Topic A: Energy - Analysis, discussion & commentary on energy exploration, development and innovation
Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 28, 2014

Oil, Gas Growth Spark Bans, Ordinances Across U.S.

The Denver Post reports that “development of oil and gas shale formations has sparked drilling from Pennsylvania to California, and that is leading to a new wave of local oil and gas ordinances and bans.”

“Towns and cities — from Robinson Township, Pa., population 13,354, to Dallas, population 1.2 million — are enacting rules to limit or control oil and gas development.”

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Is Oil a Safe Haven?

CNBC reports that “the U.S.—and the global economy—may have a new safe haven asset: the growing American oil bounty.”

“The sociopolitical upheaval in places like Iraq, Libya and Venezuela has kept oil prices propped up at more than $100 per barrel, underscoring the unstable nature of many oil-producing nations. By contrast, U.S. oil supplies—close to generating 9 million barrels of oil per day—are expanding, and far more secure than most of those abroad. Simultaneously, the U.S. shale boom has become a draw for international capital.”

“To be sure, gold, the dollar and U.S. Treasurys remain the premier safety assets during times of global distress. Meanwhile, oil market dynamics are overwhelmingly driven by supply and demand that place a ‘fear premium’ on internationally priced Brent crude, and which drag on prices when turbulence abates.”

FT: Interview with T. Boone Pickens

The Financial Times runs an interview with T. Boone Pickens: “Visiting T. Boone Pickens’s office suite in Dallas is like walking into a museum. The lobby is crammed with memorabilia: a whole wall of Mr Pickens’s face on magazine covers, a picture of him with Ronald and Nancy Reagan, a spectacular aerial photograph of the Oklahoma State University football stadium, rebuilt thanks to his donation of about $200m.”

“The room is dominated by a striking painting by Texas artist G. Harvey called ‘Boomtown Drifters’, showing horsemen riding past a line of primitive oil derricks in the early years of the 20th century. The message is unmistakable: the Old West and the modern oil industry are closer than you might think.”

“It feels like a memorial for Mr Pickens’s career as one of the great mavericks of American business, first as an oilman from the 1950s to the 1970s, then as a corporate raider in the 1980s, and most recently as a prophet of ‘energy independence’ for North America.”

Group Campaigns for Faster Gas Pipeline Replacement

Fuel Fix reports that “campaigning for the acceleration of repairs to the nation’s aging natural gas utility pipelines, labor unions and environmentalists say expediting the replacement schedule would boost the economy and curb the amount of pollution emitted into the air each year.”

“’We believe America doesn’t have to choose between good jobs and a clean environment,’ said Kim Glas, the executive director of BlueGreen Alliance, a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations that released a report on pipelines Thursday. ‘We can and will have both.’”

‘The group had some good words for Houston, noting that the oldest, most leak-prone pipeline typically runs through major metropolitan areas, including Boston, New York and Chicago, but that Houston has made good progress on repairs.”

McConnell Says Coal Country Kentuckians Will Invade Washington

“The EPA plans four public hearings on its proposed “Clean Power Plan” for greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, but none of them are in ‘coal country’ — much to the chagrin of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY),” Roll Call reports.

“The hearings, which the EPA expects to be well attended, are planned for Atlanta, Denver, Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh next week.”

Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell said that Kentuckians will just have to come to the U.S. capital instead.

Said McConnell: “Apparently, the Obama administration isn’t all that interested in what Kentucky thinks. Well, if Washington officials won’t come to Kentucky, then Kentuckians will come to Washington. I plan to testify. And so do several of my constituents. Even though they’ll have to travel hundreds of miles to get here, these Kentuckians will make Washington understand that they are more than just some statistic.”

How to Prevent a Nuclear Disaster

“Despite advances in protecting U.S. nuclear plants, more work must be done to make sure they can withstand such natural catastrophes as the earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan,” National Journal reports.

“That’s the recommendation from a federal report released Thursday that investigated the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which forced the evacuation of 300,000 people from the region and drew renewed attention to the dangers of nuclear power.”

“The National Academy of Sciences, which was commissioned to investigate the incident, found that U.S. plants are designed to withstand crises such as equipment failures, loss of power, or an inability to cool the reactor core. But it’s the ‘beyond-design-basis events,’ like natural disasters, that pose the greater risk and have been behind meltdowns at Fukushima, Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl.”

Energy Department Nominee Highlights Nuclear Weapons Expertise

“Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall told senators Thursday that she has vast experience with defense and nuclear weapons, which would be a major part of her responsibilities as the second highest-ranking official at the Department of Energy (DOE),” The Hill reports.

“At her confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sherwood-Randall made it clear that she is committed to the DOE’s domestic energy missions as well. She is currently one of President Obama’s top advisors for defense.”

Transportation Dept. Unveils New Crude Transport Rules

Fuel Fix reports that “tank cars that carry crude oil across the United States would have to meet stringent new standards to improve safety and make them more resilient in an accident under proposed new rules unveiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday.”

“The proposals call for phasing out rupture-prone cars built before October 2011 for the shipment of flammable liquids, including ethanol and crude oil, unless those cars are retrofitted to meet sweeping new design standards that could include thicker shells, better brakes and rollover protection.”

“The proposed tougher standards would alter the way high-hazard flammable substances such as crude and ethanol are shipped across the country at a time of massive growth in crude transport by rail. Last year, 415,000 rail-carloads of crude moved across the U.S. compared to 9,500 rail-carloads in 2008, according to the transportation department.”

Newest TX Energy Source: Wind

The New York Times reports that “the wind is so relentless that a week can go by before it is calm enough for a crane operator to install the 30-ton blades atop the 260-foot towers at the Panhandle 2 wind farm here. It’s worth the wait; a single turbine at the farm can produce 40 percent more energy than an average one.”

“But turning wind into electricity is one thing; moving the energy to a profitable market is another. For years, the wind industry has been hampered by such a severe lack of transmission lines that when the wind is strong, a local power surplus forces some machines to be shut down.”

“Now, Texas is out to change that by conducting a vast experiment that might hold lessons for the rest of the United States. This year, a sprawling network of new high-voltage power lines was completed, tying the panhandle area and West Texas to the millions of customers around Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and Houston.”

State Report Criticizes DEP Oversight of PA Natural Gas Industry

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that “State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale issued a withering review Tuesday of the Department of Environmental Protection‘‍s oversight of the shale gas industry and the regulatory agency’‍s practices for responding to citizens’‍ complaints that drilling has affected their drinking water.”

“The long-promised performance audit details the agency’‍s shortcomings, including failing to consistently issue enforcement orders to drilling companies after regulators determined that gas operations had damaged water supplies, even though the state’‍s oil and gas law requires it.”

“Mr. DePasquale said during a news conference that although DEP merits criticism for its performance, the dedication of DEP’‍s employees to protecting the environment is not in question.”

Court Rules IL Can Force Consumers to Purchase Energy from ‘Clean Coal’ Facility

The Chicago Tribune reports that “state regulators have the right to force Illinois consumers to purchase electricity from a proposed “clean coal” facility for the next 20 years in order to help fund the $1.6 billion federal project, according to an appellate court decision handed down Tuesday.”

“The 2-1 decision could represent a potential leap forward for the federal FutureGen 2.0 project, which has been stalled through two Presidential administrations in various forms.”

“The plan is to retrofit an existing coal-fired power plant in Meredosia in western Illinois to prove that coal-fired power can exist in a carbon-free world. The plant’s carbon dioxide emissions would be sequestered underground and would burn Illinois coal beginning in 2017.”

Landrieu Pushes for New Offshore Drilling Model

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) “used a Tuesday hearing to advocate for legislation that would remove the cap that Gulf Coast states have on the revenue they can receive from offshore drilling royalties and fees,” The Hill reports.

“Landrieu, chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said her previous legislation allowed Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama to receive 37.5 percent of the revenues that come from Gulf of Mexico drilling, while the federal government receives the rest. But revenues are capped at $500 million per year.”

Said Landrieu: “No other state or group of states in the country operates under such a cap. Our next step is to lift the cap to accelerate these payments, and to make this more in-line with interior states.”

How Should Climate Change Be Taught?

“The battle over climate science in schools is heating up,” National Journal reports.

“Earlier this month, a coalition of national science-education advocates released a students bill of rights asserting that students across the country should be taught the scientific consensus on climate change. The consensus view held by 97 percent of scientists, according to reviews of the academic literature, holds that the planet is heating up and human activity is the primary cause.”

“Currently, however, a patchwork of state science standards exist that do not mandate the consensus view is taught, leaving the door open for controversy over climate change to get equal airtime in many classrooms.”

“Should there be a national set of science-education standards that mandate the teaching of the climate change consensus? Or is this a question best left to individual states, counties, schools, or teachers to decide? Are there risks involved if we don’t standardize climate science education?”

Industry Groups Slam New EPA Rules

“On Tuesday, leading industry groups laid out their grievances in a united front against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) signature climate rule,” The Hill reports.

“Groups like the American Petroleum Institute (API), which said earlier this month that lobbying against the EPA’s regulations to cut carbon dioxide from existing power plants would not be a priority, joined the push against it Tuesday.”

“API said on a call with six other industry groups that the regulations would have “adverse consequences” and a “chilling effect” on investments across the entire energy sector. A main point of contention for the industry is that the rule allows broad flexibility, which would allow states to regulate “beyond the fence” of the fossil-fuel plants in question.”

German Most Energy Efficient Country; U.S. Ranks 13th

The Guardian reports that “Germany is the world’s most energy efficient country with strong codes on buildings while China is quickly stepping up its own efforts…”

“The study of 16 major economies by the Washington-based American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Mexico last and voiced concern about the pace of efforts by the United States and Australia.”

“The council gave Germany the top score as it credited Europe’s largest economy for its mandatory codes on residential and commercial buildings as it works to meet a goal of reducing energy consumption by 20% by 2020 from 2008 levels.”

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