Topic A: Energy - Analysis, discussion & commentary on energy exploration, development and innovation
Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 7, 2016

Nebraska: Assessments of Oil and Gas Regulatory Agency

The Lincoln (NE) Journal Star reports that “the state agency that regulates Nebraska’s oil and gas industry is near the top of its class, experts told a panel of state lawmakers Tuesday.”

“The assessment — from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a peer group of state regulators — collided with concerns raised by state environmentalists and landowners over the Nebraska Oil and Gas Commission’s handing of a controversial saltwater disposal well in the Nebraska Panhandle.”

“Opponents have accused the Oil and Gas Commission of mishandling the approval process to convert an inactive Sioux County oil well into an injection well for disposal of water collected during oil and gas production.”

Congress Inquires About Energy Lease Sale Delays

The Casper Star-Tribune reports that “members of Congress from eleven states say they’re concerned about postponements to recent oil and gas lease sales.”

“The lawmakers wrote U.S. Interior Department Assistant Secretary Janice Schneider asking her to explain the delays by Jan. 5.”
“They cited postponed sales on public lands in Arkansas, Utah and Michigan.

New U.S. Spending Bill to End Crude Oil Export Ban

Bloomberg reports that “Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending measure that averts a U.S. government shutdown and ends a 40- year-old ban on crude oil exports, a plan that ensures fiscal peace in Congress through most of 2016.”

“The Senate passed the bill 65-33 today, shortly after a 316-113 House vote. The legislation, which will finance the government through September 2016, goes to President Barack Obama, who plans to sign it.”

Scientists Develop Solar-Powered, Non-Fossil Fuel ‘Hydrogen Sponge’

Armed with Science, the U.S. Defense Department Science Blog, reports that “carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion is a trending news topic amid concerns about climate change and global warming, and is the largest contributor to U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.”

“According to the Institute for Energy Research, 82 percent of America’s energy is produced from the combustion of fossil fuels.”

“It is believed that hydrogen gas is an ideal replacement for fossil fuels; however, hydrogen gas is difficult to safely store and currently either produced from fossil fuel processes or captured as a byproduct from natural gas and petroleum conversion. Both processes contribute to global carbon emissions.”

Iranian Market Could Hurt Oil Prices

Fuel Fix reports that “the International Monetary Fund says a resurgence in Iranian oil exports next year could push crude prices down by $5 to $15 a barrel, deepening a market downturn that already has sorely bruised the oil industry.”

“Iran, which has the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves, expects to pump an additional half-million barrels a day into international markets next year, after the United States and other western powers lift sanctions against its oil exports. It has already shown western oil companies more than 70 energy projects it’s planning.”

“And though the market has likely baked in some of the impact of Iran’s future exports, crude prices could sink further once the Islamic Republic’s oil production actually begins to rise, the IMF said in a report this week.”

Low Oil Prices Means Low Gas Prices for Holiday Drivers

Fuel Fix reports that “low oil prices that have beaten down Houston’s signature industry are a gift for holiday motorists, who could save as much as $1.6 billion at the pump compared to last year, according to an analysis by gasoline price tracking group GasBuddy.”

“U.S. gasoline prices averaged $2.01 per gallon of regular Tuesday, according to GasBuddy figures. And fuel prices are below $2 in about 70 percent of the gas stations across the country — the lowest they’ve been since the depths of the financial crisis almost seven years ago.”

“Those prices will benefit drivers during a seasonal travel spike Dec. 23 to Jan. 3. According to a GasBuddy survey, 88 percent of holiday travelers will be making trips by car and 66 percent of those will be driving at least 200 miles.”

Report: ‘U.S. Power Grid Vulnerable to Foreign Hacks’

The Associated Press reports that “About a dozen times in the last decade, sophisticated foreign hackers have gained enough remote access to control the operations networks that keep the lights on, according to top experts who spoke only on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter.”

“The public almost never learns the details about these types of attacks — they’re rarer but also more intricate and potentially dangerous than data theft. Information about the government’s response to these hacks is often protected and sometimes classified; many are never even reported to the government.”

“These intrusions have not caused the kind of cascading blackouts that are feared by the intelligence community. But so many attackers have stowed away in the largely investor-owned systems that run the U.S. electric grid that experts say they likely have the capability to strike at will.”

Will New Fed Rule Be Biggest Energy Saver?

The Washington Post reports that “Energy Department rules or “standards” that require ever-improving levels of energy efficiency for dishwashers, refrigerators and much more come out regularly.”

“On Thursday, though, the Department released what it is describing as the “largest energy-saving standard in history” and one that “will save more energy than any other standard issued by the Department to date” — a standard governing commercial air conditioners and furnaces, devices seen as consuming a gigantic amount of energy across America.”

Congress Passes Tax Credits for Solar, Wind

Greentech Media reports that “lawmakers in the House and Senate passed a spending package today that includes multi-year extensions of solar and wind tax credits, plus one-year extensions for a range of other renewable energy technologies.”

“The pair of bills, which included tax extenders and $1.1 trillion in funding to keep the government running for the next year, passed hours before lawmakers adjourned for the holidays.”

“’May the force be with you,’ said Senator Dianne Feinstein, urging her fellow Senators to vote in favor of the package shortly after the House approved the bills.”

“The force was certainly with renewables.”

How Might Spending Bill Affect U.S. Energy Consumption?

City Lab writes that “after an acrimonious year, Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress just passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill with strong bipartisan support. That’s because, in the spirit of compromise (or maybe holiday gift-giving), it’s got a little something for everyone. When it comes to energy policy, for instance, Republicans got their wish to end a ban on U.S. crude oil exports, and Democrats in exchange secured extended tax credits for solar and wind energy.”

“So was that a good deal for the environment, especially on the heels of the landmark agreement in Paris to curb global carbon emissions?”

The piece concludes: “The spending deal, then, eliminates a policy that was never meant as an environmental regulation, in exchange for concrete policies to expand zero-carbon energy for the U.S. It’s too early to know exactly what a world with crude exports from the U.S. will look like, but ensuring that U.S. oil got refined in the U.S. hardly defended the climate from fossil fuels. If renewables producers use their incentives to the fullest, this bill could prove a net positive for a cleaner energy future.”

Wyoming Increases Oil and Gas Well Bonding Requirements

The Casper Star-Tribune reports that “the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted unanimously… to raise the bonds oil and gas companies pay on their wells, effectively increasing the rate from $25,000 to $100,000.”

“The move, which fell short of the $150,000 initially proposed by the commission, represented Wyoming’s response to thousands of coal-bed methane wells abandoned throughout the Powder River Basin in recent years.”

Paris Climate Deal: One of History’s ‘Great Triumphs’

Jonathan Chait: “Mitigating climate change is not a simple yes-no proposition. Holding temperature increases to 2.5 or 2.7 degrees Celsius may not be as good as holding them below 2 degrees, but it’s much better than holding them to 3.3 or 3.8 degrees. What’s more, the structure of the agreement is designed to produce additional reductions over time.”

“Obviously, such reductions will only happen if they are economically feasible. But recent history shows that political willpower and innovation feed off each other. Support for green energy in the United States (through the stimulus), Europe, China, and elsewhere spurred research and investment that have triggered a revolution in affordable solar and wind power, among other green-energy technologies. The green-energy revolution has made what was unaffordable in 2009 suddenly affordable. It is realistic to assume that the momentum from Paris will continue the virtuous cycle of political willpower and market innovation — the massive new market for reducing carbon emissions will spur more investment that will produce newer and more efficient technologies, allowing elected officials to make deeper emissions cuts.”

“It is hard to find any important accomplishment in history that completely solved a problem. The Emancipation Proclamation only temporarily and partially ended slavery; the 13th Amendment was required to abolish it permanently … Victories are hardly ever immediate or complete. The fight continues and history marches on. The climate agreement in Paris should take its place as one of the great triumphs in history.”

Climate Debate Isn’t Really a Partisan Issue

The latest survey by Yale’s Project on Climate Change Communication finds that “majorities of registered Democrats, Independents and liberal and moderate Republicans want climate action, will vote for candidates who will support it and represent the mainstream of American voters. The survey also finds that conservative Republicans’ views are often different from the rest of American voters.”

“Registered voters are more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who strongly supports action to reduce global warming (36% are more likely to vote for such a candidate, 16% are less likely). Only conservative Republicans are less likely to vote for such a candidate.”

“Likewise, registered voters are less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who strongly opposes action to reduce global warming (43% are less likely, 13% are more likely). Only conservative Republicans are more likely (slightly) to vote for a candidate who strongly opposes action to reduce global warming.”

“Too often, the debate about climate is portrayed as one between Democrats and Republicans. In fact, it’s not. It’s a debate between most Americans and conservative Republicans. Liberal and moderate Republicans often have views about global warming that are similar to Democrats and Independents.”

Budget Deal Talks Closer to Ending Crude Export Ban

The Associated Press reports that “White House and congressional negotiators moved toward wrapping up a tax and spending compromise Tuesday that would cap Congress’ year, a package expected to lift the ban on U.S. oil exports and provide legislative goodies for home-state interests.”

“House Speaker Paul Ryan told GOP lawmakers he expected compromise legislation to be publicly released Tuesday — a measure that would deliver victories for to both sides. But the Wisconsin Republican provided few details. The remarks, which Ryan made in a conference call with fellow GOP legislators Monday, were conveyed by an official who described the private conversation on condition of anonymity.”

TX: 7 Running for Seat with State’s Oil and Gas Industry Regulator

Fuel Fix reports that “Monday was the deadline for candidates seeking political office in Texas to file paperwork for their campaigns. Among them were seven candidates who announced they were running for a seat on the Railroad Commission, the state’s top oil and gas industry regulator.”

“The position will be left vacant after David Porter, the Republican chairman of the commission who was first elected in 2010, said last week that he would not seek reelection.”

“The group of challengers seeking Porter’s old spot include four Republicans and three Democrats.”

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