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Energy Brief: Bipartisan Group Introduces House Measure to Study Greenhouse Gases

Washington Brief

  • Five House Democrats and two Republicans introduced a bill that would create a task force to study how to limit emissions of powerful greenhouse gases. (The Hill)
  • President Donald Trump said in a video message at a coal mine opening in Pennsylvania that his plan to cut regulations is “one of the big reasons you’re opening today,” although plans for the mine predate his election and benefited from a $3 million grant from the state. (The Associated Press)
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told lawmakers his agency will continue researching climate change, but it will be consolidated into one division because he wants to know “what’s going on.” (Washington Examiner)

Business Brief

  • Coal-fired power plants worth about $15 billion are on the auction block in India, but there’s little demand. (Quartz)
  • The North American Electric Reliability Corporation warned that there’s the potential for major blackouts in California, pointing to an instance in which the distribution of electricity generated from rooftop solar panels failed during a wildfire north of Los Angeles. (Washington Examiner)
  • Connecticut’s state House withdrew a Senate-passed measure that would have allowed the state to buy electricity from Dominion Energy Inc. Millstone nuclear power plant, leading the company to say it will “continue assessing” its investments in the state. (Reuters)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Friday
Energy Department course on wind turbine design and construction 8 a.m.
Energy Department stakeholder listening session for the Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium 8 a.m.

 

General

Lawmakers push bill to target ‘super pollutants’
Devin Henry, The Hill

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced a bill aiming to reduce pollutants with an outsized impact on climate change. The bill, from Reps. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and others would create a task forced to study ways to reduce pollutants like black carbon methane and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that contribute significantly more to climate change than carbon dioxide, the most plentiful greenhouse gas.

Electric car demand sparks lithium supply fears
Henry Sanderson, Financial Times

A year ago, Tesla Motors founder and chief executive Elon Musk quipped that lithium was only the “salt on the salad” for the batteries that are vital to the US company’s electric cars. Fast forward 12 months and concern is growing among analysts, and some other carmakers, that the supply of what Mr Musk dismissed as mere “salt” will not be able to keep pace with demand as the expansion of electric vehicles begins to erode the world’s century-long reliance on oil.

‘Homework assignment’ — how Pebble lobbied Trump’s EPA
Kevin Bogardus and Dylan Brown, E&E News

Developers of a controversial Alaskan mine set out early to lobby President Trump’s U.S. EPA to reverse restrictions the Obama administration had proposed putting on the project. Peter Robertson, a top lobbyist for Pebble LP — the developer of the Pebble mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska — emailed and met with a senior EPA official to discuss the project, according to records released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Elon Musk: People betting against Tesla ‘want us to die so bad they can taste it’
Robert Ferris, CNBC

Elon Musk says people betting against Tesla intensely the want the company to fail. The Tesla CEO said on Thursday that investors with short positions “want us to die so bad they can taste it.”

Republicans Criticize Trump’s Budget for Cuts in Appalachia, Indian Country
Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke faced bipartisan criticism on Thursday of the White House’s budget proposal for his department, taking heat from Republicans on suggested spending cuts that could hurt their constituents. Zinke repeatedly reminded lawmakers at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing that the budget request, which aims to balance the federal budget by 2027 without increasing revenue, is a “starting point,” not a final offer, in a conversation about how to balance the budget.

Oil’s price fall stalls despite supply glut
Christopher Johnson, Reuters

Oil prices steadied on Friday following steep falls earlier in the week, pressured by widespread evidence of a fuel glut despite efforts led by OPEC to tighten the market. Brent crude oil was up 10 cents at $47.96 a barrel by 0920 GMT, around 12 percent below its opening level on May 25, when an OPEC promise to restrict production was extended into 2018. U.S. crude was 10 cents higher at $45.74.

Oil and Natural Gas

Boost for London bid to land Saudi Aramco IPO
Anjli Raval and Miles Johnson in London

Saudi Aramco will not join the FTSE 100 stock index if it lists its shares in the UK, averting confrontation with City institutions and strengthening London’s status as frontrunner for a slice of the Saudi state oil group’s initial public offering. Saudi Arabia is close to making its long-awaited decision on which international exchange its state oil group will float next year, when it is expected to become the world’s largest publicly quoted company.

Utilities and Infrastructure

What makes a successful utility-led community solar program?
Herman K. Trabish, UtilityDive

With almost two-thirds of utility professionals expecting moderate or significant growth in community shared renewables over the next ten years, it is time to look at what works and what doesn’t for utility-led programs. Investor-owned utilities (IOUs) now have 13 community solar programs representing 91 MW of capacity, according to Dan Chwastyk of the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA). Municipal and public power utilities have 22 programs with a combined 29 MW capacity.

Renewables

Grid watchdog raises alarm over solar panel problems
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Federal grid watchdogs are raising alarm bells over a solar panel design flaw that could result in power outages nationwide if not addressed, based on the results of a near year-long investigation into a major outage last summer in California. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation on Thursday issued the results of the investigation on an August 16, 2016, outage that occurred in southern California as a result of a wildfire that caused a large chunk of solar rooftops to trip and stop delivering electricity at a critical time.

Coal

New coal mine touted by Trump opens in Pennsylvania
Dake Kang, The Associated Press

President Donald Trump hailed the opening Thursday of a new coal mine as proof deregulation is helping bring jobs to the industry, even though plans for the mine’s opening were made well before Trump’s election. Corsa Coal Corp. will supply coal used in making steel and is expected to generate up to 100 fulltime jobs.

$15 billion worth of coal power plants are on sale in India but nobody wants to buy them
Devjyot Ghoshal, Quartz

Billions of dollars worth of coal-fired power plants are on the block in India but no one seems to want to touch them with a bargepole at the moment. Although an exact number is hard to find, analysts estimate that up to 30,000 megawatts (MW) of thermal power capacity may be up for grabs as debt-laden Indian companies look to trim the fat and focus on profitable businesses.

New Somerset County coal mine in midst of political, economic debate
Daniel Moore, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It is a vast, 100-foot-deep canyon dug into rolling pastoral farmland and among the cattle farms of Somerset County, expected to be the work site for 70 to 100 people in the region. But for the day, the new coal mine’s significance has been even larger than the immensity of the moved earth, the raw minerals underground and even the jobs it will create.

Coalition coal clash to stymie Turnbull’s energy plan
David Crowe, The Australian

A clash over coal power threatens to wreck Malcolm Turnbull’s ­energy reforms as a confidential review calls for a clean-energy ­target that could curb the use of fossil fuels, deepening a Coalition dispute over the shift to renewable power. The Prime Minister has been given “unequivocal” advice to establish the new scheme to bring stability to the $7.7 billion national electricity market, with tough new “reliability obligations” to prevent the blackouts and brownouts that struck last summer.

Nuclear

Dominion weighs future of Connecticut Millstone nuclear power plant
Scott DiSavino, Reuters

Dominion Energy Inc said on Thursday that it will “continue assessing” its investments in Connecticut after the state’s House did not pass a bill that would allow the state to buy electricity from Dominion’s Millstone nuclear power plant. Millstone is one of several nuclear plants in the U.S. Northeast and Midwest that could close before their licenses expire, industry analysts say.

Southern’s path to ‘first’ new reactor filled with pitfalls
Kristi E. Swartz, E&E News

Southern Co.’s nuclear expansion project in Georgia was behind schedule even before it got started. Contractor Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission grappled with design changes for the new AP1000 technology, delaying the agency’s issuance of the major construction license by four months in 2012.

Climate

Zinke says Interior Department will continue climate research
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told lawmakers Thursday that his agency is doing research on climate change, but it will be focused in one division of the sprawling department instead of four or five. “So, on the climate issue … we saddled it in one division because I want to know from a division what’s going on,” Zinke told the House Appropriations Committee’s panel on Interior and related agencies.

Paris Pullout Pits Chamber Against Some of Its Biggest Members
Ari Natter, Bloomberg News

As President Donald Trump mulled whether to exit the Paris climate accord, companies as varied as Dow Chemical Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Citigroup Inc. prodded him to stay in. But when Trump announced his decision, he cited research from one business behemoth that’s issued a steady stream of criticism to the Paris deal, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that counts all three companies as members.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The Story Is Not Leaving the Paris Accord — It’s LNG Exports
Dan Ervin, Morning Consult

The shale revolution has changed the economic landscape in the United States and has the potential to influence global economies and have a positive impact on global greenhouse gas emissions. This is possible because of technological improvements in an old technology, liquefied natural gas.

Coal Jobs Matter a Lot … in Coal Country
Justin Fox, Bloomberg View

You know the standard line these days on coal: It’s economically insignificant, employing fewer people nationwide than the Arby’s fast-food chain. It’s been on a long decline, pushed aside in electricity generation by cleaner natural gas and renewables.

Research Reports

Solar conversion of CO2 to CO using Earth-abundant electrocatalysts prepared by atomic layer modification of CuO
Marcel Schreier et al., Nature Energy

The solar-driven electrochemical reduction of CO2 to fuels and chemicals provides a promising way for closing the anthropogenic carbon cycle. However, the lack of selective and Earth-abundant catalysts able to achieve the desired transformation reactions in an aqueous matrix presents a substantial impediment as of today.