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What McConnell's exit means for energy

Senators Barrasso, Thune, McConnell, Cornyn

Barrasso, Thune, McConnell and Cornyn in 2018. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Mitch McConnell's leaving. Brace yourself for the "war of the Johns."

Why it matters: The Senate Republican leader race could shape future energy and climate policy in Congress for years — maybe decades.

Driving the news: McConnell's most likely successor: John Thune, John Barrasso or John Cornyn.

Between the lines: Each candidate recites GOP boilerplate on energy issues — "all of the above" with a dash of renewables bashing. But a few factoids stand out.

  • Thune's state of South Dakota is a big ethanol producer but also has a burgeoning wind and hydropower contingent.
  • He's also a biofuels backer and has teamed up with Democrats to try to shape the rollout of the IRA's sustainable aviation fuel credit.

Then there's Barrasso of Wyoming, a coal and nuclear state. He is perhaps most experienced on our issues as a former EPW chair and current ranking member on ENR.

  • He's got a soft spot for the 45Q carbon capture tax credit and has helped lead the fight to get uranium import restrictions into law.
  • He's a fierce partisan but no stranger to bipartisan deals. As EPW chair, he struck a deal with Tom Carper on legislation to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons.

John Cornyn is more of a wild card. There's no doubt he's an oil and gas guy, but he's also joined bipartisan efforts to bolster hydrogen.

  • Interesting tidbit: Cornyn's working with Chris Coons to fix a budgetary issue holding back overseas investments in a minerals supply chain to counter China.

Here's a good ideological proxy: All three voted against the bipartisan infrastructure law — a bill that McConnell championed.

Flashback: McConnell helped kill cap-and-trade as minority leader and led the GOP's vociferous opposition to Obama-era climate rules.

  • He was generally a trendsetter over his term in leadership in how the GOP messaged through the decline of coal.

Our thought bubble: We might see even more of a vocal emphasis on energy policy from the likes of Barrasso, Thune or Cornyn.

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