Energy Brief: Cohn to Leave White House Amid Tariff Dispute


Top Stories

  • Gary Cohn said he would resign as President Donald Trump’s economic adviser, a decision that came as the White House appeared to be set on moving forward with its plans to impose steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Sources said that Cohn, a staunch free-trade proponent, had warned last week that he might quit if the president insisted on imposing the tariffs. (The New York Times)
  • The Government Accountability Office will examine the role that Environmental Protection Agency political appointees played in choosing new scientists and other advisory committee members, in addition to the watchdog’s current investigation of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s actions and policies regarding the agency’s 22 advisory committees. The request for the additional probe came from Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). (The Hill)
  • The Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada is not likely to receive any funding this year, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), chairman of House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, said in an interview. But lawmakers have agreed to continue a separate Obama-era Energy Department loan program that the Trump administration has sought to eliminate, one that has given money to companies such as the electric automaker Tesla Inc. (Bloomberg)
  • Amin Nasser, chief executive of Saudi Arabian Oil Co., also known as Saudi Aramco, said at the CERAWeek conference in Houston that he’s “not losing any sleep” over oil demand forecasts or the increase in the use of renewable energy and electric vehicles. Instead, he warned that more oil-sector investment is needed to secure adequate supplies to meet future demand. (The Wall Street Journal)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Wednesday
NEI Nuclear R&D Summit 7 a.m.
CERAWeek energy industry leaders’ conference 7:30 a.m.
Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Forum 8 a.m.
Middle East Geosciences Conference 8:30 a.m.
Cleantech Group conference on biotech and sustainability 8:30 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment hearing on fuels and vehicles 10:15 a.m.
House Natural Resources Committee markup 10:15 a.m.
Thursday
CERAWEEK energy industry leaders’ conference 7:30 a.m.
House NEI Nuclear R&D Summit 8 a.m.
Blockchain in energy forum 8 a.m.
Middle East Geosciences Conference 8:30 a.m.
R Street forum on market-driven clean energy 12 p.m.
Friday
CERAWEEK energy industry leaders’ conference 7:30 a.m.

The Most Polarizing Brands in America

From the NFL to CNN, here are the brands that divide Democrats and Republicans the most.

General

Gary Cohn Says He Will Resign as Trump’s Top Economic Adviser
Kate Kelly And Maggie Haberman, The New York Times

Gary D. Cohn, President Trump’s top economic adviser, said on Tuesday that he would resign, becoming the latest in a series of high-profile departures from the Trump administration.

GAO to examine EPA political appointees’ roles in picking advisory committee members
Timothy Cama, The Hill

Congress’s watchdog agency is looking into the role that political appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) played in picking new scientists and other agency advisory committee members.

EPA’s Science Advisory Board Has Not Met in 6 Months
Scott Waldman, E&E News

The U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board has not met in at least six months, and some of its members say it’s being sidelined to avoid getting in the way of agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s anti-regulatory agenda.

Oil and Natural Gas

Big Oil CEOs ‘Not Losing Any Sleep’ Over Peak Oil Demand
Sarah Kent and Miguel Bustillo, The Wall Street Journal

The heads of some of the world’s largest oil companies pushed back on Tuesday against predictions that demand for petroleum could erode in coming decades due to the rise of renewable energy and electric vehicles.

Oil Dips on Forecast for Rising Stockpiles, Trump Trade-War Risk
Tsuyoshi Inajima and Grant Smith, Bloomberg

Oil dropped for the first time in four sessions on a reported expansion in U.S. crude inventories and the risk of an intensifying global trade war sparked by President Donald Trump.

Planes, Trains and Trucks: Global Trade Boom Fires Up Oil Demand
Alaric Nightingale and Grant Smith, Bloomberg

For clues on accelerating oil demand, look to the seas and skies.

Exxon CEO struggles to reverse Tillerson’s legacy of failed bets
Ernest Scheyder, Reuters

Exxon Mobil Corp’s $200 million write-down last month on abandoned ventures in Russia – once its next big frontier – points to challenges facing Chief Executive Darren Woods in his second year leading the world’s largest publicly traded oil producer.

Shakes and superstition: Exxon faces backlash in Papua New Guinea
Jonathan Barrett and Henning Gloystein, Reuters

A deadly earthquake that struck ExxonMobil’s $19 billion gas project in the mountains of Papua New Guinea is sparking a backlash against the U.S. energy giant that could prove harder to fix than buried roads and broken pipes.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Beleaguered GE Hopes Energy Storage Is Its Next Big Business
Erin Ailworth, The Wall Street Journal

General Electric Co. plans to unveil a new battery platform Wednesday as it seeks to become a leader in the emerging market of storing electricity.

Renewables

The U.S. just hit a major milestone for energy storage — which is also great news for solar
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

The United States has now added the capacity to store a billion watts of power for one hour and may double that total in 2018 alone, says a heady new forecast that highlights the rapid growth of the battery business.

Tesla Loses Top Spot in Residential Solar to Sunrun
Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg

Elon Musk is no longer leading the charge in residential solar. Tesla Inc. installed 87 megawatts of commercial and residential solar in the fourth quarter, including about 50 megawatts at homes, according to a GTM Research estimate.

1366 abandons plans for New York factory
Christian Roselund, PV Magazine

For the past five years, 1366 Technologies has been the poster child of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Loan Guarantee Program. While recipients such as Solyndra and Beacon Power went belly-up, the innovative wafer maker had not only survived but was thriving, with impressive technical results, a massive contract to supply its Direct Wafers to Hanwha Q Cells, and a partnership with polysilicon giant Wacker Chemie.

Y Combinator Is Looking for Carbon Removal Startups
Katie Fehrenbacher, Greentech Media

Y Combinator — the accelerator program that birthed some of Silicon Valley’s hottest startups like Airbnb and Dropbox — is looking for founders with an unusual interest: sucking carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere.

Central Banks Emerge as Threat to Debt-Funded Green Energy Boom
Anna Hirtenstein, Bloomberg

Central banks are emerging as a bigger threat to the green-energy revolution than Donald Trump. While the U.S. president is tinkering with rules to give coal a leg up over wind and solar, it’s higher interest rates that threaten to scale back the flow of cheap financing that helped funnel $2.9 trillion into renewables in the past decade.

Coal

More Coal and Nuclear Can Replace Retired Generation, State Supreme Court Rules
Sonal Patel, Power

The Supreme Court for the state of New Mexico affirmed a final order by state regulators to allow Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) to replace lost generation from two shuttered units at its1,800-MW coal-fired San Juan Regional Generation Station with coal and nuclear resources.

Nuclear

Congress Poised to Skip Funding Yucca Nuke Dump Again This Year
Ari Natter, Bloomberg

House and Senate appropriators have no plans to fund development of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada this year, according to the chairman of the House subcommittee charged with writing the Energy Department’s spending plan. Lawmakers have agreed, however, to continue a separate Obama-era loan program the Trump administration has sought to kill, the chairman, Representative Mike Simpson, said in an interview Tuesday after his appropriations subcommittee finished work on the bill.

NRC Schedules Review of New Mexico Interim Nuclear Waste Facility
Sonal Patel, Power

Marking a fresh development for the nation’s futile efforts to resolve a long-standing impasse on nuclear waste, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said it could issue a license for Holtec International’s proposed consolidated interim storage (CIS) facility for used nuclear fuel in New Mexico by July 2020 or earlier.

Climate

How Trump’s climate skeptics are changing the country
Emily Holden, Politico

President Donald Trump is filling the upper ranks of his administration with appointees who share his disbelief in the scientific evidence for climate change — giving them an opportunity to impose their views on policies ranging from disaster planning to national security to housing standards.

Can we refreeze the Arctic? Scientists are beginning to ask
Chelsea Harvey, E&E News

Each summer, residents of the Swiss Alps make their way through the mountains to the edge of the famous Rhône Glacier. There, fleecy white blankets in hand, they cover up the ice.

College Republicans Propose an Unusual Idea From the Right: a Carbon Tax
Lisa Friedman, The New York Times

As the Republican Party struggles to find its footing with the next generation of voters, several conservative college groups have banded together to champion something anathema to the party: a carbon tax.

Urban Heat: Can White Roofs Help Cool World’s Warming Cities?
Fred Pearce, Yale Environment 360

It has long been known that installing white roofs can help reduce heat buildup in cities. But recent research indicates that making surfaces more light-reflecting can have a significant impact on lowering extreme temperatures – not just in cities, but in rural areas as well.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Trump’s Abandonment of Paris Agreement Gives Rise to Alternative U.S. Leadership
Sweta Chakraborty, Morning Consult

President Donald Trump’s abandonment of the Paris Agreement has fired up a powerful coalition of leaders in the private and public sectors, and the results have been heartening.

The Cohn Departure
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

The resignation of Gary Cohn is a significant blow to Donald Trump’s Presidency, and recovering from it will be a significant challenge.

Gary Cohn’s Exit Won’t Make This Administration Any Better
The Editorial Board, The New York Times

In an administration filled with people with dubious ideas, limited experience and loads of ethical baggage, Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs executive who became the top economics official in the Trump White House, was supposed to be among the sensible adults in the room. Now, he is leaving after failing repeatedly to be the stabilizing influence that the Trump administration sorely needed.

Research Reports

Positive U.S. ethanol margins are driving ethanol production growth
Energy Information Administration

Estimated ethanol production margins at U.S. corn ethanol plants averaged 22 cents per gallon (gal) in 2017. Last year was the fifth consecutive year that margins have averaged more than 20 cents/gal, which has helped drive consistent ethanol production growth over that period.