Topic A: Energy - Analysis, discussion & commentary on energy exploration, development and innovation
Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 23, 2014

NASA: Space Program Can Help Arctic Drillers

Rigzone reports that “as the oil and gas industry intensifies its exploration efforts in the Arctic, it could benefit from exploration of another kind – outer space, Dr. Omar Hatamleh, NASA’s assistant chief scientist, told attendees at the recent Houston Consular Forum in Houston, Texas.”

“The space program and drilling in extreme environments have some surprising similarities, Hatamleh said.”

“’What are the advantages of working with NASA? During the peak of the Apollo program in the 1960s, it took about 400,000 people from different industries, academia and the government to produce this great endeavor. That was a huge cost in personnel, and wouldn’t be allowed in today’s environment,’ Hatamleh said. ‘Experts estimate that by 2050, total energy demand is going to be about 80 percent higher. We need to put together our collective intellect to start thinking about better ways to attack these problems and move forward.’”

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Rise in U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The Guardian (UK) reports that “America’s energy-related carbon pollution rose 2.5% last year despite President Barack Obama’s efforts to fight climate change, according to new federal data.”

“The rise in emissions from burning coal, oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels was one of the steepest on record in the last 25 years, according to the Energy Information Administration’s Monthly Energy Review.”

“The increase in carbon pollution is a setback for Obama, who has been heavily promoting his progress in cutting America’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

Oklahoma State Senate Looks at Wind Tax Credits

The Associated Press reports that “a state Senate committee is taking a close look at some of the tax incentives and subsidies offered to help lure the burgeoning wind industry to Oklahoma.”

“The Senate Finance Committee heard testimony Tuesday from opponents and supporters of the industry, which has grown dramatically in Oklahoma over the last decade.”

“State tax officials estimate two main tax incentives offered to the industry are projected to cost the state about $300 million over the next four years.”

Oil And Gas Industry Backs Landrieu in Louisiana US Senate Race

Reuters reports that “oil and gas interests are pouring money into a tight U.S. Senate race in Louisiana, giving twice as much to the Senate campaign of incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu than her Republican challenger even though the industry backs the Republican push to regain control of the Senate.”

“Landrieu, chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, is struggling to fend off Republican Representative Bill Cassidy and Tea Party favorite Rob Maness on Nov. 4 in one of a handful of races that could determine which party holds a Senate majority.”

“As much as the industry wants to see Republicans wrest control of the Senate, it has a bigger fish to fry in the Louisiana race. Oil and gas interests want Landrieu to retain leadership of the energy panel and prevent another Democrat, Maria Cantwell, who backs an environmentalist agenda, from taking over the committee.”

GAO: Oil Exports Could Reduce Gas Prices at the Pump

Fuel Fix reports: “Ending the United States’ longstanding ban against most crude exports could lift oil prices inside the country while decreasing the cost of gasoline, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Monday.”

“The document — the first broad government analysis of proposed oil exports — dovetails with industry-backed studies predicting lower gasoline prices would result if repealing the export ban spurred more domestic crude production and helped lower world prices for the fossil fuel. Domestic gasoline prices tend to track the international Brent crude benchmark, rather than US. oil prices.”

“The GAO report — largely a digest of four existing studies and interviews with refiners, oil producers and other stakeholders — isn’t the silver bullet that export advocates want. They are waiting for a more definitive analysis from the government’s Energy Information Administration, expected later this year.”

Former U.S. Energy Deputy Secretary Joins Harvard as Senior Fellow

Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government announced that “Daniel Poneman, former Deputy Secretary of Energy, has joined Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs as a senior fellow.”"

Poneman was nominated by President Obama to be Deputy Secretary of Energy on April 20, 2009, and was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 18, 2009. Under the leadership of Secretaries of Energy Steven Chu and Ernest Moniz, Poneman also served as Chief Operating Officer of the Department. Between April 23, 2013, and May 21, 2013, Poneman served as Acting Secretary of Energy. He concluded his responsibilities as Deputy Secretary on October 3, following the longest tenure in that position in the Department’s history.”"

Poneman’s responsibilities spanned the full range of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, including fossil and nuclear energy, renewables and energy efficiency, and international cooperation around the world. He led 2009 negotiations to address Iran’s nuclear program and participated in the Deputies’ Committee at the National Security Council. He played an instrumental role in the Department’s response to crises from Fukushima to the Libyan civil war to Hurricane Sandy, and led the Department’s efforts to strengthen emergency response and cybersecurity across the energy sector. As Chair of the Credit Review Board, he considered a wide array of DOE loan guarantees to support the expansion of clean power generation (including wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass) and advanced vehicles across the nation. His efforts supported all three pillars of the President’s Climate Action Plan – cutting carbon pollution in America, preparing the United States for the impacts of climate change, and leading international cooperation to support the first two pillars.”

Study Shows Natural Gas Won’t Slow Global Warming

Associated Press: A “new international study says an expansion of natural gas use by 2050 would also keep other energy-producing technologies like wind, solar and nuclear, from being used more. And those technologies are even better than natural gas for avoiding global warming.”

“Computer simulations show that emissions of heat-trapping gases to make electricity would not decline worldwide and could possibly go up, says the study, released Wednesday by the journal Nature.”

“Two computer models even found that when considering other factors like methane leaks, cheaper natural gas could lead to more trapping of heat by greenhouse gases.”

“The new results show it’s important to have a climate policy to go with cheap natural gas, said experts who weren’t part of the research.”

Republicans’ ‘Nutty’ Stand on Climate Change

Rebecca Leber questions why Mitch McConnell, who “often chides Obama for his lack of leadership” is now “willing to make an exception for climate change … McConnell said on Monday that he would rather the U.S. do less on climate change and let other countries take the lead.”

McConnell: “Well the president has been trying to take a leadership position, but of course nobody is interested in tying their hands behind their back and creating more problems for their people in pursuit of a goal they do not think we can achieve … My job is to look out for Kentucky’s coal miners.”

And Jonathan Chait contends that Paul Ryan is “a nut” for constantly dodging the question about the link between human activity and global warming.

“His ideological fantasies prevent him from accepting even basic scientific facts. He is, to be sure, a lucid nut, rather than a raving nut who accosts passersby on street corners. Ryan has spent his life imbibing the tenets of right-wing-movement thought, and he can apply the concepts he has learned to nearly any topic.”

“So while nuttery can be found on the left and right, it is not a bipartisan problem at the national level … If the Democrats let [Robert Kennedy Jr -- a Democratic 'nut' --] write their party-policy manifesto, or gave him a spot on their presidential ticket, it would be very, very alarming. But Ryan is in a party where this sort of thing barely even attracts attention.”

Shale Boom Won’t Eliminate U.S. Import Needs

Fuel Fix reports that “the U.S. may be producing more of its own oil than it has in decades, but it’s unlikely the nation will fully wean its dependence on foreign crude anytime soon.”

“’We will deeply remain an importer of crude oil for the absolute foreseeable future,’ Greg Haas, director of integrated oil and gas research at Stratas Advisors told a group gathered at the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank on Thursday.”

“Although the U.S. is far from achieving anything close to full energy independence, the rapid resurgence in domestic oil and gas production has slashed the nation’s reliance on foreign oil in a short period of time, Haas said.”

Analysis: Saudi’s Role and Control with the Oil Market

Nick Butler writes in the Financial Times: “To me the interesting thing is what happens next, and that is down to the Saudis. The risk for the whole industry, and for many countries dependent on oil revenues, is that Saudi Arabia’s games have led them to lose control of the market. Prices could go a good deal lower with wide and mostly negative consequences, starting with more regional instability and a cutback in investment which can only feed the next cycle.”

The piece continues: “The challenge now is whether the Saudis are in any position to reverse the price fall. The danger of the trend which we have seen since June is that with each step downwards, other producers are tempted to increase production in the short term in order to maximise much needed revenue. Any field which can produce a bit more is pushed a little harder; normal maintenance schedules are postponed and so on. That is what seems to be happening. The price fall over the last three months has not produced any fall in production.”

The piece then states: “The only action which would break this trend is a sharp and sustained cut in output by Saudi Arabia… Can they do it ? The judgment is very marginal. Restoring order will require a serious cut in output of perhaps 2 million barrels a day for a sustained period to rebalance a market which is in surplus even in the absence of significant supplies from Libya and Iran. In the short term such action would require a rewritten budget, reduced domestic welfare and defence spending, and a cut in some of the subsidies being made to allies in the region who are trying to maintain order after the Arab Spring.”

Conference: Challenges in Global Shale Development

The Tulsa World reports that “researchers have identified shale formations in 41 countries around the world, but industry officials maintain it will be difficult to replicate the U.S. shale boom elsewhere.”

“A handful of speakers addressed efforts to develop the world’s shale resources on Wednesday at Oklahoma City University’s 2014 International Energy Conference. The event was held at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.”

IL Landowners Sue State Over Fracking Delay

The Chicago Tribune reports that “Amy Pollard is one of thousands of landowners in Southern Illinois who leased land to oil drillers two years ago for horizontal hydraulic fracturing. By now, she thought the money and the oil would be flowing.”

“But on Tuesday, Marc Miller, the head of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, testified that the agency would not issue fracking permits until rules governing fracking are codified.”

“On Wednesday, Pollard and a dozen other landowners filed suit against Miller and Gov. Pat Quinn in Wayne County circuit court, claiming the state’s delay in issuing fracking permits is akin to an illegal land grab.”

Bank Sees $1.1 Trillion ‘Stimulus’ from Drop in Oil Costs

Bloomberg reports that “the lowest oil price in four years will provide stimulus of as much as $1.1 trillion to global economies by lowering the cost of fuels and other commodities, according to Citigroup Inc.”

“Brent, the world’s most active crude contract, closed at $83.78 a barrel in London yesterday. That’s more than 20 percent below its average for the past three years, amounting to savings of about $1.8 billion a day based on current output, Citigroup estimates. Savings will climb to $1.1 trillion annually as the slide cuts costs of other commodities, leaving consumers and companies with extra cash to spend and bolstering growth, according to Ed Morse, the bank’s head of global commodities research in New York.”

Brookings: Ukraine Crisis Impact on European Gas Market

Brookings offers a policy brief: “Ongoing turmoil in Ukraine has once again sparked debate about European energy dependence on Russia. That debate is not new and has been revitalized repeatedly since the first major supply disruption in 2006, which took place after several decades of fairly stable supplies. This new Brookings report, “Business As Usual: European Gas Market Functioning in Times of Turmoil and Increasing Import Dependence,” assesses whether the often expressed desire to move away from using Russian natural gas will in fact happen.”

Key findings include:

  • “In the short to medium term, the lack of market development and integration in Central and Eastern Europe continues to be problematic.”
  • “Russian natural gas will be very competitive in Europe.”
  • “There is no evidence that supply alternatives will be transformative in the European gas supply mix in the near future.”

PA Law Firm Hosts Brazil Team Investigating Shale

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that “As Brazil seeks to develop its shale reserves, a group of delegates representing energy companies, government and business groups stopped in Pittsburgh to see what lessons could be learned from the Marcellus Shale.”

“About a dozen representatives were hosted by law firm Reed Smith, which fielded questions about drilling techniques, regulations and the environment. The visit, which includes meetings with state regulators and drilling companies, followed two days of meetings in Washington, D.C., that started Sunday.”

“Speaking through an interpreter, Sandro Angelo de Andrade, vice mayor of the city of Patos de Minas, said the region currently relies on farming and that natural gas development ‘will bring a new economic future and provide new jobs … and help farmers lower the cost of their energy.’”

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