Energy Brief: Automakers Want Review of Fuel Efficiency Rule

By Jack Fitzpatrick

Washington Brief

  • The CEOs of 18 major automakers called on President Donald Trump to review an Obama administration decision to lock in fuel-efficiency standards through 2025. (Reuters)
  • House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans have asked agencies including the EPA and Department of Energy to submit any accounting plans they may have on how to cut costs. (The Hill)
  • Doug Ericksen, a Washington state senator who has been a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency since Trump’s inauguration, has expressed an interest in leading the agency’s 525-employee Seattle office. (The Oregonian)

Business Brief

  • Saudi Arabia told OPEC it cut oil production by 717,600 barrels a day in January to 9.7 million a day. (Bloomberg News)
  • OPEC projects demand for oil to increase by 1.2 million barrels per day in 2017, beyond the 10-year average of 1 million barrel per day. (CNBC)
  • There were only 174 oil and gas discoveries in 2016, a 60-year low, compared to a usual 400 to 500 until 2013, according to IHS Markit. (Financial Times)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

NARUC Winter Meeting 8:30 a.m.
NARUC Winter Meeting 8:30 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on self-driving cars 10:15 a.m.
House Rules Committee meeting on resolution of disapproval on Interior 3 p.m.
NARUC Winter Meeting 8:30 a.m.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on Endangered Species Act 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on energy transmission 10 a.m.
House Science subcommittee hearing on DOE loan guarantees 10 a.m.
Atlantic Council event on U.S. and German power sector transitions 12:30 p.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on infrastructure and environmental laws 10 a.m.
House Science Committee hearing on NASA 10 a.m.
CSIS event on oil and gas markets 10 a.m.
No events scheduled



Auto CEOs want Trump to order review of 2025 fuel rules
David Shepardson, Reuters

The chief executives of 18 major automakers and their U.S. units urged President Donald Trump to revisit a decision by the Obama administration to lock in vehicle fuel efficiency rules through 2025. In a letter sent late Friday and viewed by Reuters, the chief executives of General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, along with the top North American executives at Toyota Motor Corp, Volkswagen, Honda Motor Co, Hyundai Motor Co, Nissan Motor Co and others urged Trump to reverse the decision, warning thousands of jobs could be at risk.

Oil-backed climate skeptic could get key EPA job in Pacific Northwest
Rob Davis, The Oregonian

The man interested in the job of protecting the Northwest’s air and water under President Donald Trump makes quick work of some bedrock tenets of the modern-day environmental movement. The scientific consensus on human-caused climate change?

GOP seeks internal agency spending plans
Devin Henry, The Hill

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have asked several federal agencies to reveal any internal accounting plans officials may have used to identify spending cuts. In a series of Friday letters, the lawmakers noted a December Washington Post report about a Pentagon study that highlighted a “clear path” to $125 billion in cost savings at the Department of Defense over five years.

GOP begins public land overhaul
Devin Henry, The Hill

Conservatives, industry groups and reformers pushing to overhaul public land policy say there’s a lot to like from the first month of GOP control in Washington. Lawmakers have passed several bills undoing Obama-era regulations that conservatives opposed, arguing they give the federal government too much control over lands issues.

Trump administration puts off listing bumble bee as endangered
Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday delayed listing the rusty patched bumble bee as endangered, a result of a regulatory freeze White House chief of staff Reince Priebus imposed on President Trump’s first day in office. The previous administration announced Jan. 11 that the rusty patched bumble bee, whose numbers have declined 87 percent since the mid-1990s, was so imperiled that it should become the first bee species to be listed as endangered.

Enter the Inhofe infantry
Robin Bravender, Greenwire

If you’re looking to build an army of government aides with experience fighting climate regulations, sparring with environmentalists and cracking down on U.S. EPA, alumni of Sen. Jim Inhofe’s office are an obvious place to start. And the Trump administration is doing just that, eyeing at least five current and former aides to the Oklahoma Republican for top political jobs working on energy in the White House and in EPA.

Long slog likely if Trump EPA attempts WOTUS do-over
Ariel Wittenberg, Greenwire

President Trump’s pick to lead U.S. EPA, Scott Pruitt, is an avowed foe of the agency’s Clean Water Rule. As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt sued the Obama administration over what he deemed an unlawful expansion of federal regulatory power over isolated streams and wetlands.

Global Stocks Keep Climbing as Treasuries Decline
Adam Haigh and Samuel Potter, Bloomberg News

Rumors of the reflation trade’s demise seem to have been at least a little exaggerated, as investors shifted to equities from bonds. Global stocks continued a rally before data this week provides detail on the strength of U.S. consumer prices, and ahead of speeches from a range of Federal Reserve officials.

Oil and Natural Gas

Saudi Arabia Tells OPEC It Cut Oil Output by Most in Eight Years
Grant Smith, Bloomberg News

Saudi Arabia told OPEC that it cut oil production by the most in more than eight years, going beyond its obligations under a deal to balance world markets. The kingdom reported that it reduced output by 717,600 barrels a day last month to 9.748 million a day, according to a monthly report from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Oil demand set to outperform 10-year average in 2017
Karen Gilchrist, CNBC

Global demand for oil could outdo the ten-year average in 2017 as the health of the world economy improves and demand for road transport continues to grow, OPEC’s latest monthly report has forecast. The new data from the oil cartel Monday expects demand to grow at 1.2 million barrels per day (mb/d), “well above” the 1.0 mb/d averages seen in the past decade.

Oil and gas discoveries dry up to lowest total for 60 years
Ed Crooks and Andrew Ward, Financial Times

Discoveries of new oil and gasfields have dropped to a fresh 60-year low, as companies put a brake on exploration and large fields have become harder to find.  There were only 174 oil and gas discoveries worldwide last year, compared to an average of 400-500 per year up until 2013, according to IHS Markit, the research group.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Nordea bans investment in Dakota Access oil pipeline
Attracta Mooney, Financial Times

Nordea, the Nordic bank, has banned its fund managers from investing in the companies constructing the $3.7bn Dakota Access oil pipeline, just weeks after Donald Trump, the US president, decided to push forward with the controversial project. The bank’s fund management division will no longer invest in Energy Transfer Partners, the main company that oversees the disputed project, amid concerns about the environmental and reputational risks of the 1,100-mile pipeline.

$4.3B Rover Pipeline approved
Casey Junkins, Parkersburg News and Sentinel

The $4.3 billion Rover Pipeline system, portions of which will include 42-inch diameter conduit, will send Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas across Ohio because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the project. The system — portions of which will run through Tyler, Marshall, Hancock, Monroe, Belmont, Jefferson and Harrison counties — will be able to ship up to 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

Utility regulator to gather opinions on FairPoint merger
The Associated Press

Vermont’s utility regulating Public Service Board is going to be collecting opinions about the proposed merger of FairPoint Communications with Consolidated Communications. The first hearing is set for Feb. 15 at Montpelier’s Union Elementary School.


Energy groups point to green policies for bill rises
Nathalie Thomas, Financial Times

UK households face a 42 per cent rise in the amount they pay to support government green energy initiatives, according to an analysis by one of the UK’s big independent power suppliers. Consumers help fund the provision of smart meters that reduce electricity use and subsidy schemes to encourage low carbon technology through their energy bills. First Utility, one of the UK’s biggest independent energy suppliers has calculated that the cost of funding these and other schemes will rise to $165.56 per customer per year from April, up from $117.99 in the previous year.


India optimistic of being coal-free by 2050
Kiran Stacey, Financial Times

India will not need to build another coal power plant after 2025 if renewables continue to fall in cost at their current rate, according to a report that suggests that carbon levels could be cut significantly beyond parameters agreed at the Paris climate talks. A report published on Monday by The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) in New Delhi suggests that as long as renewables and batteries continue getting cheaper, they will undercut coal in less than a decade.


Toshiba prepares to unveil nuclear hole, other perils threaten
Makiko Yamazaki and Taro Fuse, Reuters

Toshiba Corp will on Tuesday detail a writedown of close to $6 billion after bruising cost overruns at its U.S. nuclear arm, turning investor attention to the Japanese group’s efforts to fix that and other balance sheet headaches. The TVs-to-construction conglomerate warned of a potential multi-billion dollar nuclear writedown in December, a year after a $1.3 billion accounting scandal.


Temperatures in the Arctic are skyrocketing — for the third time this winter
Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post

While much of the Northeast was forced to batten down the hatches this week against strong winds, heavy snow and other icy conditions, the usually frigid Arctic experienced the opposite — a period of unseasonably mild weather and high temperatures, for at least the third time this winter. A powerful low-pressure storm system in the northern Atlantic has helped carry warm air up to the frozen north this week, sending temperatures in the Arctic soaring.

China orders cities on ‘pollution highway’ to reduce emissions, Beijing braces for smog
Brenda Goh, Reuters

Chinese cities that sit on three pollution “highways” have been told to coordinate efforts to reduce emissions, as Beijing and the country’s northeast regions brace for another bout of heavy smog this week, state media reported on Monday. There are 20 cities which sit on three western, central and eastern routes on which air-borne pollutants travel north due to geological and meteorological conditions, the China Daily newspaper said citing the Ministry of Environment.

NASA launched an unprecedented study of Greenland’s melting. Now, the data are coming in
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

In 2015, in a moment of science communication genius, NASA created a mission called “OMG.” The acronym basically ensured that a new scientific mission — measuring how quickly the Oceans are Melting Greenland — would get maximum press attention.

Massachusetts aims to cut gas leaks, power plant emissions
Christian M. Wade, Eagle Tribune

Fixing leaks on natural gas lines, capping power-plant emissions and providing consumer incentives to switch to electric vehicles are among new regulations aimed at reining in the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The new regulations, which don’t require legislative approval, target two of the state’s biggest emitters — the energy and transportation sectors — with a goal to reduce emissions by 7.2 percent over the next three years.

Farming a warmer planet
Zack Colman, Christian Science Monitor

The challenge for farm communities is to adapt and respond before climate change starts to erode agricultural productivity. For governments and development groups, the challenge is broader: They are recognizing that it’s not just that climate change is affecting farmers, it’s also that farmers are affecting the climate.

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Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

OPEC’s Amazing and Shortlived Compliance
Julian Lee, Bloomberg Gadfly

Don’t get your hopes up that the oil market’s headed back to the future. Ever since OPEC output quotas were introduced in the 1980s, Saudi Arabia has been the group’s great leveler, making more than its share of production cuts when prices needed support, while remaining the only member with enough spare capacity to raise production in times of shortage.

Research Reports

Customer Cost Shifts Caused by Rooftop Solar and Net Energy Metering Policies
Jared Moore, Meridian Energy Policy

Net metering is the policy of crediting consumers for the electricity they produce at the fixed, retail rate, and is offered by utilities in most states. Given the increasing interest in rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, there is current interest in understanding how net metering might affect the costs and revenue required for operating and maintaining the electricity system.