Updated Mar 21, 2024 - Energy & Environment

IEA takes heat as GOP alleges shift from energy security

Illustration of oil rigs fading away.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Senior Capitol Hill Republicans are pressing the International Energy Agency for information on its analytical decisions, accusing the multilateral body of straying from its energy security mission.

Why it matters: The GOP move elevates criticism from some experts that IEA is making unrealistically rosy assumptions about the global transition away from fossil fuels.

  • This has real-world stakes. The agency's work is constantly cited by policymakers, academics, journalists and civil society groups.

State of play: House energy committee chair Cathy McMorris-Rodgers and Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy panel, allege the body "no longer provides policymakers with balanced assessments."

  • Their new letter says the IEA — founded 50 years ago in response to oil shocks — is now "undermining energy security by discouraging sufficient investment in energy supplies."

Catch up quick: It closely echoes concerns among some oil experts about the agency's posture.

Friction point: One key part of the letter probes models underpinning IEA's long-term outlooks of energy trends.

  • It sees global oil and gas use peaking this decade under nations' combined "stated" policies.
  • But critics say that even this, currently the organization's most cautious long-term scenario, puts too much faith in aspirational national efforts.

Zoom in: The lawmakers want info on why IEA, several years ago, ditched its "current policies" scenario, which they call a more neutral reference case.

  • It notes David Turk, a top Energy Department official, cited IEA's fossil demand projection when defending the recent decision to pause new LNG export approvals to major markets.

The other side: The agency says it remains deeply focused on security and has defended its analytical rigor.

  • "Based on the mandates we have received from our member governments, the IEA is focused on helping countries in their efforts to maintain energy security and accelerate clean energy transitions," it said in a statement Thursday.
  • IEA adds that it attaches "great importance" to dialogue with Congress, noting the agency regularly participates in hearings to provide testimony on a range of topics.

This story has been updated with comments from the International Energy Agency.

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