Topic A: Energy - Analysis, discussion & commentary on energy exploration, development and innovation
Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 19, 2014

New York Moves to Ban Fracking

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that the state will not lift its ban on fracking, National Journal reports.

“The long-awaited decision marks a decisive turn in the years-long battle over fracking in New York State. Energy companies are eager to unlock potentially vast reserves of natural gas in rock underlying the state in the Marcellus Shale. But environmentalists have put strong pressure on the Democratic governor to keep fracking out of the state.”

“The Democratic governor’s decision followed the release of a highly-anticipated health and environmental study on the impacts of fracking. The study, conducted by the Cuomo administration, concluded that while data is limited and risks surrounding fracking are not fully known, the potential adverse impacts appear significant enough for the Health Department to recommend that fracking should not be allowed.”

What Caused the Collapse in Oil Prices?

Wall Street Journal: “The sudden plunge in global crude oil prices from over $100 a barrel to under $65 has been portrayed as a showdown between Saudi Arabia and the U.S., two of the world’s biggest oil producers. But the reality is more complex, involving Libyan rebels and Indonesian cabdrivers as well as Texas roughnecks and Middle Eastern oil ministers. It reflects both the surging supply of crude and the crumbling demand for oil.”

Screen Shot 2014 12 12 at 2.34.52 PM 445x240 What Caused the Collapse in Oil Prices?

Will Cheap Oil Kill Keystone XL?

“Greens who want President Barack Obama to kill the Keystone XL pipeline are adding a new weapon to their arsenal of protests and lawsuits — the world’s glut of cheap oil,” Politico reports.

“The same collapse in oil prices that is pumping dollars into motorists’ wallets also risks undermining the case for building the 1,179-mile pipeline in two crucial ways: It’s squeezing the western Canadian oil industry that has looked to Keystone as its most promising route to the Gulf Coast. And anti-pipeline activists hope that falling prices will make it politically safer for Obama to reject the project, despite the new Republican Congress’ pledges to put Keystone at the top of its 2015 energy agenda.”

“The oil price is crucial to the Keystone debate because the latest State Department environmental study on the project says prices in the $65-to-$75 range are a potential danger zone for oil production in western Canada — the point where transportation costs driven higher by failing to build the pipeline could ‘have a substantial impact on’ the industry’s growth. Cheaper oil also makes it easier to blame Keystone for the greenhouse gases that the Canadian oil fields send into the atmosphere.”

Distributed Generation Like Solar Will Double By 2023

A new report by Navigant Research projects that distributed generation will roughly double in the next nine years.

Navigant 1 638x368 Distributed Generation Like Solar Will Double By 2023

Think Progress: “Distributed generation (DG) is the decentralized production of electricity by small-scale systems — most often in the form of rooftop solar, but it can include biomass, wind, and other forms of renewable power as well. Navigant Research’s analysis also included natural gas and diesel generators of 6 megawatts or less, along with solar arrays of one megawatt or less and small wind turbines of 500 kilowatts or less.”

“According to their forecast (unfortunately behind a paywall) the total capacity for DG installed around the world will grow from 87.3 gigawatts in 2014 to 165.5 gigawatts in 2023. Most of the growth is anticipated to come from the deployment of solar. Geographically, the biggest increase in the projection was in Western Europe, with North America and the Asian Pacific not too far behind.”

Climate Change Denial Turns Absurd

“For years, the fossil-fuel industries have been telling us that global warming is a hoax based on junk science,” Dana Millbank writes.

“But now these industries are floating an intriguing new argument: They’re admitting that human use of coal, oil and gas is causing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to rise — but they’re saying this is a good thing. We need more CO2 in our lives, not less.”

“This was some creative thinking, and it took a page from the gun lobby, which argues that the way to curb firearm violence is for more people to be armed.”

Congress: Spending Bill Might Streamline Oil and Gas Permits

The Casper Star-Tribune reports that “Congress approved a little-noticed provision aimed at streamlining oil and gas permits on federal land as part of a $585 billion defense spending bill on Friday.”

“The measure, which passed after lobbying from the oil industry, makes permanent a U.S. Bureau of Land Management pilot project intended to reduce the time needed to process oil and gas permits.”

“Under the plan, BLM will receive $18 million annually through 2026 to pay for additional staff in field offices receiving a high number of oil and gas drilling permits. The pilot project would have expired next year without the funding.”

Conversation: Canada’s MacPhail Energy School Training Consultant

Rigzone offers a Q&A with Canada’s MacPhail Energy School Training Consultant Abid Rashid.

The publication reports that “Abid Rashid works as a training consultant at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) Polytechnic’s MacPhail School of Energy (MSE) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He travelled to Asia for the Singapore International Energy Week conference recently. Rashid is also managing director/CEO of Calgary-based Sustainable Energy Strategies Ltd., a firm focused on developing and deploying sustainable energy technologies.”

“MSE indicated that it is Canada’s first school of energy and one of a handful of such schools in North America. Rashid provides his views on manpower and training matters facing the petroleum industry in an interview with Rigzone.”


Conference: Review of PA, WV Energy Future

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that “from generation to transmission to distribution to end use, the energy lost in the greater Pittsburgh area is enough to power Pennsylvania and West Virginia for more than a year.”

“Improving the region’s energy infrastructure was the topic of the “Energy for the Power of 32” conference held Thursday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. It brought together utility executives, policymakers, professors and environmentalists from the 32 counties surrounding Pittsburgh.”

“A main theme of the event was energy loss, which is almost as much in the region as that produced by coal. The region’s energy systems must be more efficient, speakers said.”

Research Report Shows U.S. Oil Output Steady

Bloomberg reports that “U.S. producers battling OPEC for market share may increase output further from the highest rate in more than three decades as costs decline almost as fast as oil prices, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.”

“The slump in benchmark U.S. crude futures, which are down more than 40 percent this year, is driving producers to move drill rigs to lower-cost fields, the bank said in an e-mailed report Monday. While there’s evidence of some rebalancing starting to occur in the market, that isn’t sufficient, it said.”

“A decision last month by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to maintain its output target prompted speculation that the group is willing to let crude slide to a level that would slow U.S. production. Smaller member-nations including Venezuela, which have called for action to support prices, may play a role in rebalancing the market, Goldman said.”

Oil-train Boom Funded in Part by U.S. Taxpayers

Reuters reports that “for the past 18 months, Americans from Albany to Oregon have voiced growing alarm over the rising number of oil-laden freight trains coursing through their cities, a trend they fear is endangering public safety.”

“In at least a handful of places, the public is also helping fund it.”

“States and the federal government have handed out tens of millions in public dollars to rail companies and government agencies to expand crude oil rail transportation across the country, a Reuters analysis has found.”

Commentary: Is U.S. Threatened by China’s ‘Quest for Energy Security’?

Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico, U.S. secretary of energy and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, writes in Foreign Policy: “While the United States and European Union strongly oppose Russia over its expansionist agenda in Ukraine, China has cautiously avoided having to take a side as the rhetoric became more and more heated. Russia’s increasingly fraught relationship with the West has strengthened China’s hand, allowing them to import cheaper gas from Russia, as evidenced by the deal struck on the sidelines of the recent APEC Summit. As the world’s second-largest economy and number one energy consumer, China is pursuing all possible avenues to ensure its energy security. As the international community isolated Moscow for its actions in Ukraine and its sheltering of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, the Chinese in May 2014 seized the opportunity to strike the $400 billion gas deal they had been negotiating for over a decade. This attitude is indicative of Beijing’s recent approaches to some of the world’s energy producing regions to secure energy supplies, sometimes in competition with American and Western interests.”

“But to better understand China’s foreign policy globally and in its near-abroad more specifically, one must take a closer look at its energy needs.”

IEA Cuts Oil Demand Outlook

Bloomberg reports that “any hope that global demand would provide a floor for oil’s freefall was dashed as the leading energy forecaster cut its outlook for the fourth time in five months and crude extended its tumble.”

“Oil dropped as much as 3.1 percent in New York after the International Energy Agency forecast weaker consumption next year and said supply from countries outside of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will rise faster than previously estimated.”

“This year’s 44 percent drop in crude has hurt the economies of oil-producing countries from Russia to Nigeria, reducing fuel demand. Brent crude is too low for 10 of OPEC’s 12 members to balance their budgets, yet not low enough for to force producers to scale back output. The U.S. is producing the most oil in three decades and OPEC members have pumped more than the group’s target level for each of the past six months.”

Update on “Flexible and Evolving Power Distribution Grid”

John P. Banks is a nonresident senior fellow in the Energy Security Initiative at Brookings writes: “As Brookings described in an earlier commentary, while it is certainly true that there is a confluence of trends threatening the existing the utility business model, several key developments and challenges demonstrate that a more flexible distribution grid is already emerging with utilities at the center.”

  • “First, the power grid in the United States is evolving to meet three critical needs.”
  • “Second, a multi-year integrated grid vision is critical for resource optimization.”
  • “Third, the states are leading the policy and regulatory discussion shaping the future of the electric distribution grid.”
  • “Fourth, a critical element for realizing the future flexible and more distributed power grid is getting the pricing right.”
  • “Fifth, the development of a flexible distribution grid will not be possible without technology and innovation.”

U.S., Canada Transport Heads to Meet on Oil Train Safety

Reuters reports that “top transportation officials from Canada and the United States are due to meet next week to hash out differences about safety regulations for trains that carry oil, sources familiar with the planned meeting said Thursday.”

“Both governments are drafting safety rules for trains that move fuel from North Dakota’s Bakken energy patch to refineries.”

Surge in U.S. Solar: Generation Up 100% in 2014

Solar Energy Industries Association’s latest report shows that “the U.S. installed 1,354 MW of solar PV in Q3 2014, up 41% over Q3 2013, making it the second-largest quarter for solar installations in the history of the market.”

“What’s more, solar now consistently accounts for a significant share of new electric generating capacity in the U.S. So far this year, solar represents 36% of new generating capacity in the U.S., second only to natural gas.”

1 1 NewUSGeneratingCapacitybyFuelType Surge in U.S. Solar: Generation Up 100% in 2014

“The growth has come primarily from two segments: residential and utility scale. Both segments are up substantially in 2014, and we anticipate continued strength through the next two years.”

CNBC reports that overall, “the amount of electricity generated by U.S. utility-scale solar photovoltaic power plants is up more than 100 percent in 2014 over the same period in 2013, thanks to big projects, many of them highly productive, that have been coming online.”

“With continued growth and adding in commercial and residential PV as well as concentrating solar power, solar electricity could easily account for 1 percent of U.S. generation by the end of this year.”

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