Topic A: Energy - Analysis, discussion & commentary on energy exploration, development and innovation
Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 24, 2014

Commentary: ‘Send Message to Putin With Trans-Atlantic Energy Pact’

Bruno Maçães, Portugal’s secretary of state for European affairs, writes in the Wall St. Journal that ”energy has always been central to creating a trade and investment bloc through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. If a TTIP agreement can reduce wide differences in energy prices between Europe and the U.S., Europeans will pay less for energy, while American energy producers will finally be able to profit from the recent energy boom by selling at competitive market prices. Trying to artificially hold down prices has heavy costs for domestic producers, encourages consumption, and dampens energy production over time.”

“Yet recent events in Ukraine and Russia have made clear that creating a trans-Atlantic energy market is about more than economic efficiency. Energy cooperation has become an indispensable pillar of the Western security community, which has played a central role in maintaining peace in Europe for more than 60 years.”

The piece continues: “Given recent events in Ukraine, we don’t have time to wait for the full trade agreement. Instead, Europe and the U.S. should begin work immediately on a separate charter setting out the main steps for creating a trans-Atlantic energy market. This energy charter could be agreed on and signed in months, having a quick impact on the increasingly critical security crisis.”

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April Will Be First Month With CO2 Levels Above 400 PPM

Climate Central: “April will be the first time in human history where levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide were higher than 400 parts per million for an entire month, one scientist who monitors the levels said. And they could stay above that mark into July.”

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“Carbon dioxide concentrations, as measured at a site atop Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano since 1958, surpassed the 400 ppm mark for the first time in recorded history on May 9, 2013. While the particular mark is symbolic, it serves to show how far concentrations have risen from their pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm as fossil fuels such as coal and oil have continued to be burned.”

Crossposted at Wonk Wire.

U.S. Carbon Emissions Down But HFCs Are Soaring

The news website, Responding to Climate Change, reports that “US greenhouse gas emissions dropped 10% from 2005 – 2012.”

The results, part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s annual inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, show emissions “fell 3.3% from 2011-2012 … The US is just over halfway to meeting a pledge made at UN talks in 2009 to cut GHG releases 17% on 2005 levels by 2020.”

“The EPA says the reductions are due to new clean energy generation sources, investments in efficiency measures and a drop in transportation sector emissions.”

However, “hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), refrigerant gases with a warming potential far more potent than CO2, soared from 36.9 million metric tons CO2 equivalent (CO2e) to 151.2 CO2e from 1990 to 2012.”

US GHG 466 U.S. Carbon Emissions Down But HFCs Are Soaring

40 Percent ‘Concerned Believers’ of Global Warming

Gallup: “Over the past decade, Americans have clustered into three broad groups on global warming. The largest, currently describing 39% of U.S. adults, are what can be termed “Concerned Believers” — those who attribute global warming to human actions and are worried about it. This is followed by the “Mixed Middle,” at 36%. And one in four Americans — the “Cool Skeptics” — are not worried about global warming much or at all.”

“The ranks of Cool Skeptics have swelled, while the Mixed Middle — once the largest group — has declined modestly.”

“In particular, the percentage of Americans believing that global warming is caused by pollution from human activities dropped sharply in 2010. The same pattern has been seen with personal worry about global warming and the perception that the seriousness of the issue is exaggerated in the news. All of these findings are likely linked to the high profile “Climategate” controversy that emerged in late 2009.”

But: “the percentage of “Concerned Believers” has recovered to pre-Climategate levels.”

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Could Solar Reshape Energy Market?

CNBC reports that “solar power was once derided as a pipe dream and many industry players have floundered, but while the use in this renewable energy remains tiny compared with fossil fuels, it may be poised to completely reshape the energy market.”

“‘Solar is now cheap enough that it competes with oil, kerosene, diesel and LNG in developing markets and yet is still small enough that it cannot disturb pricing for energy in any market,’ Bernstein Research said in a note earlier this month.”

“With the sun accounting for only 0.17 percent of the global energy supply in 2012, any losses for global energy players are just too small to notice, but that may begin to change, Bernstein said.”

Report: Gulf Coast Crude Oil Inventories Reach Record Level

Oil & Gas Journal reports that “crude oil inventories on the US Gulf Coast reached a record high of 207.2 million bbl on Apr. 11, as a result of the continuing strong crude oil production growth, the opening of TransCanada’s Marketlink Pipeline, and a drop in crude oil inputs at Gulf Coast refineries due to seasonal maintenance, according to the US Energy Information Administration.”

“’While [Gulf Coast] crude oil inventories typically build during the beginning of the year, this year’s increase has been particularly notable,’ EIA said.”

“Gulf Coast inventories have increased 46.2 million bbl from 161 million bbl on Jan. 10 to the current level, which is 24.2 million bbl above the previous year-average and 22.2 million bbl above year-ago levels. Typically over this period, Gulf Coast crude oil inventories build only 23.4 million bbl.”

Politics: Pipeline Delay Could Boost Democratic Base

The New York Times reports that “the latest delay to a final decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline will reinforce a White House strategy to energize President Barack Obama’s liberal-leaning base before fall elections in which Democrats risk losing control of the U.S. Senate.”

“Environmentalists, worried about the project’s effect on climate change, have put enormous pressure on the president to reject the pipeline from Canada’s oil sands, staging demonstrations outside the White House and protests in states where he travels.”

“A decision to approve it now could have prompted that vocal group, which was instrumental in electing Obama in 2008 and 2012, to sit out the November 4 congressional elections.”

The Future of Coal

The Economist reports “What more could one want? It is cheap and simple to extract, ship and burn. It is abundant: proven reserves amount to 109 years of current consumption, reckons BP, a British energy giant. They are mostly in politically stable places. There is a wide choice of dependable sellers, such as BHP Billiton (Anglo-Australian), Glencore (Anglo-Swiss), Peabody Energy and Arch Coal (both American).”

“Other fuels are beset by state interference and cartels, but in this industry consumers—in heating, power generation and metallurgy—are firmly in charge, keeping prices low. Just as this wonder-fuel once powered the industrial revolution, it now offers the best chance for poor countries wanting to get rich.”

“Such arguments are the basis of a new PR campaign launched by Peabody, the world’s largest private coal company (which unlike some rivals is profitable, thanks to its low-cost Australian mines). And coal would indeed be a boon, were it not for one small problem: it is devastatingly dirty. Mining, transport, storage and burning are fraught with mess, as well as danger. Deep mines put workers in intolerably filthy and dangerous conditions. But opencast mining, now the source of much of the world’s coal, rips away topsoil and gobbles water. Transporting coal brings a host of environmental problems.”

IG: Criticism of U.S. Over Solar Business Loan Default

The New York Times reports that “long before the Energy Department lost $68 million on Abound Solar, a manufacturer that went bankrupt two years ago, it should have known that the company’s chance of repaying the loan it had guaranteed was deteriorating, according to a report by the department’s inspector general.”

“The damning report was issued as the Obama administration prepared to offer as much as $8 billion in additional loan guarantees.”

“The loan guarantee program has been a magnet for criticism since the failure of Solyndra in 2011; that company took $528 million in loans guaranteed by the Energy Department.”

“The new report, released on Thursday, focused on loan guarantees extended to Abound Solar, which was initially offered $400 million. When the company missed several production milestones, the department cut off the loan guarantees, limiting the loss to taxpayers.”

Surge in Clean Energy Investment May Mark a Turnaround

Bloomberg: “Clean energy investment rose by 9 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier on surging demand for rooftop solar panels from the U.S. to Japan.”

“New investment in renewable power and energy efficiency rose to $47.7 billion in the first three months of the year from $43.6 billion, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said today in an e-mailed statement.”

“The increase may mark a turnaround. Investment in low-carbon power and energy-efficiency equipment has fallen for two years as industrialized nations pared back subsidies.”

Two patterns are emerging: “the increasing share of small-scale solar in total investment, and the expansion of investment into more developing countries.”

Crossposted at Wonk Wire.

U.S. Army Developing Solar Array for Energy

The U.S. Army announced ”plans to start development of a solar array that will provide about 25 percent of the annual installation electricity requirement of Fort Huachuca, Ariz.”

“‘This will be the largest solar array in the department of defense on a military installation,’ according to Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment. A ground breaking is scheduled for April 25, with commercial operations commencing in late 2014.”

“‘Energy is an installation priority,’ said Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, Fort Huachuca commanding general. ‘The project goes beyond the megawatts produced. It reflects our continued commitment to southern Arizona and energy security. The project will provide reliable access to electricity for daily operations and missions moving forward.’”

“The Fort Huachuca Renewable Energy Project is a joint effort between the U.S. Army Energy Initiatives Task Force, Fort Huachuca, The General Services Administration, Tucson Electric Power and developer E.ON Climate and Renewables.”

WY Considers Pushing Oil, Gas Ops Further from Homes, Schools

The Wyoming Star Tribune reports that “oil and gas operations might be pushed further away from homes, schools and other residential buildings under a rule change being considered by Wyoming regulators.”

“But is unclear when and how that rule would be implemented.”

“Mark Watson, the state’s interim Oil and Gas supervisor, said Tuesday in a public meeting in Casper that his agency will prioritize an examination of the minimum distance required between energy development and residences. The current distance is 350 feet.”

Report: Oil and Gas Production Falls on Federal Land

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that “oil and gas production on federal land and water is down six percent from 2009 to 2013, but a new report by the Congressional Research Service says expanded production options favored by Republicans and oil-state Democrats might not reverse that trend.”

“‘There is, however, continued interest among some in Congress to open more federal lands for oil and gas development (e.g., the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and areas offshore) and increase the speed of the permitting process,’ the report by the non-partisan research service says. ‘But having more lands accessible may not translate into higher levels of production on federal lands, as industry seeks out the most promising prospects and higher returns on more accessible non-federal lands.’”

“One reason hydraulic fracking, which is growing, primarily occurs on private land.”

“The report was released Wednesday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.”

Pew Publishes Annual Clean Energy Report

ICYMI: The Pew Charitable Trusts published its annual report “Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? 2013. It states:”

“For the past five years, Pew has tracked investment and finance trends in the world’s leading economies. Over that period, the clean energy industry has been buffeted by a global recession, broad changes in energy markets, and uncertainty surrounding international policies on clean energy and climate change. Despite these challenges, the clean energy sector is now an annual $250 billion component of the world economy.”

“Although global clean energy investment in renewable sources, biofuels, smart energy, and energy storage fell 11 percent in 2013, to $254 billion, a number of developments indicate a promising future for clean energy. First, the prices of leading technologies such as wind and solar have dropped steadily for decades; they are increasingly competitive with century-old and more financially volatile conventional power sources. Second, clean energy manufacturers are moving forward and have effectively weathered withering competitive pressures, consolidations, and policy changes. Investor confidence about the long-term future of renewable energy was reinforced in clean energy stock indexes in 2013, which rose sharply over the year. Third, markets in fast-growing, developing countries are prospering; these economies see distributed generation as an opportunity to avoid investments in costly transmission systems, comparable to the deployment of cellphones instead of costly landline infrastructure. Even in the contracting markets of Europe and the Americas, which have affected the overall industry, policymakers are recalibrating rather than abandoning clean energy policies.”

How U.S. Military Can Adopt Clean Energy For National Security

Forbes reports that “The military’s success in preparing for and mitigating climate change impacts will depend in large part on where it gets energy and how smartly it uses energy, especially amid budget constraints. Consider this: the Defense Department is the single largest energy consumer in the United States, despite accounting for less than one percent of total domestic use.”

“Each of the branches – Air Force, Army, Navy, and the Marine Corps – is making significant progress to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, but more must be done to meet energy goals and prepare for the global consequences of climate change. To do this, the Defense Department should:”

  • “Play a larger role in creating a smarter, more resilient U.S. electricity grid.”
  • “Increase energy efficiency.”
  • “Develop new partnerships.”
  • “Identify new ways to finance energy improvements.”

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