Dunleavy sends letter encouraging potential Pebble investor
Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media, August 26, 2019
Officially, Gov. Mike Dunleavy is neutral on the Pebble mine. But a letter he wrote to a potential investor in the controversial project calls his neutrality into question. “It’s like a PR letter from Pebble,” mine opponent Norm Van Vactor said after reading a July 30 letter Dunleavy sent to the CEO of a Canadian company called Wheaton Precious Metals. Alaska Public Media obtained the letter in response to a public records request. In it, Dunleavy said he’d seen a letter Wheaton received from the Natural Resources Defense Council. The environmental group, along with Bristol Bay tribal leaders and commercial fishermen, pressed Wheaton not to invest in Pebble, which would be built at the headwaters of rivers that flow into the bay. In his own letter to Wheaton Precious Metals, Dunleavy said the state has a keen interest in the project, as the land owner. “I want to assure you the state will stand by those who invest in Alaska,” he wrote. Once the appropriate permits are granted, the governor wrote, “I am equally committed to removing obstacles that would hinder immediate construction.”
Our take: What’s wrong with an “open for business” Governor letting potential investors know that, “once the appropriate permits are granted”, the state will work to remove obstacles that would stop progress? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Unless you are the mainstream media, suffering from Dunleavy Derangement Syndrome (DDS). Calling the Governor’s neutrality into question shows that the media can’t (or won’t) differentiate between process and project. An elected official promising to let the process work, and once the legal process is completed, defend the results of the process isn’t really newsworthy – unless you wake up everyday with DDS.
ExxonMobil, Mosaic Eye New CCS Tech
Natural Gas News, August 27, 2019
US major ExxonMobil and Mosaic Materials have agreed to explore new technology for removing carbon dioxide from emissions sources, they said August 26. Mosaic Materials has progressed research on a unique process that uses porous solids, known as metal-organic frameworks, to separate carbon dioxide from air or flue gas. The agreement with ExxonMobil will enable further discussion between the two companies to evaluate opportunities for industrial-scale use of the technology. “New technologies in carbon capture will be critical enablers for us to meet growing energy demands, while reducing emissions,” said ExxonMobil. “Our agreement with Mosaic expands our carbon capture technology research portfolio, which is evaluating multiple pathways – including evaluation of carbonate fuel cells and direct air capture – to reduce costs and enable large-scale deployment. Adding Mosaic’s approach will allow us to build on their work to evaluate the potential for this technology to have a meaningful impact in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.”
Our Take: Private sector projects like this will do more to reduce carbon dioxide emissions than any government mandate can. Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are a hot topic among academic and private research groups internationally. Utilizing MOFs for emissions storage is a huge market. Markets, not mandates.
U.S. Glut in Natural-Gas Supply Goes Global
Ryan Dezember, The Wall Street Journal, August 27, 2019
More shale gas than ever is leaving U.S. shores. Unfortunately for the country’s beleaguered natural-gas producers, global prices for the fuel have never been lower. Natural-gas prices in Europe and Asia have plummeted this year to historic lows in the midst of reduced demand, the trade dispute with China and brimming storage facilities in Europe. The biggest driver of falling prices, though, has been the U.S. gas that is spilling into global markets. “It was inevitable,” said Ira Joseph, head of global gas and power analytics at S&P Global Platts. “There is simply too much supply coming into the market at one time.” The price decline has eliminated some of the allure involved in liquefying cheap U.S. gas and shipping it abroad, where it typically fetches much higher prices.
Feds take step to advance big ConocoPhillips prospect
Alex DeMarban, Anchorage Daily News, August 25, 2019
The Trump administration has chosen a preferred development plan for a big ConocoPhillips project that could significantly boost Alaska oil production, according to an environmental report unveiled Friday for public comment. The Willow project in the northeastern National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska could produce up to 130,000 barrels of oil daily, if developed, according to a draft environmental report released by the Bureau of Land Management. Alaska oil production is averaging about 500,000 barrels of oil daily this year.
Why climate change is so hard to tackle: Our stubborn energy system
Amy Harder, Axios, August 26, 2019
To adequately address climate change on the level scientists say we must, the world would need to slash its use of oil, natural gas and coal within 30 years, a Herculean task given our deep dependence. Driving the news: Democrats on the presidential campaign trail and international leaders preparing for a United Nations summit next month say urgent action is needed, but few actually have viable plans for how and when to cut our fossil-fuel use. The big picture: In 1987, 81% of our world’s energy consumption came from oil, natural gas and coal. Thirty years later, it is still 81% — despite the incredible increase in wind and solar energy, according to the International Energy Agency.
From the Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:
OIL INDUSTRY FRETS OVER NEW CHINA TARIFFS, WARNS TRUMP TO END TRADE WAR: The American Petroleum Institute warned Trump Friday that his trade war with China is harming the oil and gas industry, and poised to cause more damage.
The oil and gas industry trade group issued an unusually aggressive statement after China announced another round of retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion worth of U.S. goods, including U.S. crude oil and several other petroleum products.
China had already imposed a 25% retaliatory tariffs on U.S. liquified natural gas, just as the country is poised to be a top consumer of the fuel.
“This escalation of the U.S.- China trade war is another step in the wrong direction, the consequences of which will be felt by American businesses and families,” said Kyle Isakower, API’s vice president of regulatory and economic policy. “In addition to the impacts on the U.S. economy and jobs, U.S. energy leadership and global competitiveness are threatened as U.S. natural gas and oil exports continue to serve as targets for retaliation.”
Already feeling the damage: Even before China’s retaliation against U.S. crude exports, API said the trade war has harmed the oil and gas industry.
From October 2017 to June 2018, China had imported 22% of all U.S. crude oil, but that number has dropped to 3%.
We already have a Greenland. It’s called Alaska.
Heather Conley, The Washington Post, August 21, 2019
With all the discussion about the economic importance of Greenland, the ironic part of this tale is that Arctic mineral and energy resources, key shipping infrastructure and fisheries already exist in the United States today … in Alaska, a strategic purchase the United States made from the Russian empire in 1867 for a mere $7.2 million. Wouldn’t it be better to wisely and sustainably invest in the American Arctic? The American Arctic urgently needs a deepwater port to responsibly manage an increase in shipping traffic through the narrow Bering Strait. Although it is controversial and must be balanced with strong environmental protection, the United States can enhance its mineral and energy extraction from Alaska while working toward diversifying its resource-based economy. Rather than buy Greenland, I strongly encourage the president to invest in Alaska and deepen our economic and security engagement with Greenland and Denmark. After all, both are open for business.
Our Take: We couldn’t agree more! Alaska is ready to develop its mineral and energy resources and key shipping infrastructure!
Natural Gas, Lower Methane Emissions and Rising Opportunity
Mark Green, API Energy Tomorrow Blog, August 19, 2019
Even with natural gas playing a leading role in reducing U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to their lowest levels in a generation and strong industry initiative to keep lowering production-related methane emissions, natural gas opponents remain on the attack, including a new study that’s critical of natural gas from North American shale. More authoritative and trustworthy than the negative analysis is the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which issued these methane-related conclusions in a study published earlier this year (emphasis added):
- U.S. natural gas production has increased 46 percent since 2006, but there has been no significant increase of total U.S. methane emissions and only a modest increase from natural gas and oil activity.
- There has been a “major overestimation” of industry’s methane emissions in some recent studies. NOAA found emissions from natural gas and oil are up to 10 times lower than has been asserted in some studies.
- Overall, methane in U.S. air samples were shown to be increasing at the same rate as the global background – meaning there was no statistically significant increase in total U.S. methane.
Our Take: It can’t be said enough “U.S. natural gas has proven environmental and climate benefits, and it’s critically important here at home and around the world, helping to reduce energy poverty and improve peoples’ lives.”
Breaking: Fogle, Donley, Shaw forwarded for Senate Seat M
Suzanne Downing, Must Read Alaska, August 21, 2019
District 25 and 26 Republican Party officers chose three people as finalists for the Senate Seat M position that was created when Sen. Chris Birch died on Aug. 7. Dave Donley, Laddie Shaw, and Al Fogle are the names that won the most votes. The party officials had the option of sending three or four names to the governor, who will make the selection. Senate Republicans must agree with the choice.
Our Take: Big shoes to fill. Donley, Shaw and Fogle have all been strong supporters of responsible resource development in Alaska.
Inslee Drops Out and Bernie Announces the Most Radical GND of All
Power the Future, August 22, 2019
The past 24 hours has seen major developments in energy and environmental news. Here’s the latest:
Inslee Drops Out
Washington Governor Jay Inslee has officially dropped out of the 2020 presidential race. As Power The Future has detailed since the beginning of his run, Inslee has made eco-extremism the centerpiece of his campaign. He thought that embracing the eco-left was his ticket to the presidency, and he hoped to become the “First Climate President.”
Bernie Announces His Own Green New Deal
Axios reports that Sanders’ “Green New Deal” would cost a whopping $16 trillion. He wants 100 percent renewable power by 2030, wants to ban fracking, and he even wants to stop fossil fuel imports and exports.
As the oil and natural gas industry supplies the energy needed to power America’s modern economy, its continued commitment to advance environmental solutions has never been stronger. That’s the context for The Environmental Partnership, a new coalition of oil and natural gas companies that have voluntarily committed to continuously improve the industry’s environmental performance. To underscore our commitment, our participants agreed to track their progress and report annually.
Our Take: The oil and gas industry has made huge strides in improving their environmental performance. This partnership is committed to continually improving the industry’s environmental performance.
Alaskan Joe Balash resigns as assistant secretary of Interior
Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media, August 20, 2019
U.S. Interior Department Assistant Secretary Joe Balash, one of the highest-placed Alaskans in President Donald Trump’s administration, has resigned. His boss, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, announced it by tweet Tuesday afternoon. Balash was confirmed in 2017 as Interior’s assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management. He oversees the bureaus of Land Management and Ocean Energy Management. He’s been working to prepare for the first oil lease sale in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In his resignation letter, Balash does not cite a reason. He said he’s proud of the work he’s done, including lifting regulations on resource extraction industries, and the environmental work on ANWR.
Our Take: A real loss for Alaska. Balash was working hard to advance opportunities for drilling in ANWR. Best wishes in your new venture Mr. Balash.
Socialism does more harm than good for the environment
Danielle Butcher, The Hill, August 20, 2019
In no other economy do producers have such a responsibility to consumers and to their resources as they do under capitalism. Free-market societies require excellent business practices. If you do not treat your fellow man with the best of intentions, if you do not follow sustainable business practices, and if you do not responsibly manage your resources, consumers have the option to leave for a competitor. You will have a surplus of goods with no buyers, and your business will fail. It is in the best interest of everyone to do business well. Believing that corporations and the market will do well is not an idealist fantasy of the right — it happens every day. Delta Airlines works with The Nature Conservancy to voluntarily offset carbon emissions. Madewell gives their customers a $20 discount on new jeans when they bring in an old pair. Those old jeans are then donated to Habitat for Humanity to be upcycled into housing insulation. Patagonia recently saved $10 million dollars through tax cuts and planned to donate that sum to conservation and charity organizations.
Corporate America’s Hunger for Green Power Is Facing a Big Test
Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg, August 12, 2019
Companies and public agencies worldwide have already agreed to buy 8.6 gigawatts of clean energy this year through July, according to a report Monday by BloombergNEF. That’s well ahead of the 7.2 gigawatts of deals signed in the first seven months of last year and is on pace to shatter the record 13.6 gigawatts purchased in 2018.
That growth, however, may not continue into next year. The U.S accounted for 69% of this year’s purchases, and a looming shift in federal tax policy there threatens to undermine the clean-power surge. A solar tax credit is set to shrink in 2020, which means project developers are making a big push to get contracts before the end of the year, according to Kyle Harrison a New York-based analyst at BNEF.
Our take: A delicate dance between helping green energy get off the ground and coddling it well beyond infancy. At some point these technologies will have to be able to withstand a free market economy. The end of 2019 is strikingly close. Best jump now while you have the chance to recharge your Tesla.
U.S. oil firms challenge pipeline surcharge for steel tariff: filing
Collin Eaton, Reuters, August 20, 2019
Two U.S. shale producers have challenged an energy pipeline operator’s proposed surcharge for the Trump administration’s 25% tariff on imported steel, raising the stakes for pipeline builders facing higher construction costs.
U.S. oil producer ConocoPhillips (COP.N) and a unit of Canadian producer Encana Corp (ECA.TO) on Monday asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reject Plains All American Pipeline’s (PAA.N) proposed tariff surcharge on its Cactus II oil pipeline, according to a regulatory filing.
The U.S. leads global petroleum and natural gas production with record growth in 2018
US Energy Information Administration, August 20, 2019
U.S. petroleum and natural gas production increased by 16% and by 12%, respectively, in 2018, and these totals combined established a new production record. The United States surpassed Russia in 2011 to become the world’s largest producer of natural gas and surpassed Saudi Arabia in 2018 to become the world’s largest producer of petroleum. Last year’s increase in the United States was one of the largest absolute petroleum and natural gas production increases from a single country in history.
U.S. crude oil production increased by 17% in 2018, setting a new record of nearly 11.0 million barrels per day (b/d), equivalent to 22.8 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) in energy terms. Production in the Permian region of western Texas and eastern New Mexico contributed to most of the growth in U.S. crude oil production. The United States also produced 4.3 million b/d of NGPLs in 2018, equivalent to 5.8 quadrillion Btu. U.S. NGPL production has more than doubled since 2008, when the market for NGPLs began to expand.
Our take: You can watch a great video chart on this shift in energy dominance on the Alliance Facebook page.
Trump hasn’t saved coal in W.Va. They don’t care
Kelsey Brugger, E&E News, Monday, August 19, 2019
It is true that since Trump took office there has been increased production in West Virginia of metallurgical coal, high-quality coal used to make steel, as well as steam coal exports, according to the West Virginia Coal Association. The state has more steam than metallurgical coal.
But that jump is largely attributable to international market forces as demand grows overseas, said West Virginia Coal Association Vice President Jason Bostic. While the United States continues to shutter coal-fired power plants, the developing world is building more plants to supply electricity.
“West Virginia has the highest quality in the world,” Bostic said. “You have to pay to burn and move it — you might as well buy the highest quality.”
Our take: A fascinating look into communities whose livelihood is directly linked to coal. And a great reminder that coal mining is not all about burning for energy, but also that it is used in metal-making. The tensions can be summed up later in the article: ‘Peeking out of the foothills along the highway are billboards that read, “If your lights are on, thank a coal miner.”’ Note to Democratic 2020 nominees—you will lose these votes.
By the deadline, at least 5 people apply for vacant Anchorage seat in Alaska Senate
James Brooks, ADN, August 18, 2019
At least five South Anchorage residents have applied to fill the Alaska Senate seat left open by the death of Sen. Chris Birch, R-Anchorage, according to interviews Sunday evening.
The deadline for eligible Alaskans to submit an application to the Alaska Republican Party was 5 p.m. Sunday. The party did not immediately release a list of applicants, and party chairman Glenn Clary did not answer a call seeking comment, but five people are known to have applied: Rep. Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage; Rep. Josh Revak, R-Anchorage; former state senator and current Anchorage School Board member Dave Donley; Tali Birch Kindred, daughter of Chris Birch; and Al Fogle, who ran for the Legislature in 2018 and the Anchorage Assembly in 2017.
Under state law, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has 30 days to name a replacement for any Legislative vacancy. The replacement must be a registered voter of the same political party as the original legislator and be otherwise eligible to run for the seat. A replacement is also subject to confirmation by his or her counterparts; in this case, a majority of the Alaska Senate’s Republicans must approve Birch’s replacement before the person begins serving.
Our take: Best of luck to the candidates. Senator Birch leaves behind big shoes to fill.
Cook Inlet gas producer files for bankruptcy, citing lack of tax-credit payments and lack of production
Alex DeMarban, ADN, August 17, 2019
An Alaska natural gas producer filed for bankruptcy protection last week, pointing to challenges producing enough gas in Cook Inlet and the state’s decisions to withhold many millions of dollars in cash tax credits the company had counted on.
Furie Operating Alaska, owner of an offshore production platform in Cook Inlet and a subsea pipeline, wants to quickly find a buyer, the company’s interim chief operating officer told federal bankruptcy court in Delaware last Friday.
“The real big factor to me is the state promised payback on tax credits and that got vetoed,” [Dave Cruz, owner, Cruz Construction] said. “That hit ’em pretty doggone hard.”
After oil prices and state revenues crashed starting in 2014, the state began reducing the annual tax-credit payments it had long made to small independent companies to encourage oil and gas exploration. The state began paying the legal minimum required by law, rather than the amount companies applied for and had come to expect.
Former Gov. Bill Walker began capping the payments in 2015, and the Legislature later followed.
The Legislature has since ended the program, but the state still owes many companies. Furie says it’s owed $105 million.
Our take: Unfortunately, this is not new news and this has been building up for a long time. The Alliance supports a favorable business climate. It is difficult to do business when the rules change constantly. Dave Cruz’s comments are on point.
Murkowski now supports a ‘complete exemption’ for Tongass from Roadless Rule
Jacob Resneck, Alaska Public Media, August 15, 2019
That’s according to Senator Lisa Murkowski who said Tuesday that rolling back restrictions to road building is crucial for Southeast Alaska’s economy. “I very early on went to the Trump Administration and said as we look to the state of Alaska and the application of the Roadless Rule, we have to be able to have a plan that is specific to us,” [Murkowski said.]
The head of the US Forest Service was directed by the Secretary of Agriculture to initiate an Alaska specific rule for the Tongass. A 90-day comment period last fall received 144,000 comments, the majority expressing opposition to rolling back protections. Ninety percent of the comments were form letters or petitions.
“I think complete exemption from the Roadless is what’s best suited for Alaska,” [Murkowski stated.]
Our Take: We learned with the Stand for Salmon initiative that’s it’s not too difficult to galvanize (well-intentioned) environmental activists into a crusade. We are curious which voices from which states made up the 90% in “form letters and petitions.” Regardless of a rollback or a complete exemption, we just need to use common sense when it comes to responsibly building roads for the health, safety, and economic benefit of our neighbors in Southeast.
OPEC sees bearish oil outlook for rest of 2019, points to 2020 surplus
Alex Lawler, Reuters, August 16, 2019
In a monthly report, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries cut its forecast for global oil demand growth in 2019 by 40,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.10 million bpd and indicated the market will be in slight surplus in 2020.
The bearish outlook due to slowing economies amid the U.S.-China trade dispute and Brexit could press the case for OPEC and allies including Russia to maintain a policy of cutting output to support prices. Already, a Saudi official has hinted at further steps to support the market.
Natural gas production is at record-high levels despite low prices
US Energy Information Administration, August 15, 2019
U.S. natural gas production continued to increase in August despite relatively low natural gas spot prices, setting a new daily production record of 92.1 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) on August 5, 2019, according to data from OPIS PointLogic Energy. Natural gas production increased by 1.5 Bcf/d (2.5%) between May and August 2019, led by production gains primarily in the Northeast. The northeastern region continues to be the largest natural gas-producing region in the country, accounting for 34% of the U.S. total. Average daily production levels in that region reached a new high of 32.2 Bcf/d in the first week of August, 1.5 Bcf/d higher than its monthly average in May.
Our take: Good. More natural gas usage helps reduce emissions, provides safe, reliable energy, and fuels the economy.
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.