are the result of an independent and detailed analytical effort, based on the most recent data on markets, policies and technology costs, Mr. Birol said in a letter sent in April in response to Republican lawmakers.

However, if Mr. Trump were re-elected to the presidency, the agency would come under pressure to return to its original focus on oil and gas supply issues.

“I strongly expect that, if President Trump wins, the United States will use its influence within the IEA, working with like-minded members like Japan, to give back to the agency its past role as an objective, apolitical security watchdog and energy analysis and forecasting agency,” said Bob McNally, president of consulting firm Rapidan Energy.

Dan Eberhart, a Trump campaign donor and CEO of drilling company Canary in Colorado, said it’s all about perspective.

“Mr. Trump’s priority has always been America’s energy security,” he said. “To the extent that the IEA’s work discourages necessary investments in traditional energy development, Mr. Trump will view this as a risk to the economy and security of the United States. (Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; reporting additional by Noah Browning in London, Nichola Groom in Los Angeles and Alexandra Ulmer in San Francisco; editorial by Deepa Babington)

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