NEWS OF THE DAY:
Manchin burns climate package. What happens now?
Jeremy Dillon, E & E Daily, December 20, 2021
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin delivered a blow yesterday to legislation seen as the last best chance for Congress to address climate change, but congressional leaders appear unwilling to give up.
Manchin’s move upended the Democrats’ calculus for approving much of the president’s agenda, leading to a stern statement from White House spokesperson Jen Psaki. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) say the effort continues.
In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee said he could not support the “Build Back Better” bill, along with its $555 billion in climate-related spending.
“I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t,” Manchin said. “I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there. This is a no on this legislation.”
Manchin’s comments came just days after President Biden acknowledged the Senate would not vote on a revised version of the $1.75 trillion budget reconciliation package before the Christmas holiday.
Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues last night, “First and foremost, our work For The People demands that we stay at the table to pass the Build Back Better Act. While it is disappointing that we may not have a law by the end of the year, we are hopeful that we will soon reach agreement so that this vital legislation can pass as soon as possible next year.”
Similarly, Schumer said in a letter this morning, “We simply cannot give up.”
The inability of Democrats to close a deal with Manchin led to the punt. Manchin and fellow centrist Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, along with some House moderates, have slowly whittled down the package to meet spending and other concerns.
Most notably, negotiators struck a $150 billion clean electricity performance program at the behest of Manchin, who feared the mandate to increase clean energy deployment would raise prices and threaten grid reliability.
Democrats instead opted to focus on a series of tax credits meant to incentivize clean energy deployment, manufacturing, and electric vehicle use. Climate hawks were also seeking a compromise with Manchin on a methane fee.
Some of the energy provisions came from Manchin’s own committee. The latest version of the bill scrapped offshore drilling bans but would have enacted higher royalties for oil and gas drilling (E&E Daily, Dec. 16).
Manchin, however, released a statement reiterating concerns about the electric grid. He suggested his party’s leaders were moving too fast to transition the country away from fossil fuels.
“The energy transition my colleagues seek is already well underway in the United States of America. In the last two years, as Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and with bipartisan support, we have invested billions of dollars into clean energy technologies so we can continue to lead the world in reducing emissions through innovation,” said Manchin.
“But to do so at a rate that is faster than technology or the markets allow will have catastrophic consequences for the American people like we have seen in both Texas and California in the last two years,” he said.
Analysts at the Department of Energy’s national labs have said there are ways to dramatically increase reliance on renewable energy without jeopardizing grid reliability. And earlier this year, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the world was at a “code red” point in the need to quickly transition away from greenhouse gas emissions.
Environmental groups warned last week that should Congress fail to pass the climate provisions in “Build Back Better” the United States would have a difficult time meeting climate goals to comply with the Paris deal (E&E Daily, Dec. 15).
House Budget Chair John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said Manchin’s reasons for opposing the reconciliation bill were “complete BS.” Yarmuth said, “I don’t know if he doesn’t get it or just doesn’t care, but the American people will pay the price.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said, “The planet is not going to pause its warming process while we sort our politics out. We owe it to future generations to figure out what can pass and pass it.”
White House blindsided
Many Democrats and the White House have been holding their fire on Manchin. They didn’t want to anger him, and the West Virginian repeatedly promised to negotiate in good faith toward a compromise.
Despite the decision to delay the bill past the holidays, the expectation was to continue the reconciliation effort next year. White House officials, in a statement yesterday, said Manchin last week offered the president a framework he could support.
“If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate,” Psaki wrote.
Progressives described Manchin’s decision as a betrayal. Many agreed to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package in return for assurances “Build Back Better” would pass. They knew it would be watered down, but they expected something to move forward.
“Senator Manchin has betrayed his commitment not only to the President and Democrats in Congress but most importantly, to the American people. He routinely touts that he is a man of his word, but he can no longer say that. West Virginians, and the country, see clearly who he is,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said in a statement.
Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who originally wanted a $6 trillion bill, said the Senate should still hold a floor vote on the reconciliation package.
“If Sen. Joe Manchin wants to vote against the Build Back Better Act, he should have the opportunity to do so with a floor vote as soon as the Senate returns,” Sanders said. “He should have to explain to West Virginians and the American people why he doesn’t have the courage to stand up to powerful special interests and … address the devastating impacts of climate change.”
Indeed, Schumer said in his letter, “The Senate will, in fact, consider the Build Back Better Act, very early in the new year so that every Member of this body has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television.”
The White House said it would keep looking for ways to get Manchin back aboard with the budget reconciliation plan, as it has done for much of the year.
“Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word,” Psaki said in her statement.
To woo Manchin, the White House will need to further address spending and inflation concerns. In his statement, for example, Manchin cited a Congressional Budget Office score touted by Republicans that assumes an extension of the Child Tax Credit for 10 years. The bill only does one year.
Lawmakers and the White House are also looking for a path forward on the package’s climate elements.
“Major climate and clean energy provisions of the Build Back Better Act have largely been negotiated, scored for ten years, and financed. Let’s pass these provisions now,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement. “We cannot let this moment pass.”
Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) released a lengthy statement in which he touted provisions that moves the tax code away from endorsing specific technologies and toward rewarding emissions reductions (Greenwire, Nov. 19).
“Senator Manchin has long said he would only support technology-neutral incentives, and that’s exactly what this package is structured to do,” Wyden said.
Wyden, who has been bullish about policies like a carbon tax despite Manchin’s misgivings, said yesterday, “Failure is not an option here.”
Manchin may have tried to kill the reconciliation bill — as Republicans and groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce were hoping he’d do — but backers aren’t ready to let it go.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a tweet, “This is not over, folks.”
Oil driller sees the industry’s future in electric rigs, carbon offsets
Liz Hampton, Reuters, December 20, 2021
In a Denver suburb, an oil drilling rig plumbs the earth near a wealthy enclave framed by snow-capped mountains. The site is quieter, cleaner, and less visible than similar oil and gas operations. It might just be the future of drilling in the United States.
Oil firm Civitas Resources designed the operation to run largely on the city’s electric grid, eliminating daily runs by more than a dozen diesel fuel trucks. The electric rig has none of the soot or sulfur smell of diesel exhaust and is muffled enough that rig hands can converse without yelling.
As investors and lawmakers push the oil industry to lower its carbon emissions, this drill site and others run by Civitas offer one model for drillers looking to migrate to low- or no-carbon emissions operations.
An extra incentive for Civitas is that it must be mindful of neighbors of its drilling sites in relatively affluent suburban areas, where it also has easier access to the power grid. It is unclear whether drillers in more remote areas will be able to adopt the same technology as easily.
Civitas, Colorado’s largest oil and gas producer, says it is the state’s first “carbon neutral” producer. To get there, it has eliminated some diesel-powered pumps, makes modifications to drilling and hydraulic fracturing equipment and its production sites. It also buys carbon credits to offset remaining emissions.
A few miles away, another Civitas pad with 18 wells is hidden behind an earthen berm, largely invisible to the surrounding community. It has dozens of air-monitoring sensors to detect greenhouse gas emissions. Its pneumatic controls have been adapted to avoid methane leaks. It is Civitas’ first facility to do away with oil and wastewater storage tanks.
“Everything is piped directly off location. There is no dust, no truck traffic necessary to produce the hydrocarbons,” said Matt Owens, Civitas’ chief operating officer.
Colorado, among the top oil producers among U.S. states, also has some of the toughest state emissions regulations. It has told energy firms they must cut methane emissions from drilling by 2030 to less than half of 2005 levels. More drillers also face stricter mandates as President Joe Biden’s administration enacts tougher federal methane rules.
“Electrifying drilling, upgrading pneumatics and going tankless are certainly steps in the right direction,” said Deborah Gordon, a senior principal in the Rocky Mountain Institute’s climate intelligence group.
Colorado’s tougher regulatory environment has partially evolved from the industry’s proximity to homes and businesses. For Civitas, that suburban life means strong local electric power supplies.
“All the power lines that have been built out for urban expansion, we’re able to tap into those,” said Brian Cain, Civitas’ chief sustainability officer during a tour of a drilling site. He estimates switching from diesel to line power reduces emissions by 20% to 25%. “The landscape is a lot different than west Texas,” where operators do not have easy access to the adequate electric power, he said.
Some environmentalists have said lowering greenhouse gas emissions from oil drilling is not enough, and instead advocate for moving society away from fossil fuel usage altogether. This year, the International Energy Agency said investors should halt funding to new oil, gas, and coal supply projects if the world wants to achieve net zero emissions by mid-century. read more
POWER GRID WORRIES
While electrification offers a quick way to cut emissions from production, there are other hurdles. Civitas shifts work schedules to avoid overtaxing the grid during peak heating or cooling times, said Cain.
In Texas, however, top oilfields “tend not to be urban environments” with ample electricity, said Don Whaley, president of Texas retail power provider OhmConnect Energy.
The second-largest Texas producer, Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD.N), aims to electrify drilling, hydraulic fracturing and compression at pump stations within eight to 10 years, its chief executive vowed last week. The company has already begun switching out compression at pumping stations to move oil and gas for electric, said Chief Executive Scott Sheffield.
Pioneer is working with Texas transmission operator Oncor to boost capacity near the oilfield. It and other shale oil firms will likely cover some of the cost of upgrading power lines and substations to more quickly reduce diesel fuel use, Sheffield said.
Hydraulic fracturing, the pumping of water, sand, and chemicals into well bores to release trapped oil and gas, is undergoing its own conversion. So-called electric fracks, powered by fossil fuels coming from nearby wells, are just emerging.
Top U.S. fracking provider Halliburton Co (HAL.N) this year said it successfully deployed a grid-powered fracturing operation, which sharply reduced its carbon footprint, according to a company report.
“When you move to electric fracks, that’s the white whale for us,” said Cain, which he estimates could reduce emissions from completions by 20% to 30%. “That is a huge benefit for us in terms of total greenhouse gas.”
Asia diverts extra LNG inventories to gas-starved Europe
Ann Koh, Stephen Stapczynski, Anna Shiryaevskaya, World Oil, December 20, 2021
Asia’s relentless buying of liquefied natural gas earlier this year has left the region so well stocked for winter that spot shipments are being diverted to energy-hungry Europe.
Multiple vessels are now being diverted from Asia after prices in Europe traded at a rare premium, traders with knowledge of the matter said. A looming LNG wave will bring much needed supplies just as temperatures are dropping fast and is helping push European gas prices down from record-highs last week.
Energy prices soared in Asia earlier this year as China stockpiled everything from coal to fertilizers ahead of the winter. Now that a mild start to winter has ensued in Northeast Asia, buyers from Japanese utilities to Chinese factories are sated, while spot inquiries for cargoes have dropped to a whimper last week, said traders.
In Europe however, buyers are struggling to replenish inventories amid uncertainty over the startup of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia. From Italy to Poland, the continent has started to bid up the market to secure cargoes, although at prices surpassing those seen at the peak of last winter.
“Europe is simply bidding gas away from Asia to not run out of electricity,” Goldman Sachs analyst Damien Courvalin said in a call with reporters Friday. Temperatures are plunging while it’s been a relatively mild winter so far in Asia, he said.
Sellers have begun diverting cargoes away from Asia to take advantage of the spread, which may only accelerate over the next weeks.
Traders are watching for any signs on whether economics would shift to make it profitable to send supplies to Europe directly from production facilities in the Pacific region. Typically, Europe is supplied from the Atlantic basin producers such as the U.S., northern Russia or Nigeria, or the Middle East.
Supplies not limited by destination restrictions can head where the best market is.
Prices in Europe are so high that some Asian countries may even choose to re-export LNG they imported for their own consumption. But this rare move is unlikely at the moment because LNG cargoes from the U.S. and Western Africa are much preferred due to the time traveled, Mathew Ang, an analyst at Kpler, said.
The Minerva Chios vessel was sailing from the U.S. to Asia when it U-turned around December 15 and is heading toward the Red Sea, according to Bloomberg shipping data. The Lngships Manhattan, which was originally heading to China, is on its way to North Europe from the U.S., Kpler’s Ang said.
More shipments could follow suit, although they aren’t likely to be cheap.
“Continued normal weather conditions across Northeast Asia will minimize the need for prompt spot purchasing, leaving the high-priced cargoes for the European market,” said Felix Booth, head of LNG at energy-intelligence firm Vortexa Ltd.
To be sure, chillier weather could raise demand in January and see a return of Asian buyers to the market, traders said. A cold snap in China’s east and central regions over the past weekend was expected to drop temperatures by 6 to 10 degrees Celsius, according to the country’s meteorological administration.
For now, extra supplies for Europe would be welcome as storage levels are less than two-thirds full before the worst of the winter has started. The European gas benchmark in the Netherlands fell 4.1% on Friday but is up about 600% this year.
New copper product kills bacteria 100 times faster than standard copper
Mining.Com, December 19, 2021
Researchers at Australia’s RMIT University and the national science agency CSIRO, have developed a copper surface that kills bacteria more than 100 times faster and more effectively than standard copper and that could help combat the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
“A standard copper surface will kill about 97% of golden staph within four hours,” Ma Qian, one of the scientists involved in the study, said. “Incredibly, when we placed golden staph bacteria on our specially-designed copper surface, it destroyed more than 99.99% of the cells in just two minutes.”
Qian and his colleagues believe there could be a huge range of applications for the new material once further developed, including antimicrobial door handles and other touch surfaces in schools, hospitals, homes, and public transport, as well as filters in antimicrobial respirators or air ventilation systems, and in face masks.
The team is also looking to investigate the enhanced copper’s effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2, including assessing 3D-printed samples.
In a paper published in the journal Biomaterials, the group explained that a special copper mould casting process was used to make an alloy, arranging copper and manganese atoms into specific formations. The manganese atoms were then removed from the alloy using a cheap and scalable chemical process called “dealloying,” leaving pure copper full of tiny microscale and nanoscale cavities on its surface.
“Our copper is composed of comb-like microscale cavities and within each tooth of that comb structure there are much smaller nanoscale cavities; it has a massive active surface area,” lead investigator Jackson Leigh Smith said.
Smith pointed out that the pattern also makes the surface super hydrophilic, or water-loving, so that water lies on it as a flat film rather than as droplets.
“The hydrophilic effect means bacterial cells struggle to hold their form as they are stretched by the surface nanostructure, while the porous pattern allows copper ions to release faster,” the researcher said.
Smith explained that these combined effects not only cause structural degradation of bacterial cells, making them more vulnerable to the poisonous copper ions but also facilitate uptake of copper ions into the bacterial cells.
“It’s that combination of effects that results in greatly accelerated elimination of bacteria,” he said.
Researchers across the world are looking to develop new medical materials and devices that could help reduce the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. The reason for this – according to the scientific team behind the new copper surface – is that drug-resistant infections are on the rise, and with limited new antibiotics coming onto the market, the development of materials resistant to bacteria will likely play an important role in helping address the problem.
Voters Don’t Like Congress, and ‘Build Back Better’ Won’t Help
Rasmussen Reports, December 17, 2021
Fewer than a third of voters have a favorable opinion of Congress, and most don’t support the “Build Back Better” legislation now pending in the Senate.
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
A new national telephone and online survey by Rasmussen Reports finds that just 21% of Likely U.S. voters rate the Senate as doing an excellent or good job, while 47% give the Senate a poor rating. That’s even lower than ratings for the House of Representatives, which 30% of voters rate excellent or good and 45% rate poor. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
Congress gets low ratings from independent voters, and survey findings indicate passage of the $2 trillion “Build Back Better” bill won’t improve that situation. While 44% of Democratic voters rate the House excellent or good, only 23% of voters not affiliated with either major party share that view, just slightly higher than the 20% of Republicans who rate the House excellent or good.
Thirty percent (30%) of Democrats, 16% of Republicans and 15% of unaffiliated voters say the Senate is doing an excellent or good job.
President Joe Biden on Thursday emphasized his determination to “get Build Back Better passed, even in the face of Republican opposition,” but unaffiliated voters oppose the bill by a 14-point margin, 48% to 34%.
Sixty-two percent (62%) of Democratic voters support the Build Back Better legislation, while 69% of Republicans are against it.
The survey of 1,000 U.S. Likely Voters was conducted on December 15-16, 2021, by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.
Seventy-seven percent (77%) of voters say they are closely following news about the Build Back Better bill, including 41% who are following the news Very Closely. Among voters who are Very Closely following news about Build Back Better, 58% oppose the bill and 39% support it.
Men are more likely than women voters to give poor ratings to both houses of Congress, and men are also more likely to oppose Build Back Better.
More black voters (32%) and other minorities (33%) than whites (27%) give the House of Representatives an excellent or good rating. Similarly, while 27% of black voters and 23% of other minorities rate the Senate excellent or good, only 19% of whites agree. Black voters (47%) and other minorities (41%) are more likely than whites (36%) to support the Build Back Better bill.
Voters under 40 give both houses of Congress higher ratings than do their elders.
Voters earning $100,000 a year or more are more likely to support Build Back Better, compared to voters with lower incomes.
College-educated voters are significantly more likely to have a favorable opinion of the House of Representatives.
Lower ratings for the Senate are due in part to the fact that, among voters who rate the House of Representatives as excellent in doing its job, only 29% give the Senate an excellent rating.
President Biden’s strongest supporters rate the House as doing a better job than the Senate. Among voters who Strongly Approve of Biden’s job performance as president, 75% rate the House of Representatives as doing an excellent or good job, compared to just 45% who rate the Senate excellent or good.
The 2022 midterm elections are now 327 days away, and Republicans maintain a strong lead in their bid to recapture control of Congress.
An overwhelming majority of voters are increasingly concerned about violent crime and, by a wide margin, they trust Republicans more than Democrats to deal with the problem.
CLIMATE CHANGE :
How the Biden climate agenda could be rescued after Manchin stunner
Andrew Freedman, Ben Geman, Axios, December 20, 2021
Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) declaration Sunday that he opposes President Biden’s signature climate and social policy legislation makes the administration’s task of meeting its climate goals far more difficult.
Why it matters: The setback to slashing emissions comes as scientists say time is running out to avoid far worse impacts from global warming.
The big picture: The package Manchin rejected contained more than $300 billion in tax incentives for clean energy and vehicles, and other measures to cut greenhouse gases such as a new fee on methane emissions.
- Analysts viewed the bill as vital to achieving the White House’s goals of generating 100% clean electricity by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050, along with meeting its international climate commitments, including a 50% emissions cut below 2005 levels by the end of the decade.
- Without the policies in the BBBA, “We estimate the United States will fall 1.3 billion tons (CO2-equivalent) short of the nation’s 2030 climate commitment, a yawning gap that is unlikely to be bridged by executive action or state policy alone,” Jesse Jenkins, a co-author of a major Princeton University analysis of how to get the country to net zero emissions by 2050, told Axios via email.
- The legislation is also the linchpin of America’s international standing on climate. At the COP26 summit last month, U.S. officials, particularly climate envoy John Kerry, assured international counterparts that the country’s commitments would be met.
What’s next: Assuming the bill is dead or “just resting,” here are some overlapping ways climate policy could play out from here.
A stronger executive branch push
- That ranges from new urgency around steps like auto and power plant emissions rules to closing off lands to oil and gas drilling to quickly raising the social cost of carbon.
- The latter step would have ripple effects throughout federal regulations.
- However, the Supreme Court has signaled that it may look askance at expansive moves by the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
- And a future administration could undo such measures over time, as the Trump administration demonstrated.
A Capitol Hill salvage job
- Several environmental groups, including the League of Conservation Voters, signaled an intent to push for continued negotiations, as did multiple lawmakers. So did White House press secretary Jen Psaki (in between her broadside against the senator),
- It is likely any new version would be less ambitious to bring the price tag down, but it could still advance clean energy priorities.
- The White House could separate out the climate portions of the bill into standalone legislation, but this risks incurring new opposition from Manchin.
- “We would not yet bet against long-term green power tax credit extensions in some form, albeit for shorter durations and/or with less generous provisions,” ClearView Energy Partners said in a note.
Reality check: Manchin’s statement was noteworthy for throwing cold water on the need to speed up the energy transition, asserting that it is already “well underway.”
- He said moving faster would endanger the reliability of the grid and make the country more reliant on “foreign supply chains.”
- This adds new doubts to what kinds of tax incentives and other measures he would support in any new legislative text.
The apparent demise of the bill could create other ripple effects.
What we’re watching, part 1: Look for pressure on the administration to put climate ideas on the executive agenda that it hasn’t previously backed.
- They include more direct efforts by financial regulators to discourage investments in fossil fuels. To date, the focus has been on greater risk disclosures and planning.
- There could also be pressure from environmental groups on the White House to declare a “climate emergency” after a year filled with devastating extreme weather events tied to climate change.
- It’s a step Biden hasn’t previously endorsed that could provide some flexibility for taking certain administrative actions.
What we’re watching, part 2: A cornerstone of special climate envoy John Kerry’s work has been putting pressure on China — the world’s biggest emitter — to accelerate its climate efforts.
The results have been mixed, and the White House’s failure to move sweeping measures through Congress could make his job harder still.
What we’re watching, part 3: The markets. Keep an eye on the stock prices of electric vehicles and clean power companies today.