Topic A: Energy - Analysis, discussion & commentary on energy exploration, development and innovation
Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 31, 2014

California, Mexico Sign Clean Energy Pact

Bloomberg BNA reports that “California and Mexico have signed a bilateral pact aimed at advancing cross-border investments in clean energy.”

“Signed July 29 by California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and Mexico’s Secretary of Energy Pedro Joaquin Coldwell during the governor’s trade visit to Mexico City, the agreement calls for the two governments to work together in developing and deploying renewable energy, biofuels and other clean energy technologies.”

“The agreement also includes a commitment to explore integrating Baja California Norte into the California energy market and to support expanded markets for clean and energy-efficient technologies, including manufacturing and transportation.”

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Oil Firms Give Up Arctic Rights

Fuel Fix reports that “oil companies that locked up more than 1.3 million acres of the Beaufort Sea for drilling in 2007 have since relinquished nearly half that territory.”

“The industry’s appetite for tapping those Arctic waters may be waning even as the Obama administration plans to auction off more of the area.”

“Oil companies have ceded rights to drill on roughly 584,000 acres, despite paying tens of thousands _ and sometimes much more — in bonus bids for individual leases in auctions since 2003, according to an analysis of government data by the conservation group Oceana reviewed by FuelFix.”

Energy Companies Reconsider Approach to Russia

The New York Times reports that “the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine — and the tougher round of sanctions against Russia that followed — is prompting some big multinational energy companies to take a fresh look at the ramifications of the crisis.”

“For months, American and European energy players have continued to sign deals with Russia, maintaining a posture that business was proceeding as usual. But top industry executives are now starting to acknowledge that the escalating tensions could sharply hurt Western oil and gas giants with major investments in Russia, as well as the service companies that are key technology suppliers.”

GAO Calls on EPA to Review Fracking Risks

Bloomberg BNA reports that “the Environmental Protection Agency should review emerging risks related to safeguards for hydraulic fracturing wells used for oil and gas production, according to a report released July 28 by the Government Accountability Office.”

“Overall, safeguards in place at the wells—known as class II wells—are effective in preventing contamination of underground water sources and very little has occurred, EPA and state officials told the GAO.”

“Current safeguards require well operators, among other things, to meet technical standards for constructing, operating, testing and monitoring injection wells, said the report, “’Drinking Water: EPA Program to Protect Underground Sources from Injection of Fluids Associated with Oil and Gas Production Needs Improvement.’”

Costs of Carbon Costs Debated in CO

The Denver Post reports that “the federal proposal to cut coal-fired power-plant carbon emissions will affect the nation’s economy — and witnesses at a Denver hearing Tuesday sparred over just what it will mean.”

“‘(The Environmental Protection Agency) is trying to shut down the coal industry without regard,’ said Greg Schaefer, a spokesman for Arch Coal Inc., which employs about 1,800 people in Wyoming and about 320 in western Colorado. ‘I urge EPA to withdraw the proposal.’”

“But wind- and solar-industries advocates, as well as representatives of small business and ranching, said there are economic benefits to cutting carbon emissions and replacing fossil fuels.”

Energy Reform: Advances Made in Mexico

Fuel Fix reports that “Mexico’s lower house on Tuesday approved a key component of legislation to end the government monopoly on the country’s energy sector after more than 75 years and to open the industry to foreign and private investment.”

“The bills codify last year’s amendments to the Mexican constitution that reverse the tight control of the nation’s oil and gas reserves by state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex.”

“The newly approved package of about 30 bills will require another vote by the Senate, which approved a version of the legislation last week. Final approval is expected by early August.”

Analysis of Extreme Temperatures Reinforces Global Warming Trend

Inside Climate News: “It’s reasonable to expect that the whole year may end up with the warmest surface temperatures ever recorded.”

“A new report, State of the Climate in 2013, issued by the American Meteorological Society on July 17, introduces an analysis of temperature extremes since 1950. Like the vast majority of climate measurements explored in this report, the data on temperature extremes confirm the general trend of a warming planet.”

“Extremes in recorded temperatures can be a more significant measurement than averages, the annual checkup explains, since ‘societal impacts are more often related to extreme events than changes in the mean climate.’”

“Globally, 2013 had the sixth-highest number of warm days on record, and the eighth-lowest number of cool nights.”

“Examining warm days and nights and cool days and nights on global and regional scales exposes more starkly ‘a general long-term tendency towards warmer conditions, as indicated by increasing numbers of warm extremes…and decreasing numbers of cool extremes.’”

Solar Capacity Soars in 2014

PV Tech: “In the first six months of 2014, solar has represented almost a third of new electricity generation capacity additions in the US, more than doubling its performance in the same period of 2013, according to US government statistics.”

“According to the latest monthly Energy Infrastructure Update issued by the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC), new energy generation installations in the US were dominated in June by natural gas and solar, with only about half as much wind added as solar.”

“According to the report for June, around 40MW of solar was installed in June, behind 63MW of natural gas generation capacity added but ahead of wind power, with 21MW.”

“From a total of 8,496MW installed in all forms of generation in January to June of 2013, solar represented about 14% of new generation capacity, while in January to June this year, solar made up 32% of newly added capacity.”

“A US government report last week predicted that by 2040 solar would be second only to natural gas in its importance to the US energy mix.”

Energy Department Eyes Regional Gas Reserves

“In another presidential foray into territory once reserved for Congress, President Obama’s Department of Energy is exploring setting up sites to store reserves of gasoline in various places around the country to provide backup when major storms and other emergencies cut off access to local fuel supplies,” the Washington Times reports.

“Citing long lines at gasoline stations in New York and New Jersey in 2012 after Superstorm Sandy flooded local refineries on the coast, the department this month established the first such reserves, containing 1 million barrels of gasoline to serve the Northeast region. To pay for it, the administration used about half of the nearly $500 million it raised through an unusual test sale of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve this spring.”

“While the Northeast gasoline venture raised some questions and eyebrows on Capitol Hill, congressional Republicans did not try to block it and have expressed little opposition to the administration’s broader plans. The apparent acquiescence led a former George W. Bush administration official who was in charge of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lament that major changes are occurring with “little public discussion or policy debate” in a key national security program.”

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.”

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.”

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