Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 31, 2014

October 31, 2014

Mark Your Calendars: CQ Roll Call’s Post Election Impact Conference Next Week

Want to know the impact of the elections on the 114th Congress? Check out CQ Roll Call’s Post Election Impact Conference on Nov. 6. It will be held at the Liason Capitol Hill. See below for more info and a code for 20 percent off your registration fee.

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CQ Roll Call’s Post Election Impact Conference is next week!  Here are 3 reasons you shouldn’t miss it:

  • Frontline perspective from our keynotes and sessions, including our newest keynote panel with Rob Collins, Executive Director, NRSC and Guy Cecil, Executive Director DSCC
  • Behind-the-scenes revelations into what happened, what’s next and what’s on the horizon for the 114th Congress
  • “You-won’t-hear-it-anywhere-else” insight from our panelists and speakers.  View our newest speakers - including Gov. John Engler, President of the Business Roundtable.

Don’t miss all the insight, perspective and networking next week at CQ Roll Call’s Post Election Impact Conference!

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Register today to secure your spot! Use code SUB2014 to receive 20 percent off!

Register now!

Republican Rhetoric Might Be Shifting On Climate Change

Boehner 19 011614 240x159 Republican Rhetoric Might Be Shifting On Climate Change

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, during his weekly on-camera press briefing in the U.S. Capitol. (Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

If you follow the political debate around climate change, you may have noticed that some Republicans have started to soften their rhetorical stance on the causes, impact and solutions to fighting global warming. Lately on the campaign trail, when asked their thoughts on the subject, some have simply replied: “I’m not a scientist.”

It’s a curious retort and one that seems to reflect a desire among at least some members of the party to oppose the policy responses favored by Democrats, yet not be seen as climate change deniers. In an article published by the New York Times, Republican energy lobbyist Michael McKenna colorfully referred to the new talking point as “the dumbest answer I’ve ever heard.” McKenna, who has advised House Republicans on energy strategy, added: “Using that logic would disqualify politicians from voting on anything. Most politicians aren’t scientists, but they vote on science policy. They have opinions on Ebola, but they’re not epidemiologists. They shape highway and infrastructure laws, but they’re not engineers.”

So why the change of heart?

Polls consistently show that not only do a majority of American voters believe in climate change, they also support government action to combat it. For instance, a USA Today/Stanford poll conducted last year found that 71 percent of respondents believe we’ve already begun feeling the effects of climate change and 55 percent support limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The “I’m not a scientist” line most likely reflects this new political reality.

October 30, 2014

U.S. Demand For Diesel Fuel Expected to Drop After 2015

WR000222.04 240x157 U.S. Demand For Diesel Fuel Expected to Drop After 2015

Truckers line up in front of the U.S. Capitol to protest high diesel fuel prices. CQ photo by Douglas Graham

It looks as if T. Boone Pickens dreams of kicking diesel to the curb may be coming true. According to a new report developed by the PIRA Energy Group and commissioned by the Fuels Institute, demand for diesel fuels will begin declining in 2016. The United States is expected to go from using a near term peak of 4 million barrels per day to 3.5 million by 2030 (a 12.5 percent drop).

So what exactly is the cause for this is expected drop in demand? Greater vehicle efficiencies, combined with growing use of natural gas in heavy-duty vehicles is driving the decrease in diesel usage.

It should be noted, however, that diesel usage in light-duty vehicles is expected to increase, along with global demand from newly-industrialized markets. But these increases will be offset by the shifting demand from heavy-duty vehicles, with domestic diesel usage for heavy-duty vehicles expected to go from nearly 2.6 million barrels per day today to 1.8 barrels per day by 2030.

By Clyde McGrady Posted at 3:32 p.m.
Uncategorized

Moniz Talks ‘War on Coal’ and Energy Investment

moniz 475 240x243 Moniz Talks War on Coal and Energy Investment

Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz. (energy.gov)

 

Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz was on hand to discuss energy policy on day two of the Ideas Forum hosted by the Aspen Institute and the Atlantic. He was asked a range of questions from his thoughts on tax reform to what’s necessary to get better energy infrastructure investment in the United States.

But first, almost immediately after taking his seat, Moniz was asked “What’s the harm in doing Keystone?” And almost just as immediately he deferred to Secretary of State John Kerry, who was the previous guest on stage, and whose State Department has jurisdiction over construction of the pipeline.

Only 30 seconds in and we had our first artful dodge.

Next, the moderator turned to tax reform and how it would affect the incentives for energy investment embedded in the current tax code. Specifically he wanted to know “Is there a cost to not using tax credits and tax policy as an incentive for behavior?”  Moniz expressed his support for energy tax credits, particularly the ones involving renewable energy. “We need to extend those renewable tax credits and do it in a way where there is predictably on all sides.” He added that without predictability it’s difficult for both firms and customers to make sound financial decisions.

When the topic turned to energy infrastructure investment, Moniz stressed that there was no issue with the current level of investment. However, the direction of investment dollars should be shifted. He specifically noted the lack of natural gas in New England, propane in the midwest, or the fact the we are using rail to transport oil.

Finally, when asked about Republican charges of a “War on Coal.” He reiterated that he takes an “all of the above” approach to energy policy before adding: “Make no bones about it. There is a fundamental commitment, it starts with the president, on moving toward a low carbon future.”

October 29, 2014

T. Boone Pickens Defends Energy Industry, Fracking

pickens 03 072208 240x184 T. Boone Pickens Defends Energy Industry, Fracking

T. Boone Pickens, founder and CEO of BP Capital Management, arrives for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on “Energy Security: An American Imperative.” Copyright © 2008 Roll Call Photos

Today, during an interview at the Washington Ideas Forum, billionaire oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens was in a playful mood as he discussed energy policy, ranging from oil imports to fracking.

After cracking several jokes about his age, the 86-year-old chairman of BP Capital Management was asked if the U.S. had anything to worry about given the fall of U.S. oil imports, the decrease in oil prices and the cresting of OPEC’s power.

“It’s good news. Remember OPEC peaked. We imported from OPEC over 7 million barrels [per day]. Today, 3.2 [million per day]… No, I don’t see anything to be worried about as to what’s taken place. We are regaining our independence is what it is.”

When pressed on whether the U.S. should be concerned about the effects of low oil prices on the production of non-oil fuels like natural gas, he dismissed the fear as a “high class problem.” He then added that the only way to have an input on gasoline prices is to introduce a new fuel option. He believes that natural gas will replace gasoline and  diesel though he would like it to happen on a faster timetable. Pickens then said that if he can get natural gas into 18-wheelers he can wipe out OPEC, referring to the cartel as “the worst thing to happen to our country” and that while right now, we only import 3.2 million bpd, we are using twice as much oil everyday as the second largest consumer, China.

He then lamented the lack of leadership around energy policy in Washington and called for a North American energy alliance between the U.S., Canada and Mexico that could tell the rest of the world to “forget it, we have independence in North America. That’s it.”

Pickens also had some thoughts on the role his industry plays in the American economy.

“The natural gas and oil industry in the United States has done an unbelievable job for America,” he said. After loud enthusiastic clapping from one man several rows below me, he added “They didn’t do it for America. I can tell ya that.” The room erupted in laughter… “You’re out there because you’re trying to make money is what you’re trying to do. Now is that good for America? Of course it is, because of jobs and taxes. But in the mean time, what’d it do for America? It got our independence from OPEC.”

The topic then turned to fracking.

Pickens was unequivocal. “I’d like to dismiss this in 30 seconds. There’s not a problem with fracking.” He then said opponents could not think of one instance of fracking damaging anything.  He also accused fracking opponents of being global warming hypers merely spoiling for a fight. This claim did not go over so well with the audience.

The moderator quickly moved on to another subject.

 

NRC Reinstates Nuclear Licensing Program

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has resumed issuing license renewals for nuclear power plants, ending its two-year hiatus.

Initial licenses are issued by NRC to commercial power plants for up to 40 years. Owners are then offered the option to renew their licenses every 20 years following this initial period. Renewal is based on several factors including compliance with NRC regulations, particularly waste confidence, which is the ability of a nuclear facility to safely manage and dispose of its waste.

In 2011, the waste depository program at Yucca Mountain in Nevada was terminated. Then, in June 2012, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down certain provisions of NRC’s Waste Confidence Rule, specifically stating that “NRC should have analyzed the environmental consequences of never building a permanent waste repository.” As a result of the ruling, NRC suspended its licensing program altogether even though plants continued submitting requests for renewal.

More than two years later, on Sept. 18, NRC issued a revised Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel rule, paving the way for revival of its licensing program.

NRC is currently reviewing the applications of 17 nuclear reactors, including plants whose initial licenses expired during the hiatus. (NRC rules allow for continued operation of plants, while it completes a review, as long as the application is submitted five years prior to expiration.)

 

 

October 28, 2014

Southern Company Purchases Solar Facility in California

20097 0 240x159 Southern Company Purchases Solar Facility in California

Tubes used to boil water in a conventional steam-turbine generator to produce electricity. by Dennis Schroeder. (www.energy.gov)

Southern Company recently announced that its subsidiary, Southern Power, has acquired a 150 megawatt Solar Gen 2 solar facility from First Solar Inc. in California. It is now the largest facility in Southern Company’s portfolio and is expected to power 60,000 homes.

Construction of the project began in 2013 and will likely be completed sometime before the end of the year. While Southern Company does own the facility, First Solar is expected to operate it.

California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard program requires electric service providers, among other utilities, to “increase procurement from eligible renewable energy resources to 33 percent of retail sales by the end of 2020.” With this purchase, the company is looking to meet that goal.

 

New Regs Unpopular With Likely Voters

dw110630 air024 240x175 New Regs Unpopular With Likely Voters

Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/CQ)

A new survey out by the Partnership for a Better Energy Future highlights the potential political fallout from the administration of EPA’s new greenhouse gas regulations. According to the group, which is a coalition of trade associations, a plurality of voters (47 percent) oppose the new regulations. Almost half of respondents said “they are not willing to pay a single dollar more in their energy bill to accommodate the new EPA regulations.” Additionally (and of great interest to politicians), 40 percent of respondents said that they were “less likely to cast their vote for a candidate that supports EPA’s Clean Power Plan.”

The poll was conducted by Paragon Insights and surveyed 1,340 likely voters nationwide. However, it oversampled in what it deems key states: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia.

The poll comes on the heels of continued congressional pushback on EPAs proposed electricity regulations and the skepticism of the agency’s Regulatory Impact Assessment. And as energy policy plays an increasingly large role in campaign politics it will be interesting to see how much credence lawmakers give to the findings in this survey.

By Clyde McGrady Posted at 1:02 p.m.
Uncategorized

October 27, 2014

Union Leader Outraged Over Pipeline Opposition

warren 097 05014141 240x159 Union Leader Outraged Over Pipeline Opposition

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass

Houston-based energy company, Kinder Morgan is looking to build a natural gas pipeline that will run through northern Massachusetts but first it needs federal approval. The company, through its subsidiary, Tennessee Gas Co., has already filed a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The company hopes that by filing they can identify any potential environmental problems associated with construction of the pipeline.

However, Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren recently announced their plans to potentially block the pipeline by pressuring federal energy regulators.

Today, Terry O’Sullivan, General President of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), shot back, issuing a statement. O’Sullivan, to put it mildly, was not very happy with the Massachusetts Democrats:

The Senators’ comments are a vulgar attempt to politicize our nation’s energy regulatory agencies. These agencies should be left alone to do their work based on facts and analysis, not pressure politics.  Their comments are especially disconcerting when too many working people lack affordable fuels, our armed services are in harms-way due in part to our historical lack of energy independence, and at a time of growing concern over climate change – all of which the Tennessee Gas Co. line will do its part to help address.

The pipeline has faced intense opposition from citizens in Massachusetts. Environmental activists are lining up legal experts to challenge the proposal. O’Sullivan later added that those opposing are “environmental extremists” and that the pipeline is a “lifeline to good family-supporting careers.”

By Clyde McGrady Posted at 6:38 p.m.
Uncategorized

The Week Ahead: Natural Gas & Clean Coal in China

Here’s what’s on tap for the week.

Tuesday

NRG President and CEO David Crane, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz, and BP Capital Management Chairman T. Boone Pickens will be speaking at the Aspen Ideas Forum hosted by the Atlantic along with the Aspen Institute. The event will take place over two days at the Harman Center for the Arts.

Kevin C. Ramnarine, minister of Energy & Energy Affairs for Trinidad and Tobago, will take part in a discussion hosted by the Natural Gas Roundtable. The discussion will center on natural gas and energy security in Trinidad and Tobago and the Americas and will be held at the University Club.

The Brookings Institute will host the International Energy Agency’s Chief Economist Fatih Birol for the U.S. launch of the IEA’s Africa Energy Outlook report.

The U.S. Energy Association will host a forum that looks at clean coal in China featuring Dr. Ren Xiangkun. Ren will discuss clean coal technology being developed by his company.

Wednesday

The Florida Chapter of the Air and Waste Management Association will hold a forum at its annual conference in Jacksonville on Wednesday and Thursday.  The panel will discuss guidelines for CO2 emissions from existing utility units.

Thursday

The U.S. Energy Association will host a forum on subsurface technology and engineering for energy applications such as oil and gas, carbon storage, geothermal and waste disposal.

Hans Bruyninckx, the executive director of the European Environment Agency, will discuss Europe’s 2050 agenda and event put on by the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program.

Friday

The Wilson Center will host a panel discussion that examines the economic and political impact of low oil prices on countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Nigeria and Venezuela.

October 24, 2014

ICYMI: Wastebooks, Oil Bans & Energy Politics

 

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Attendees of a rally for American coal jobs held by the Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security, bow their heads in prayer in Upper Senate Park.  (Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call via Getty Images)

  • Earlier this week, retiring Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., released his final Wastebook, an annual report that targets government funded projects he views as indulgent and wasteful. The senator’s scorn was aimed at several projects related to energy and environment, including money for beer farms, international coal shipments and “poop paks.”
  • Energy and environment issues are playing increasingly larger roles in many 2014 senate campaigns. As control of the Senate hangs in the balance, both parties are ramping up spending for energy ads in Kentucky, Louisiana, Arkansas, Colorado, Alaska, West Virginia and Michigan. Ad content ranges from pro-coal and pro-oil to green energy and climate change. Electric automobile manufacturer, Tesla Motors, suffered a setback as Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a bill that forbids automakers from making direct car sales outside the franchise dealership network.
  • The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science has a new study out that surveys the potential damage wind farms inflict on marine life. Calls for lifting the ban on American crude oil exports are growing louder as proponents have found a new argument: lifting the ban could be detrimental to Russia’s economy, thus giving the United States a foreign policy “win.” 

Market Demand For Frac Sand On The Rise

As fracking continues to grow in popularity, so to has the demand for one of the most important elements involved in the process: Proppant. Yes, according to a ProppantIQ report released by PacWest Partners, demand in the North American market for proppant is expected to grow by 23 percent per year through 2016. This growth is largely a factor of increasing demand for frac sand, a popular proppant.

Although demand is on the rise, customers should expect higher prices as supply has not kept up. Supply growth, while strong, is only expected to increase by 18 percent in capacity per year.

October 23, 2014

Offshore Wind Farms Pose Threat To Marine Wildlife

Offshore wind turbines might pose a hazard to the birds that fly into them, but marine mammals bear most of the risk during their construction, according to a recent study from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

The recently released paper doesn’t offer solutions for mitigating the environmental damage caused by turbine installation, but it does make recommendations for “future monitoring and assessment” of potential consequences.

Scientists have been watching the turbines’ possible danger for birds, but according to the study, mammals like harbor seals and porpoises may also face risks. ”The loud sounds emitted during pile driving could potentially cause hearing damage, mask communication or disorient animals and fish as they move out of the area to avoid the noise,” the study says.

The researchers found that there are very few studies examining how marine wildlife responds to wind farm construction and operation, and none that measure the long-term effects of the farms — largely because U.S. wind power operations are in their nascent stages.

Among their recommendations, the Maryland researchers call for targeted data collection and better scientific modeling. This fall, the Maryland Energy Administration’s Offshore Wind Development Fund and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will fund a study that measures noise pollution. Over the course of two years researchers will place underwater microphones off the coast of Maryland and record marine mammals. Their goal is to better understand their habits and inform any future planning of wind farms with the new data.

By Clyde McGrady Posted at 5:25 p.m.
Uncategorized

Another State Deals A Blow To Tesla’s Business Model

dw0904211081 240x159 Another State Deals A Blow To Teslas Business Model

A view of the 2009 Tesla Roadster plug, during a show of various company’s models of hybrid, alternative fuel and electric vehicles outside the Russell Senate Office Building, in anticipation of the April 22 celebration of Earth Day. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly)

Tesla Motors lost a crucial legislative battle in Michigan on Tuesday when Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bipartisan bill that would prevent the electric vehicle manufacturer from selling its cars outside of a dealership network. It is already illegal to make direct sales of any new automobile but the new law, supported by General Motors, will explicitly require manufacturers to sell through auto franchises.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder, has been fighting to sell his cars directly to consumers but so far more than half of all states have laws on the books similar to Michigan’s that protect their automobile franchises from direct sales competition. The California-based company has been selling its cars through galleries in 23 states, mainly along the east and west coasts. And in the states where they can’t sell directly, they take orders online.

Snyder, a governor known for his championing of entrepreneurship, drew charges of hypocrisy and took criticism from several quarters, including from supporter and Detroit billionaire, Dan Gilbert. Gilbert decried the role lobbying played in the decision and added, “To me you have to have a philosophy and you have to stick to it and you can’t let your personal circumstances compromise that.”

Adam Jonas, auto analyst with Morgan Stanley, thinks that this is just the beginning and that a broader debate on the national level is due. In a client note mentioned in the Detroit Free Press, Jonas wrote, “As Tesla grows in significance and expands its sales network, we expect more debate at the Federal level on the double standard in the application of dealer franchise laws. It’s only a matter of time before something gives. We expect that in the next two to three years, this could likely mushroom into a national issue. We believe these laws exist to support the weakest link in the network.”

October 22, 2014

Energy Ads Intensify As Senate Campaigns Heat Up

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Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., right, answers questions from the local media during her event to exchange endorsements with Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., left, in Baton Rouge, La., surrounded by local elected officials on Sept. 22, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

With just under two weeks until an election in which control of the U.S. Senate is up for grabs, campaign ads are starting to intensify — in volume and rhetoric — in several key battleground states (Louisiana, Alaska, West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Colorado and Michigan). Somewhat surprisingly, energy and environment are the third most mentioned issue in Senate races this cycle (surprising since it barely registered during the 2012 presidential campaign). Some are running because the states they air in are significant energy producers. Others are running in states that feature environmentally conscious electorates.

The ads tend to focus on coal, oil, green energy and climate change. It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that West Virginia and Kentucky are leading the way in coal-related ads with both states featuring pro-coal positions in 87 percent of their energy-related ads. Also unsurprisingly, 39 percent of Iowa’s energy ads are anti-oil while 40 percent focus on green energy (likely, due to ethanol).

It’s also notable that both Democrats and Republicans are finding politically advantageous ways to deploy these energy ads. For instance, in blue states, Democrats are attacking Republicans for denying climate change and accepting money from the Koch brothers. And in red states, Republicans look to tie President Obama’s new environmental regulations around the necks of their opponents.

 

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