Topic A: Energy - Analysis, discussion & commentary on energy exploration, development and innovation
Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 4, 2015

Senate Panel Approves Oil Export Bill

The Senate Banking Committee approved a bill to lift the ban on crude oil exports, The Hill reports.

“The measure, pushed by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and others, cleared the committee on a 13-9 vote. Among Democrats, only Heitkamp supported the bill. But others left the door open to supporting some type of compromise legislation going forward, and have a wish list of proposals to attach to it.”

“Senators rejected a push from Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) to end federal biofuel mandates in conjunction with lifting the oil export ban. They did, however, adopt a measure requiring Iran to pay all court judgments to Americans victimized by Iranian terror attacks before lifting the export sanctions on that country.”

EPA Unveils New Ozone Rule

“The Obama administration on Thursday will unveil a major new regulation on smog-causing emissions that spew from smokestacks and tailpipes, significantly tightening the current Bush-era standards but falling short of more stringent regulations that public health advocates and environmentalists had urged,” the New York Times reports.

“The Environmental Protection Agency has set the new national standard for ozone, a smog-causing gas that often forms on hot, sunny days when chemical emissions from power plants, factories and vehicles mix in the air, at 70 parts per billion, tightening the current standard of 75 parts per billion set in 2008, according to people familiar with the plan but not authorized to speak on the record. Smog has been linked to asthma, heart and lung disease, and premature death.”

“The agency’s scientific panel had recommended a new standard of 60 to 70 parts per billion, and last year, the administration released a draft proposal which would have lowered the standard to a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion. Administration officials had sought public comment on a 60-parts-per-billion plan, keeping open the possibility that the final rule could be even stricter.”

Mexico Privatized Energy Industry at Wrong Time

Mexican President President Enrique Peña Nieto and his government are suffering from really bad timing, the Houston Chronicle reports.

“Peña Nieto made privatizing the nation’s energy industry the center of his plan to kick-start the nation’s economy in 2013. For the first time in 75 years, the government would abandon its monopoly on pumping, refining and selling oil and instead auction off leases and contracts to the private sector.”

“The move was supposed to bring in billions of dollars in foreign direct investment to a country and an industry that badly needs it. Peña Nieto negotiated with leftist politicians and international CEOs to strike the right balance, and he won a historic referendum. Then last year the price of oil collapsed, international companies lost their enthusiasm and a recalcitrant government bureaucracy made things far more difficult than necessary.”

Environmentalists Not Happy with New Ozone Rules

“En­vir­on­ment­al­ists have been burned by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion be­fore on smog reg­u­la­tions. Now they’re wor­ried that it’s about to hap­pen again,” National Journal reports.

“The En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency is un­der a court or­der to fi­nal­ize a rule tight­en­ing stand­ards for ground-level ozone by Oct. 1. That’s the same air-qual­ity rule that was pulled by the White House in 2011 over eco­nom­ic con­cerns, a move that left the en­vir­on­ment­al com­munity in­censed. Deep in­to a second term where Pres­id­ent Obama has been ag­gress­ive on en­vir­on­ment­al is­sues, the ozone rule won’t be yanked again. But en­vir­on­ment­al­ists are now gird­ing them­selves for an­oth­er dis­ap­point­ment: that the stand­ard won’t be tight enough.”

“Sources fa­mil­i­ar with the dis­cus­sions say that the EPA is push­ing to lower the ozone stand­ard of 75 parts per bil­lion to 70 ppb, the high end of the 65-70 ppb range that the agency pro­posed last fall. The White House could lower the fi­nal stand­ard down to 68 ppb, a seem­ingly minor tweak, but one that could re­quire dra­mat­ic­ally more pol­lu­tion con­trol. With days to go be­fore a de­cision comes out, en­vir­on­ment­al­ists are mak­ing the case that 70 ppb just won’t be enough, even as they pre­pare for it.”

Is China Burning Less Coal?

“The U.S. Energy Information Administration just released data showing that China’s coal consumption grew less than 2 percent in 2012 and 2013 and then flatlined in 2014,” according to Greentech Media.

“China’s declining coal consumption has also been logged by the International Energy Agency, which reported earlier this year that carbon dioxide emissions from the global energy sector halted in 2014 — the first time a slowdown unrelated to economic conditions occurred. Bloomberg New Energy Finance has predicted peak coal by 2020.”

Energy Industry Dollars Flow to New House Leaders

“House Republicans will soon hold new leadership elections, but one outcome is already clear: Energy industry-related donors claim a heavy investment in many of the GOP lawmakers vying for top posts,” Energy Wire reports.

The House Republican Conference is expected to set a date soon “for new leadership elections in the wake of Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) surprise announcement Friday that he will resign from Congress at the end of October. That decision will trigger not only contests for the speaker’s gavel — which current Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is widely expected to take up — but intraparty battles for majority leader, Republican whip and Republican conference chairman.”

Given that the pool of contenders includes two Energy and Commerce Committee members as well as McCarthy — who has described his district’s Kern County as the ‘the heart of oil production in California’ (EnergyWire, Jan. 24, 2014) — it comes as no surprise that the oil and gas industry has already invested heavily in much of the House GOP’s potential new leadership slate.”

Why the Energy Industry Should Go Digital

Intelligent Utility: “As the technology and energy industries continue to evolve, we are seeing more governments take steps to ensure energy conservation, emission reduction in generation, greater energy efficiency, energy quality, and transparency in energy distribution and consumption. This includes drastic changes to policies related to energy generation, transmission, distribution and supply. Power and energy companies now have to adapt to these new regulatory guidelines, and begin embracing new technologies to create more environmentally friendly products and strategies for customers.”

“With advances in smart field devices and networking technologies and the reduced cost of smart devices, there is tremendous market potential for substations and distribution automation that can be realized exclusively with software.”

EPA Sees Success from New Methane Rules

Joseph Goffman, the associate assistant administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Air and Regulation, said that he expects new federal standards for methane emissions will succeed in cutting down on the potent greenhouse gas, The Hill reports.

Goffman noted the agency’s new methane standards, combined with expanded voluntary programs, will help the natural gas industry reduce its methane emissions: “If we develop a meaningful expansion of our voluntary programs, we will see industry succeed, both in achieving its voluntary commitments and achieving its legal obligations, while continuing to thrive economically.”

He added: “That’s the definition of success, as far as we’re concerned.”

What Hillary Clinton Didn’t Say About Keystone XL

Washington Post: “It’s important to note what Clinton did not say. She did not say that the pipeline would significantly increase carbon dioxide emissions. She did not say that it would significantly undercut President Obama’s climate policies. She did not say that Keystone XL would be “game over for the climate,” nor did she repeat any of the other rank hyperbole that activists have deployed in the pipeline fight.”

“She did not say any of these things because the pipeline is unlikely to have much of an impact on the climate one way or another in the long run, according to the State Department and independent analysts. Environmentalist efforts to choke off the supply of fossil fuels by rallying against a pipeline here or an export facility there are fierce but misdirected. The way to really turn the needle on fossil fuels is to reduce demand for them, either by pricing carbon emissions or regulating them away. The Keystone XL fight has been a massive misallocation of time and passion that Clinton has now indulged.”

U.S. Takes Top Spot in Renewable Energy Ranking

Clean Technica: “The Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index is a quarterly ranking of 40 countries based on the attractiveness of their renewable energy investment and deployment opportunities, according to a number of macro, energy market, and technology-specific indicators.”

“The most interesting change from an outsiders point of view is that of the top two spots, with China and the US swapping places to place the US back atop the pile. EY highlights ‘President Barack Obama’s much-awaited Clean Power Plan (CPP)’ as the primary reason for the United States’ reascension, which it says ‘sends a strong message of accountability at the state-level for the shift to a low-carbon economy and is expected to galvanize a significant increase [in] renewable energy investment over the next 15 years.’”


“’The CPP is the most comprehensive, far-reaching and flexible emissions legislation in the US to date and gives a clear steer on the country’s long-term energy strategy,’ Warren continued. ‘Targets alone will not construct new projects, but long-term visibility increases investor confidence that demand is there, and maintains momentum as we hurtle towards universal grid parity for renewables.’”

Bush Will Unveil Comprehensive Energy Plan

Jeb Bush “will call for lighter regulation of the energy sector and for more local control of natural resources when he delivers his energy plan Tuesday at a natural gas company in Western Pennsylvania,” CNN reports.

“The Republican presidential candidate will also praise the advances of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracking, a position that puts him in line with many in his party but squarely opposed to environmental activists. And he’ll call for lifting restrictions on the export of crude oil and promote exporting natural gas to non-Free Trade Agreement countries such as Japan, China and the European Union.”

Wind Power Growth in Jeopardy

Fuel Fix: “The growth of wind power projects could come screeching to a halt if Congress fails to extend the renewable energy Production Tax Credit by the end of the year, according to a new American Wind Energy Association report being released later this week.”

“Failing to extend the renewable energy tax credit could lead to a dramatic 70 percent to 90 percent drop off in new wind power installation projects, said Rob Gramlich, AWEA senior vice president.”

“’Wind is the unfortunate poster child for unstable government policy,’ Gramlich said, adding that the tax credit’s past and current stops and starts ‘lead to disruption and layoffs.’”

“Businesses and investors need “’ong-term clarity’ on credits and public policy in order to make decisions on major wind projects that take years to complete, the report added. The AWEA said wind energy supports 73,000 direct jobs nationwide and enough energy to power 18 million homes.”

Renewable Energy Growth Will Remain Strong Through 2040

“In its forward-looking report for the year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts renewable energy will be the fastest-growing power source through 2040,” writes Scientific American.

“New investments in renewable energy rose from $9 billion in the first quarter of 2004 to $50 billion for 2015’s first quarter…and the volume of installed photovoltaic systems in the United States has grown every year since 2000.”

“The story that renewable energy advocates often share of how their favorite power sources have grown so rapidly over recent years belies the reality that those industries have expanded from small market shares to start. Yet with increasing interest, investors are targeting renewables as strong assets, not dodgy options.”

Vatican Releases Climate Declaration As Pope Prepares Encyclical on Environment

“A daylong Vatican meeting on climate, energy, ecology and equity has produced a declaration that offers a promising vision for religious and secular leaders eager to foster a sustainable human journey,” according to Andrew Revkin.

“The event, attended by dozens of religious leaders, scientists, social and environmental campaigners and others, is part of Pope Francis’s campaign ahead of the release of his encyclical on the environment and equity.”

“It’s encouraging to see subtle, but significant, wording here, in particular the phrase ‘and other low-carbon energy’ — code for both nuclear power and for ‘carbon capture’ methods of using fossil fuels that capture and sequester carbon dioxide (which will need an awful lot of large-scale development before they can be seen as a climate-scale option).”

Senate Republicans to Challenge Global Climate Change Agreement

“President Barack Obama and Congress are headed for another power clash on the international stage, as key Senate Republicans challenge his efforts to forge a global pact on climate change,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

“The White House considers the agreement with nearly 200 nations a historic opportunity to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions world-wide. But some GOP senators view it as executive overreach, and they are quietly considering ways to warn other countries that the president doesn’t speak for them and may not be able to deliver on his promises to slash emissions.”

“Administration officials have signaled optimism in recent weeks that climate talks are on track, with countries working toward completing a deal in December in Paris. They have expressed confidence that laws already on the books will allow them to move ahead with a plan submitted to the United Nations to cut greenhouse gases in the U.S. by nearly 30% by 2025 based on 2005 emission levels.”

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