Buckland sets a milestone for rural energy capabilities with new Li-ion battery
Lex Treinen, KTUU, August 13, 2019
The new technology has allowed the village of about 400 people to turn off its expensive diesel generator for up to six hours at a time, beginning on July 24, when the generators when the diesel generators went silent for the first time. The power station coasted on energy that is stored from the turbines and solar panels for just a few minutes during the first test, but since then it has worked its way up to six hours — that’s six hours of quiet, 100% renewable energy generation. And that’s already after daylight started to decline.
Our Take: Good on Buckland for taking steps toward a renewable energy future, while being prudent and not just tossing away the diesel generator once the new tech arrived. Buckland is an excellent example of renewables working hand in hand with existing infrastructure. Now about that federal subsidy…
Garfield County commissioners fear ‘recession’ from proposed state oil and gas rules
Thomas Phippen, The Aspen Times, August 14, 2019
The main thrust of SB181 is to shift the mission of COGCC [Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission] from “fostering” the oil and gas production to “regulating” the industry, prioritizing impacts on community health and the environment.
The new law states the COGCC director may delay granting any permit under certain conditions. Those conditions, published July 16, include drill sites near schools, neighborhoods and — most importantly to western Garfield County — floodplains, critical water resource areas and sensitive wildlife areas.
Industry groups fear that SB181 would effectively turn into a moratorium on oil and gas permits.
The rulemaking process is ongoing, but what concerns the commissioners is the lack of new permits approved this year in the county.
Our take: The rules of investment apply everywhere: make it harder for companies to invest, and they will spend less money. Good luck to Garfield Country in heading off a self-imposed recession.
Trump Plans to End Methane Curbs That Oil Companies Want to Keep
Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Bloomberg, August 14, 2019
A draft proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency would prevent the federal government from directly targeting that potent greenhouse gas as it restricts emissions from oil wells and infrastructure, despite fears that time is running out to avert catastrophic consequences of climate change.
The proposal threatens to undermine the oil industry’s sales pitch that natural gas is a climate-friendly source of electricity — a cleaner-burning alternative to coal that can help power an energy-hungry world for decades to come. Dozens of oil companies have made voluntary pledges to keep methane in check, and some have warned the Trump administration that federal regulation specifically targeting it is essential for natural gas to maintain that reputation.
From the Daily on Energy:
ENERGY DEPARTMENT LAUNCHES DEMONSTRATION CENTER FOR ADVANCED NUCLEAR REACTORS: The Department of Energy announced Thursday it launched the National Reactor Innovation Center at the Idaho National Laboratory to test new advanced nuclear reactor technologies.
The center is intended to give private sector nuclear technology developers support to test and demonstrate their reactor concepts and assess their performance.
“NRIC will enable the demonstration and deployment of advanced reactors that will define the future of nuclear energy,” said Energy Secretary Rick Perry. “By bringing industry together with our national labs and university partners, we can enhance our energy independence and position the U.S. as a global leader in advanced nuclear innovation.”
Trump speaks on wind power, Wheeler and DOE’s ‘big project’
Kelsey Brugger, E&E News, August 14, 2019
Speaking to energy workers at Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex, Trump said that “the hearts of our workers, the American spirit is soaring — higher, stronger, freer and greater than ever before.”
He further declared that the Obama administration “tried to shut down Pennsylvania coal and Pennsylvania fracking,” adding that the United States is the No. 1 producer of energy “by far” — a status that has been the case since the Obama era. As he has in the past, he attacked the Paris climate accord, criticized “windmills” and expressed sadness for dead birds — a day after his administration weakened protections for threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
Trump added after the event that Energy Secretary Rick Perry — who was in attendance — would be announcing the “big project” next week but did not provide details.
Our Take: Big project? But no details? The true hidden gem in this article is unearthed at the end: ‘Guith [acting director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute] said there’s already a clear distinction between Trump and the pool of Democratic challengers. “When a ban on fracking is becoming commonplace — that doesn’t play very well in this part of the economy,” he said.’ Here’s looking at you 2020. Marginalizing communities and stripping away their economic drivers does not bode well.
Longmont company patents tool to help oil and gas companies self-regulate emissions
John Spina, Longmont Times-Call, August 7, 2019
When combustors at oil and gas production facilities are working correctly, they use extreme heat to separate the fuels from volatile organic compounds and other pollutants, resulting in water and carbon dioxide being the only emissions.
When there isn’t a sufficient amount of oxygen in the mix, the decreased level of heat causes incomplete combustion, which leads to the emission of carbon monoxide and acetaldehyde, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer listed as a Group 1 human carcinogen.
Recognizing the problem, the design team at Mountain Secure Systems, a Longmont based electronics manufacturer, spent the past three years developing a system that can predict when incomplete combustion is about to occur and alert site operators so the problem can be fixed before it becomes an environmental hazard or the smoke is noticed by a regulator, resulting in a $15,000 a day fine from the Environmental Protection Agency.
On Monday, Mountain Secure Systems obtained a patent for its autonomous system, known as a Smoking Combustor Advance Notification System, or SCANS, allowing it to bring it to market.
Our Take: ‘“Today’s oil and natural gas industry is a technology industry, with several innovations driving emission reductions and improved efficiencies,” he said. “Our businesses are part of the environmental solution, but a stable regulatory environment is critical for innovation as investment craves certainty.”’ Steps toward environmental solutions? Check. Stable (self-) regulatory environment? Check. Certainty in investments? Check. Good on you, Mountain Secure Systems! Let’s hear it for more market-based solutions to reducing emissions.
Ethanol Hits Five-Year Low as Stocks Rise
Kirk Maltais, The Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2019
Futures prices for the corn-based fuel are trading at five-year lows after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency exempted many small refineries from blending gasoline and diesel with ethanol. The Energy Information Administration forecast Wednesday that ethanol stockpiles are at 23.9 million barrels, up 4% from the same time last year and 17% since 2016.
Less demand for ethanol in domestic fuel comes as ethanol and corn producers are also facing lower demand from customers in China and other countries as trade tensions rise.
China will need 15 million metric tons of ethanol annually by 2020 to meet planned regulations for 10% of gasoline used there to come from the biofuel, according to IHS Markit. China only has enough production capacity to meet a fraction of that demand, IHS said.
U.S. producers were expected to fill this demand, but as U.S. and Chinese officials spar over trade terms, other ethanol-producing nations including Brazil appear to be more likely beneficiaries of China’s need, IHS said. The same dynamic has boosted Brazil’s soybean exports to China over the past year as U.S. exports of that crop to China have plunged.
Trump administration eases endangered species rules
Ben Lefebvre, Politico, August 12, 2019
The Trump administration announced on Monday it would change how it implements the Endangered Species Act, weakening protections that environmentalists say violate the law and make it easier for oil companies, real estate interests and the agriculture industry to develop land inhabited by vulnerable wildlife.
The revisions spearheaded by Bernhardt, who previously lobbied on behalf of oil and agriculture sectors, include preventing Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service from automatically offering full endangered species protections to wildlife classified as “threatened” and minimizing its consideration of climate change when analyzing a species.
The changes would also allow the department to publish economic impacts of whether to list a species as endangered or threatened, and it would loosen protections on habitats where a species does not currently live but could move into if its numbers rebound.
Our Take: Last year at the RDC conference, we heard from Bradley Oliphant (EER Group, Perkins Coie LLC) that the Endangered Species Act is nuanced—not just add-an-animal, protect-it-forever. However, coming from an Alaska perspective, we understand that protecting wildlife is one of our top priorities as stewards of the land. This is likely not the end of this fight, and we hope that balance is achieved for the future of the Endangered Species Act.
Twenty-two states sue Trump administration over carbon rule replacement
Valerie Volcovici, Reuters, August 13, 2019
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Twenty-two states, including New York and California, and seven cities on Tuesday sued to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s replacement of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, arguing it prolongs U.S. reliance on coal power and obstructs states that pursue cleaner electricity generation.
The lawsuit filed in a federal appellate court in Washington charges that the EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which it finalized in June, will not curb rising carbon emissions from power plants and will prolong the operation of…coal plants.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in June unveiled the ACE, which set guidelines for states to develop performance standards for power plants to boost the amount of power produced relative to the amount of coal burned.
Our Take: EPA Administrator Wheeler visits the state early next week, and we look forward to hearing what he has to say about ACE and other administrative priorities.
From the Daily on Energy:
TRUMP’S VISIT TO PETROCHEMICAL PLANT SHOWS A DEMOCRATIC ‘BLIND SPOT’ ON FOSSIL FUELS: President Trump is touring a petrochemical plant in western Pennsylvania Tuesday afternoon to tout booming U.S. energy production and its ties to the economy of a swing state whose Democratic leadership is more embracing of fossil fuels than the national party.
While no one can guess how Trump will focus his visit, his allies say he has the opportunity to make the case for the growing demand for oil and gas for petrochemicals used in plastics, fertilizers, clothing, digital devices, and other everyday products, and how that contrasts with pledges from Democratic presidential candidates to phase out fossil fuels.
“There is such a contrast for the president going out to celebrate the fact that petrochemicals are the building blocks of modern day life, versus the Democrats who want to shut that industry down,” said Mandy Gunasekara, a former senior EPA official in the Trump administration who now runs the Energy 45 Fund, a nonprofit supporting the president’s energy agenda.
“It’s within the strategy of the Democrats to go after these plants because of their demand for fossil-based energy to do what they do,” Gunasekara told me in an interview.
Demand for petrochemicals is booming: Petrochemicals derived from oil and gas are becoming the largest drivers of global oil demand, the International Energy Agency said in a report last year, outpacing demand from cars, planes and trucks. IEA projects that petrochemicals will account for more than a third of oil demand growth over the next decade, and nearly half of growth through 2050. Petrochemicals could consume an additional 56 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas by 2030, and 83 bcm by 2050, IEA said.
The U.S. is poised to be a major part of serving that demand growth. It has become a low-cost location for chemicals production thanks to the shale gas revolution, and is now home to around 40% of the global ethane-based petrochemical production capacity.
Production of ethane, a byproduct of natural gas that can be made into polyethylene, a form of plastic, is projected to increase more than 20 times by the year 2025, according to the Department of Energy.
Trump’s ANWR push: Will it really yield much oil?
Heather Richards, E&E News, August 12, 2019
ANWR’s coastal plain also lies in a straight line between successful discoveries in Alaska and successful discoveries in Canada. In the mid-1980s, a group of companies paid for two-dimensional seismic data to map the region’s subsurface potential, revealing a complex spectrum of possible hydrocarbon locations, said David Houseknecht, a geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey and a national expert on the rock lying under ANWR’s coastal plain.
At 7 billion barrels of possible oil to recover — the mean estimate from USGS in a 1998 study — the plain could offer reserves available through conventional drilling at amounts unheard of in today’s oil exploration environment, said Houseknecht.
To get that kind of oil by conventional means — just drilling down and tapping a bathtub full of crude — wildcatters would normally have to look to politically risky regions of the world or in deep waters offshore, like in the Gulf of Mexico, where exploration and production firms are concentrating more of their offshore efforts.
“There are just very few opportunities for companies to explore for billion-barrel oil accumulation,” Houseknecht said.
And though drilling in the far north carries a hefty cost, a larger oil field could offset spending compared to the long, horizontal wells backed up by massive hydraulic fracturing techniques in shale plays like Texas’ Eagle Ford.
Alaska has a lot on the line in ANWR.
Our take: Time to answer the age-old mystery of how much oil sits beneath the surface in ANWR: Drill some wells and find out.
Conservation groups ask DEC to reconsider Palmer Project permits
Claire Stremple, KTOO, August 10, 2019
Constantine Metal Resources cleared several major milestones towards developing a mine at the Palmer Project this year. Among them was getting all the necessary regulatory permits and approvals to expand their exploration operations next year. Conservation groups say the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation rubber stamped the company’s plans with inadequate data. They are appealing the permit decision.
“There are details of the permit itself that we think are, were really done poorly,” said Gershon Cohen, the Executive Director of Alaska Clean Water Advocacy. He’s among those asking that the permit be sent back to the agency.
“The fact that they would go forward with this permit shows that the agencies are not there for us,” said Cohen.
Zaz Hollander, Anchorage Daily News, August 8, 2019Chris Birch, a longtime Anchorage Assembly member who shifted to the Legislature in 2016, died suddenly Wednesday of an apparent heart attack, according to several colleagues.
Birch, a Republican, was in his first term as a state senator and served as chair of the Senate Resources Committee.
Birch spent nine years on the Anchorage Assembly representing South Anchorage. A retired engineer, he worked for mining companies as well as serving as senior engineer for Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
Our take: Sen. Chris Birch was a long-time Alliance member and advocate for responsible resource development in Alaska. To borrow language from another legislator: “We will miss him in the Capital, in our community, and out on the trails. [Our] deepest condolences to his family and friends.” Chris Birch was a great Alaskan, and will be dearly missed.
Hilcorp clears some regulatory hurdles to conduct a seismic survey in lower Cook Inlet
Renee Gross, KBBI, August 6, 2019
The Texas energy company had originally hoped to conduct the roughly 45-to-60 day survey earlier this year. However, due to concerns about the effect of the survey during the fishing season as well as permitting delays, its plans were pushed back.
Hilcorp still needs a permit from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. But on Tuesday, the regulator released an environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact. The bureau said the seismic survey, roughly 370 square miles, would have negligible effects on marine life and birds.
In a related development, NOAA announced provisions last week allowing Hilcorp’s proposed oil and gas activities across Cook Inlet. The authorization says its aim is to minimize harm to marine mammals over the next five years.
Our take: Kudos to Hilcorp for listening to public feedback and delaying their survey. Naturally, even when the appropriate regulatory steps are taken, someone will make a fuss. Cook Inletkeeper is concerned that, “‘Those monitoring activities don’t do anything for plankton and fish[.]’” Last we checked, fish and plankton were ‘marine life’, and BOEM says they won’t be impacted.
Oil slumps 5% to seven-month low on trade tensions, surprise U.S. stock build
Collin Eaton, Reuters, August 6, 2019
After seven weeks of consecutive crude drawdowns, “there was a thought that today’s report would turn oil’s fortunes around,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC in New York. “That support got taken out of the market.”
Brent has plunged more than 12% after U.S. President Donald Trump said last week that he would slap a 10% tariff on a further $300 billion in Chinese imports from Sept. 1, sending global equity markets into a tailspin.
Our take: Shocker– oil prices go up, oil prices go down. The lesson here is to maintain policies that make investment attractive at a range of oil prices.
The Great American Oil And Natural Gas Pipeline Boom
Jude Clemente, Forbes, August 6, 2019
These build-outs are essential.
The U.S. Department of Energy reports that the majority of new power plants in this country will be natural gas, a hefty 235,000 MW of additional gas capacity in the coming decades.
It could actually be even higher given how low gas prices are.
Lowering the ability of other power sources to compete, some expect U.S. gas prices to not clear the $3 range until 2026 at the earliest
Gas pipelines are good for the environment too: BNEF reports that more natural gas “has done more to curb U.S. carbon emissions in the past decade than any other single factor, including new renewable build.”
Our take: More pipelines results in curbed emissions, safer transport, and increased access to a reliable energy source? Yes, please.
Dems want to kill oil and gas leasing. Here’s why it matters
Heather Richards and Timothy Cama, E&E News, August 6, 2019
The idea of stopping new leases is grounded in the notion that the U.S. government has a particular responsibility for emissions stemming from fossil fuels extracted from federal property or via transfers of government-owned mineral rights.
The U.S. Geological Survey concluded last year that fossil fuels from federal lands and waters account for 24% of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions throughout their life cycle.
Because the government oversees those resources, it has the power to dictate whether they are brought out of the ground in the first place, activists argue.
Regardless of the political viability, cutting federal leasing could have broad consequences — politically and financially — for swaths of the United States.
Thirty-five states receive money from offshore and onshore development, but most of that cash is concentrated in a few big winners — meaning Democrats’ promised action could have an outsize effect on those regions.
It would take years for production to be affected by simply barring new leases, and a crisis likely wouldn’t immediately hit communities that depend on federal development, said Mark Haggerty, an economist at Headwaters Economics in Montana.
“No one really argues [against] the need to move to renewables as quickly as possible,” said Eric Sondermann, an independent political analyst based in Colorado. “But there is a naiveté that is being promoted, that this can happen overnight or carte blanche across the board.”
Our take: A great read. Well summed up with the statement: “Moving the United States rapidly away from fossil fuels is an easy political chip for the Democratic candidates, though it’s likely an empty promise, experts say.” It must be fun to be able to campaign on empty promises. Recognizing that the United State should take steps to move in a greener direction is prudent. Mandating that states who rely on oil & gas production stop in their tracks is not. Not to mention the potential for lawsuits…
THE OFFICIAL FY19 OIL PRODUCTION NUMBERS ARE IN
Ed King, August 5, 2019
The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC), the state agency which tracks oil production across Alaska, has released the last of the FY19 oil production data.
All production companies are required to report the amount of oil, gas, and water they take out of the ground to AOGCC each month. Those numbers are all public information, free to download from the most user-friendly front-end database interfaces I work with. You can find it here.
This is the single best resource for understanding what is happening on the North Slope. While other state agency report numbers relevant to their own mission, it is the AOGCC data that should be considered the official government numbers.
Our take: Thanks Ed! Really great information and clear graphics.
With big questions remaining, Alaska Legislature’s second special session set to quietly end Tuesday
James Brooks, ADN, August 5, 2019
A special session that began with controversy and division will end Tuesday with no further legislative action.
The Alaska House of Representatives and Alaska Senate have canceled scheduled meetings, meaning the second special session of the 31st Alaska Legislature will reach its 30-day limit at midnight Wednesday morning.
Our take: Is that it?
From the Daily on Energy:
MURKOWSKI INTRODUCES BILL TO EXPAND CLEAN ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS: Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska announced Monday that she introduced legislation to expand the access of loans for clean energy infrastructure to allow for greater development of projects in small and rural communities.
Her bill would permit certain state financing entities to be eligible for the Energy Department’s Section 1703 loan guarantee program, making it easier for states to secure financing for projects.
Under the loan program, DOE partners with private entities and lenders by providing loan guarantees for clean energy infrastructure projects that typically struggle to earn sufficient private investment due to technological risk. The program supports projects that avoid, sequester, or reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon capture, industrial energy efficiency projects, and transmission lines to deliver wind and solar power.
“Right now, the department’s loan guarantee program is tailored more toward large projects, which inadvertently shuts out the projects needed in many smaller and rural communities,” said Murkowski, the chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee “My goal here is to level the playing field so that state entities can access the loan guarantee program, bundle a number of smaller projects together, and then make them a reality to reduce local costs and emissions.”
Climate Could Be an Electoral Time Bomb, Republican Strategists Fear
Lisa Friedman, The New York Times, August 2, 2019
In conversations with 10 G.O.P. analysts, consultants and activists, all said they were acutely aware of the rising influence of young voters like Mr. Galloway, who in their lifetimes haven’t seen a single month of colder-than-average temperatures globally, and who call climate change a top priority. Those strategists said lawmakers were aware, too, but few were taking action.
“We’re definitely sending a message to younger voters that we don’t care about things that are very important to them,” said Douglas Heye, a former communications director at the Republican National Committee. “This spells certain doom in the long term if there isn’t a plan to admit reality and have legislative prescriptions for it.”
Our take: We heard it loud and clear at the annual AOGA conference: 47% of Americans care a great deal about climate issues (one of the top 5 issues in looking ahead to the 2020 elections). This article illustrates that bridging the gap between Right and Left to come up with solutions and not just lofty notions (*ahem* Green New Deal) is our best route forward. Once again, we echo the rallying cry of our friends at the American Conservation Coalition—advocating for free-market solutions to environmental woes.
LNG traders consider shipping options, betting on winter demand
Jessica Jaganathan, Reuters, August 2, 2019
With Asia LNG spot cargoes trading at below $4 per million British thermal units, traders may take the opportunity to buy the cargoes now for later use, especially as demand typically increases during winter for heating which in turn pushes up prices, the sources said.
Storing commodity cargoes on ships to sell at a later date to take advantage of the rising price for later-dated supplies, known as the contango carry trade, is common in oil markets but is considered risky for LNG because of high storage costs and because LNG cargoes evaporate over time.
Australia Looks to Siphon U.S. Oil Stockpile to Avoid Running Out of Gas
Rob Taylor, The Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2019
It has more than 640 million barrels of oil stored in its Strategic Petroleum Reserve along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast. In contrast, Australia has mostly relied on oil stockpiles owned by major companies to meet its obligations to the IEA since joining in 1979.
A steep fall in Australia’s oil production and the closure of several refineries have complicated that approach, while lawmakers have balked at the billions of dollars in investment needed to build fuel stocks and storage infrastructure.
“Australia is reliant on traffic through the Strait of Hormuz for a percentage of our oil supplies so we’re doing everything that we can to be a good government and be prudent to make sure that we get a continuity of supply,” Mr. Taylor said.
From the Daily on Energy:
THE WORLD WILL STILL THIRST FOR FOSSIL FUELS IN 2040: Fossil fuels will still provide the vast majority of the world’s energy in 2040, according to new projections released by consultancy Wood Mackenzie, leaving the planet far short of the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
“The energy mix is not changing nearly as quickly as the world needs it to,” Wood Mackenzie president Neal Anderson wrote in an op-ed accompanying the report, released Friday.
The report, based on a “conservative” scenario, said coal, oil, and gas will provide 85% of the world’s primary energy supply by 2040.
The forecast illustrates the scale of the ambition in Democratic presidential candidates’ plans for the U.S. economy to reach net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050, phase out the use of fossil fuels, and expand investments into renewable sources. The U.S. emits about 15% of the world’s carbon pollution.
It also comes after United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned countries last week ahead of a major Climate Action Summit in New York on Sept. 23 that they must increase their targets to limit greenhouse gas emissions in order to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
Our take: More reason to be skeptical about calls for “banning” fossil fuels, or even severely curbing this use, in the short term. The world needs traditional sources of energy today, and for years into the future.
Groups sue for information on Arctic refuge lease sale
Dan Joling, Associated Press, July 31, 2019
An Alaska Native organization and three environmental groups sued the U.S. Interior Department on Wednesday, claiming its agencies withheld information regarding preparations for the sale of oil and gas leases in the massive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The lawsuit filed in Anchorage claims the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not provide public information in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.
The groups sought information on an application by a company to conduct three-dimensional seismic exploration using 90,000-pound (40,825-kilogram) vibrator trucks and mobile camps that could disturb denning polar bears.
The four plaintiffs — the Gwich’in Steering Committee, Alaska Wilderness League, Defenders of Wildlife and The Wilderness Society — object to the planned leasing later this year in the refuge in northeast Alaska.
Our take: And the cycle continues. Outside voices speaking for the people directly affected by the opportunity to develop. According to an article published last week, “A recent poll of 93 people conducted by Kaktovik’s city government found half in favor of oil development in the coastal plain, 30 percent opposed and the rest undecided.” Maybe we should allow those in the immediate vicinity to have a voice, rather than claiming to speak for them in a thinly veiled attempt to stop progress.
Trump promised offshore jobs. That’s not happening
Heather Richards, E&E News, August 1, 2019
Since 2014, 1 out of 5 jobs that existed in the Houma-Thibodaux area — the heart of the Gulf’s service industry — vanished, representing about 16,000 jobs swallowed as a result of the oil price bust that year, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
Many of those job losses preceded the 2016 presidential election, but they have not returned, despite Trump administration officials making expansion of offshore drilling a key plank in federal energy policy.
Politico reported in February that the Trump administration had handed out almost 1,700 safety rule exemptions to offshore drillers. The most common exemption was for Obama-era standards for blowout preventers that were put in place following the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 10 workers in 2010. The Trump administration has since officially loosened those standards, and green groups have responded with a lawsuit.
Despite that support, the workforce of the country’s main offshore oil and gas region continues to dwindle and may not ever return to what it once was, experts say. Gulf lease sales by the federal government also have been fairly flat in recent years, with occasional exceptions. Part of the challenge is that regulations do not drive oil and gas decisions, according to analysts.
From the Daily on Energy:
REPUBLICAN SENATORS TO INTRODUCE BILL ENSHRINING EPA’S WOTUS ROLLBACK: Republican Senators Mike Braun of Indiana and Joni Ernst of Iowa are introducing legislation Thursday that would enshrine into law the Trump administration’s rollback of the Obama-era Waters of the U.S. rule.
Braun’s office confirmed to me the pending release of the bill, set for later Thursday, dubbed the “Define WOTUS Act.”
“President Trump and his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are working hard to fix this atrocious Obama-era rule. But as the Administration has repeatedly noted, it’s Congress’s job to write laws. The Define WOTUS Act will solidify and amplify the Administration’s work on WOTUS,” Braun said in a statement.
The Obama administration’s 2015 WOTUS rule expanded federal water protections to small rivers and streams to protect them from pollution. The Trump EPA’s proposed changes, announced in December, would narrow how “navigable waterways” are defined under the Clean Water Act, siding with farmers, ranchers, and developers who said the broader rule violated their property rights, forcing them to protect the streams and tributaries that flow through their land.
Our take: Carry on, senators. WOTUS was and is a terrible idea. Time to put a stake through its heart.
EPA walks back restriction that loomed over Pebble mine, paving the way for key permit
Elwood Brehmer, ADN, July 30, 2019
EPA Region 10 Administrator Chris Hladick on Tuesday signed a 28-page notice at the direction of agency leaders that formally removes the agency’s proposed “preemptive veto” that loomed over the Pebble project since it was initiated under former President Barack Obama’s administration in 2014.
The move was applauded by Pebble supporters and criticized by opponents.
Pebble CEO Tom Collier said in an interview that, “This is a good day for Pebble. It’s a day I wish had happened much sooner, but it’s a good day for Pebble.”
Our take: Good on the EPA and good for Pebble. The Alliance continues to advocate for a fair and defined permitting process for all resource development projects, and it is refreshing to see the EPA finally agree. Hopefully, this development sends a message that Alaska is, in fact, open for business.
Why energy companies are still investing gasoline in the age of the electric vehicle
Marissa Luck, Houston Chronicle, July 30, 2019
As Shell’s largest research and development center, the 200-acre Houston campus has 1,500 employees and hundreds of contractors. They’re working on everything from formulating new biodiesel to advancing liquefied natural gas into transportation fuels. Their research also extends into something more tangible in the near term: how to improve gasoline.
Even as Shell opens hydrogen-fuel filling stations in California, invests millions of dollars in electric vehicle startups and develops biofuels, it is still pouring billions in research for advancing its core product, fossil fuels. Shell and other oil companies, such as Exxon Mobil and BP, are investing in clean technologies — and launching public relations campaigns to tout their initiatives — but their fortunes are still tied to traditional cars and the billions of people that drive them.
While automakers such as Ford, Volkswagen and GM boost electric vehicle production, EVs still lag behind traditional cars. There were about 1.1 million electric cars on American roadways in last year, up 361,0000 from the previous year, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency. But overall electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids still accounted for less than 2 percent of the U.S. auto market, according to the IEA.
“We put a lot of focus on time and effort around gasoline vehicles because still the majority of people who are on the road today are going to be in gasoline (powered car),” said Shannon Bryan, North America fuels manager at Shell.
Appropriators seek answers on proposed BLM move
Kellie Lunney and Geof Koss, E&E News, July 31, 2019
Senate appropriators want more details about the Trump administration’s proposed relocation of hundreds of Bureau of Land Management jobs from Washington, D.C., to several Western states.
Murkowski said she has some “just basic questions that we need to run through” about Bernhardt’s plan, which she has already indicated support for.
“I’ve always felt that the closer we can get our public lands managers to our public lands that they are managing, the better off we should be,” the chairwoman said.
Of the 550 positions the department studied for its relocation proposal, 60 would stay in the Washington area, including jobs related to budget, legislative affairs and regulatory issues.
‘That is criminal activity.’ Dems clash on scope of action
Mark K Matthews, E&E News, July 31, 2019
Climate change turned into a flashpoint at last night’s Democratic debate when most of the 10 candidates jumped into an argument about the best way to fight rising temperatures without wrecking the American economy.
“As we transition to this clean energy economy, you have got to recognize there are folks that have spent their whole life powering our country,” Bullock said. “And far too often Democrats sound like they’re part of the problem.”
Our take: Bullock seems to be the only one in the Dem v Dem squabble to understand the key issue underlying the Green New Deal and its fantasy policies. Large energy companies are already making considerable investments in renewable energy; undermining them and their workforce just throws up roadblocks.