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October 31, 2014

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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.

October 29, 2014

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

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.

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.

The Week Ahead: Natural Gas & Clean Coal in China

Here’s what’s on tap for the week.


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.


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.


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.


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.” 

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.

October 17, 2014

ICYMI: Oil Slides, CO2 Talk & Yucca Echoes

Down, down, down was the way oil looked this week, with the global benchmark Brent crude dropping 27 percent from July before rebounding slightly Thursday. Full story

September 19, 2014

UC Board of Regents Votes to Approve New Sustainable Investment Framework

The sustainable investment movement gained more momentum after the University of California’s Board of Regents voted Wednesday to approve a new framework – Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) – for its investments. Full story

Coal Politics & Shifting Loyalties in the Mountain State

National Review has a story up that looks (with glee) at the shifting party allegiance in West Virginia. Once a reliably blue state, West Virginia has been supporting Republicans in recent elections. Of course, this all comes down to one issue: coal. Full story

September 10, 2014

Oil and Gas Disputes Central to Scotland’s Independence Move

455146348 445x295 Oil and Gas Disputes Central to Scotland’s Independence Move

Protesters on both sides of the Scotish referendum in Glasgow Wednesday.
(Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Next week Scottish voters will determine if they will cut ties from England, a move motivated in part by a desire to claim a larger share of energy revenue but which could have ramifications for oil and gas companies operating there as well as global markets. Full story

July 14, 2014

Welcome to Energy Xtra

leonard016 070214 240x165 Welcome to Energy XtraWelcome to Energy Xtra, the fifth Policy Pulse blog from CQ Roll Call, where we’ll be covering the all-of-the-above energy debates on renewable generation, efficiency, electric reliability, infrastructure, nuclear developments, coal technology and implications of the ongoing oil and gas boom.

We’ll bring you keen insight from Capitol Hill by our CQ Roll Call energy team and delve into some of the less-covered debates that retain broad implications for those of you in hometowns far from the D.C. beltway.

A word about me: I’ve been covering energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill for the better part of a year and have written energy stories for The New York Times, National Geographic, The Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch.

I have a degree in geology and a background as an environmental consultant conducting investigations at fuel sites owned by big oil. Raised on a mountaintop in California, I visited every state in the Union by the age of 18 and have lived in New York City and Chicago.

(CQ Roll Call’s other Policy Pulse blogs are: Technocrat, for the tech and telecom community; Five by Five, which covers the defense industry and national security; The Container, on all things transportation; and Healthopolis, a forum for health policy news.)

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