Energy Brief: DOE to Eliminate International Climate Office

Washington Brief

  • The Department of Energy will eliminate its Office of International Climate and Technology, which works with other countries to develop clean-energy technology. (The New York Times)
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he is considering changing Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument to a national park if the state’s congressional delegation supports it, but that federal ownership of the land is “settled.” (Portland Press-Herald)
  • A House committee advanced a bill supporting the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, a bill delaying implementation of ozone standards, and a bill to reauthorize the Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields program for contaminated plots of land. (The Hill)

Business Brief

  • Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) signed a bill ending the state’s ban on nuclear power. (Paducah Sun)
  • German and Austrian officials criticized the U.S. Senate’s vote in favor of sanctions on Russia, including companies that support Russian “energy export pipelines,” which would target the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe. (Financial Times)
  • Solar power already rivals the cost of opening a new coal plant, indicating global carbon-dioxide emissions may start to drop after 2026, which is earlier than expected, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s outlook. (Bloomberg News)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Friday
FERC staff Elizabeth Olson speaks at WCEE lunch 11:45 a.m.

 

General

Zinke says federal ownership of Katahdin monument is ‘settled’
Kevin Miller, Portland Press-Herald

The head of the U.S. Department of the Interior said Thursday that federal ownership of Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is “settled” and suggested transitioning to a national park was still a possibility. Speaking to a group of monument supporters near Millinocket, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke predicted the group would be pleased with his recommendation to President Trump on the fate of the 87,500-acre monument.

House panel advances Yucca Mountain, ozone bills
Devin Henry, The Hill

A House panel approved three environmental bills on Thursday, including controversial measures on nuclear waste storage and ozone pollution. Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce’s environment subcommittee opposed a bill from Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) that would delay the implementation timeline for federal ozone standards.

Pruitt Faces Bipartisan Pushback on Proposed EPA Budget Cuts
Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Thursday downplayed some of the White House’s proposed budget cuts to his agency at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing, where lawmakers from both parties pushed back against the Trump administration’s request for steep spending reductions at the EPA. Pruitt told the panel he understands the importance of programs that support the Great Lakes, Puget Sound and chemical safety, all of which are facing proposed cuts.

Oil prices bounce but stuck near 2017 lows on supply overhang
Libby George, Reuters

Oil prices edged up from 2017 lows on Friday but remained on track for a fourth consecutive week of losses because of excess supplies despite OPEC-led production cuts. Brent crude futures were up 43 cents at $47.35 per barrel by 1026 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $44.70 per barrel, up 24 cents.

Oil and Natural Gas

BP Energy Partners selling midstream portfolio company: sources
Liz Hampton, Reuters

BP Energy Partners, an energy investment company backed by oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, is selling portfolio company Pinnacle Midstream, according to four sources familiar with the matter. Houston-based Pinnacle, which operates natural gas and crude gathering, processing and transloading services, could sell for at least $300 million, one of the sources said.

Big Oil Firms Are Exploring a New Frontier in Shale: Profits
Bradley Olson, The Wall Street Journal

For Bruce Niemeyer, the Chevron Corp. executive overseeing the company’s $15 billion expansion here, one question looms above all: Will we make money? Big oil companies including Chevron, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC are piling into the Permian Basin, the oil-rich region straddling Texas and New Mexico that is the epicenter of the second wave of U.S. shale drilling.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Cyber, physical attacks against the grid increasing
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

No cyber or physical attacks against the power grid were successful last year, but that doesn’t mean the country’s electric supply is safe, according to the nation’s electric reliability watchdog. “While there were no reportable cyber security incidents during 2016 and therefore none that caused a loss of load [or power], this does not necessarily suggest that the risk of a cyber security incident is low,” said the North American Electric Reliability Corporation in its 2017 State of Reliability report released Thursday.

Renewables

Solar Power Will Kill Coal Faster Than You Think
Jess Shankleman and Hayley Warren, Bloomberg News

Solar power, once so costly it only made economic sense in spaceships, is becoming cheap enough that it will push coal and even natural-gas plants out of business faster than previously forecast. That’s the conclusion of a Bloomberg New Energy Finance outlook for how fuel and electricity markets will evolve by 2040.

Trump’s solar border wall with Mexico could pay for itself — if you assume the best
Michael J. Coren, Quartz

Mexico was going to pay for the wall. Then the US would front the cost and figure out later how to get reimbursed by Mexico. Now, the sun will foot the bill. US President Donald J. Trump told Republicans on June 6 that he envisions a 40 feet to 50 feet high wall encrusted with solar panels he called “beautiful structures.”

Coal

Energy outlook: Coal ‘collapses’ by 2040, placing damper on Trump’s agenda
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Renewable energy is set to dominate the energy landscape over the next two decades, while coal use will lose more than 50 percent of its market to natural gas, solar and wind, according to the latest energy outlook released Thursday by Bloomberg’s analytical wing. “This year’s report suggests that the greening of the world’s electricity system is unstoppable, thanks to rapidly falling costs for solar and wind power, and a growing role for batteries, including those in electric vehicles, in balancing supply and demand,” according to Seb Henbest, the lead author of Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s annual New Energy Outlook.

Nuclear

Bevin signs measure lifting nuclear moratorium
David Zoeller, Paducah Sun

Gov. Matt Bevin came to Paducah Wednesday to sign the “Robert J. Leeper Act” lifting Kentucky’s 33-year-old moratorium on nuclear power plant construction. The Paducah community has long advocated for an end to the nuclear ban and the economic opportunities it could bring, particularly because of the trained workforce that has been employed for decades at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

House panel votes to extend tax credit for nuclear power
Naomi Jagoda, The Hill

The House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday approved a bipartisan bill that would lift a deadline for the nuclear power production tax credit. The panel passed the bill by voice vote.

Barrasso: Senate risks closing nuclear energy watchdog
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

The Senate is under a strict deadline to confirm the head of the nation’s top nuclear watchdog or risk closing the agency for lack of members. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, raised the concern Thursday in advancing the nomination of Kristine Svinicki, President Trump’s pick to head the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, by voice vote to the Senate floor.

More Than Half of America’s Nuclear Reactors Are Losing Money
Jim Polson, Bloomberg News

More than half of America’s nuclear reactors are bleeding cash, racking up losses totaling about $2.9 billion a year, based on a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analysis. Nuclear power plants are getting paid $20 to $30 a megawatt-hour for their electricity, Nicholas Steckler, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in a report Wednesday.

Climate

Energy Department Closes Office Working on Climate Change Abroad
Brad Plumer, The New York Times

The Energy Department is closing an office that works with other countries to develop clean energy technology, another sign of the Trump administration’s retreat on climate-related activities after its withdrawal from the Paris agreement this month. The 11 staff members of the Office of International Climate and Technology were told this month that their positions were being eliminated, according to current and former agency employees.

Scientists say the rapid sinking of Louisiana’s coast already counts as a ‘worst case scenario’
Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post

It’s common knowledge that the coast of Louisiana is quietly sinking into the balmy Gulf waters. But new research suggests we may have been underestimating how quickly it’s happening.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Despite 2016 dip, it’s too early to celebrate the demise of coal
By Clyde Russell, Reuters

It may be tempting for those opposed to burning coal to break out the champagne and toast the second consecutive annual decline in the use of the polluting fuel, but it’s also likely a little early. World coal consumption dropped by 1.7 percent in 2016, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, which was published on June 13.

The Long-Term Price of Oil Is …
Liam Denning, Bloomberg Gadfly

What’s the right way to think about the long-term price of oil?This question consumes the industry — and markets — no matter what prices are on any given day.

Research Reports

Satellites reveal contrasting responses of regional climate to the widespread greening of Earth
Giovanni Forzieri et al., Science

Just as terrestrial plant biomass is growing in response to increasing atmospheric CO2, climate change, and other anthropogenic influences, so is climate affected by those variations in vegetation. Forzieri et al. used satellite observations to analyze how changes in leaf area index (LAI), a measure of vegetation density, have influenced the terrestrial energy balance and local climates over the past several decades.

Briefings

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