Energy Brief: EPA Releases 2018 Renewable Fuel Targets

Washington Brief

  • The Environmental Protection Agency released its 2018 renewable fuel standards, which maintain this year’s level of corn-based ethanol and decrease the use of biofuels from grasses, algae and plants. (The Des Moines Register)
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed funding the maintenance backlog in the National Park Service through royalties from offshore drilling leases. (The Hill)
  • President Donald Trump’s presence at Poland’s Three Seas Summit in Warsaw set the spotlight on the Three Seas Initiative energy and infrastructure project that American businesses could help develop. (The Associated Press)

Business Brief

  • Before climate discussions begin at the Group of 20 Summit of world leaders this week, Germany announced that up to 35 percent of its electricity is generated through renewable energy sources. (Ars Technica)
  • Volvo announced plans to ditch the conventional engine system for hybrid and electric technology in its vehicles, starting in 2019. (Reuters)
  • The United Kingdom imported its largest order of U.S. natural gas, set to arrive this week, in an effort to reduce reliance on Russian pipeline gas. (Financial Times)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Clean Power in Latin America event hosted by Inter-American Dialogue 9 a.m.
International Solar Fuels Conference in California 9 a.m.
CSIS discussion on export financing and global infrastructure projects 9:30 a.m.
International Solar Fuels Conference in California 9 a.m.



EPA Lowers Mandate For Cellulosic Biofuel, Keeps Ethanol At 15B Gallons
Jason Noble, The Des Moines Register

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed new targets Wednesday for the amount of renewable fuels that must be blended into the nation’s fuel supply next year. The agency proposes that the amount of conventional ethanol, typically made from corn, remain at 15 billion gallons in 2018.

Interior chief: New offshore drilling funds should pay for parks
Timothy Cama, The Hill

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said that he wants the federal government to increase its income from offshore oil and natural gas drilling to pay for budget gaps in national parks. Zinke told reporters Wednesday that new royalty and fee payments from drilling can go a long way toward solving the more than $11 billion maintenance backlog at the National Park Service (NPS), as well as mitigate the effects of the $360 million the Trump administration is proposing to slash from the agency’s annual budget.

Trump visit spotlights Three Seas plan for more energy ties
Vanessa Gera, The Associated Press

During a visit to Warsaw on Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with regional leaders at a summit of the Three Seas Initiative — an effort to improve trade, infrastructure and energy links among the 12 nations between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas. Trump’s presence will put a spotlight on the nascent project and could facilitate a prominent role for American businesses in modernizing a region still catching up economically with the West.

Big spike in security spending for Pruitt
Kevin Bogardus, E&E News

Costs for U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s personal security detail during his first months in office have been close to double those for his predecessors during the Obama administration. Documents obtained by E&E News under the Freedom of Information Act show EPA has spent substantially more on Pruitt’s security detail during roughly his first three months as EPA chief than past administrators Lisa Jackson and Gina McCarthy during comparable time periods.

Rex Tillerson will receive a lifetime achievement award — for oil
Carol Morello, The Washington Post

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will drop by Istanbul next week on his way home from the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg and a three-hour stop in Kiev to talk with the Ukrainian president. And he will attend the World Petroleum Congress to be given a lifetime achievement award for a career spent climbing up the ladder at ExxonMobil to the top rung.

Oil Gains on Report of Inventory Draw
Justin Yang and Alison Sider, The Wall Street Journal

Oil prices recovered Thursday after an industry group said U.S. inventories fell last week. The American Petroleum Institute said late Wednesday its data for the week ended June 30 showed a 5.8-million-barrel decrease in crude supplies and 5.7-million-barrel fall in gasoline stocks. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, rose 1.32% to $48.42 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures exchange. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate futures were trading up 1.40% at $45.76 a barrel.

Oil and Natural Gas

UK gets first big shipment of US liquefied natural gas
Anjli Raval, Financial Times

The UK is set to receive its first big US liquefied natural gas shipment this week, as growing US supplies of the super-cooled fuel find new buyers in Europe. The LNG cargo from the Sabine Pass facility in the Gulf of Mexico will arrive at the Isle of Grain terminal around July 8, according to industry sources. The cargo has been loaded on to the Maran Gas Mystras tanker, chartered by France’s Total.

Oil Exports, Illegal for Decades, Now Fuel a Texas Port Boom
Clifford Krauss, The New York Times

For 40 years it was virtually impossible to sell American oil to any country except Canada because of an export ban that was the bedrock of United States energy policy. The Obama administration slowly loosened the ban and Congress finally ended it in late 2015 in a compromise that also extended tax credits for renewable energy.

U.S. Strategic Oil Reserves Shrink as Shale Offers Supply Buffer
Sheela Tobben, Bloomberg News

U.S. strategic crude stockpiles have dropped to the lowest level in more than 12 years as the shale boom reduces the nation’s need for an emergency buffer against shortages. Inventories declined by about 13 million barrels over 17 consecutive weeks as the Energy Department delivered supplies it sold in recent months. That brought stocks down to 682 million as of June 30.

In Canada, oil sands companies are teaming up to try and reduce their environmental impact
Anmar Frangoul, CNBC

The world’s second largest country by area, Canada is also home to the oil sands, the third largest proven oil reserve on the planet, according to its government. The Canadian government adds that the oil sands are home to 166.3 billion barrels of the country’s 171 billion barrels of proven reserves. For their part, Canadian authorities acknowledge that annual production growth “presents several environmental challenges to land, water, air, and energy conservation.”

Oil pipeline developer ends private security in North Dakota
James MacPherson, The Associated Press

The developer of the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline said Wednesday that it no longer has private security personnel in North Dakota, including a firm that state regulators say operated illegally without a license. “We continue to have security measures in place in North Dakota, just no longer need boots on the ground,” Energy Transfer Partners spokeswoman Vicki Granado said in an email to The Associated Press.

Utilities and Infrastructure

U.S. Favors Midwest Corn Farmers in Proposed Biofuels Quotas
Jennifer Dlouhy et al., Bloomberg News

The Trump administration proposed a requirement that U.S. refiners use 15 billion gallons of conventional renewable fuels in 2018, while lowering targets for advanced alternatives that oil refiners have described as unattainable. Shares of independent refiners without upstream oil production and substantial downstream fuel-blending infrastructure declined Wednesday on the news.

Interior Gas Utility delays authorization to buy Pentex
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

The Interior Gas Utility will wait to authorize its general manager to purchase the Pentex natural gas company. During the utility’s board meeting Wednesday afternoon at the Key Bank Building, General Manager Jomo Stewart recommended postponing the resolution because of the ongoing negotiations with Pentex.

Massachusetts launches 400 MW offshore wind solicitation
Robert Walton, Utility Dive

Massachusetts’ largest utilities issued a formal request for proposals last as part of the state’s plan to acquire 1,600 MW of offshore wind projects. After months of preparation, Massachusetts’ offshore wind energy solicitation is live. Though the United States has only one offshore wind farm currently operating, clean energy supporters said the RFP marks critically important momentum” in the state’s press for more renewable power.


Geely’s Volvo to go all electric with new models from 2019
Niklas Pollard, Reuters

All Volvo car models launched after 2019 will be electric or hybrids, the Chinese-owned company said on Wednesday, making it the first major traditional automaker to set a date for phasing out vehicles powered solely by the internal combustion engine. The Sweden-based company will continue to produce pure combustion-engine Volvos from models launched before that date, but its move signals the eventual end of nearly a century of Volvos powered solely that way.

Germany’s power sector making serious strides in renewable energy
Megan Geuss, Ars Technica

The German Renewable Energy Federation (known as the “Bundesverband Erneuerbare Energie” or BEE in Germany) has good news and bad news. The good news? From January to June, the country produced a record 35 percent of its electricity from renewable energy. Comparatively, the US produced 19.35 percent of its electricity from renewable sources like wind, solar, and conventional hydroelectric power in the first quarter of 2017 (defined as year-to-date to April 2017).


U.S. gas market rebalances as power producers return to coal: Kemp
John Kemp, Reuters

The U.S. natural gas market has rebalanced with higher prices steadying production while reducing demand from electricity generators and making room for increased exports. Higher prices have averted the stock crunch many analysts feared in 2017 as a result of rising exports and the start up of a large number of new gas-fired combined cycle power plants.

Navajo power plant likely to close, despite Trump’s promises to save coal
Carolyn Beeler, KAZU

The Bureau of Reclamation, a federal agency that’s part owner of the plant, has been facilitating negotiations to keep the plant open for two more years, in the hopes of buying time to find new owners who will keep the plant running after that. But as the July 1 deadline for those negotiations nears, the vision for the future of the Navajo Nation is already changing.


Nevada adds more money to fight Yucca Mountain project
Sean Whaley, The Las Vegas Review-Journal

Nevada officials on Wednesday signed off on a contract to continue efforts to fight the Yucca Mountain project. The $150,000 increase in the contract between the attorney general’s office and Adams Natural Resources Consulting Services won unanimous support from the state Board of Examiners, which is composed of Gov. Brian Sandoval, Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske.

NASA Is Going Nuclear for Mars
Dianna Wray, The Houston Press

NASA is moving forward with plans to land on Mars by the 2030s, so the agency is also working out how to keep people alive once they actually get there. And thus, for the first time since the 1960s, NASA is zeroing in on nuclear fission. One idea that is gaining some traction is a set of small nuclear reactors to provide power on the red planet.

Will Three Mile Island get bailed out by Pennsylvania?
Tim Silfies, WFMZ-TV

Three Mile Island. It seems on the surface to be a simple case of a business suffering losses and shuttering its doors. The story, however, runs much deeper, and embodies the constant debate in America about the role of government when it pertains to energy production, and the measures taken by companies to survive in a changing market.

Fire breaks out on floating nuclear plant at Russia shipyard
The Associated Press

Russia’s emergency services ministry says a fire broke out on the floating nuclear power plant being built at a shipyard near the center of St. Petersburg, but was extinguished before anyone was injured. Construction of the floating plant, which is to be deployed in Russia’s Far East, has caused concern among environmentalists. Rashid Alimov of Greenpeace’s Russian branch said Tuesday’s fire showed that plans for loading nuclear fuel into the plant’s reactors are “irresponsible.”

Environmentalists Beg South Korea To Keep Its Nuclear Reactors
Andrew Follett, The Daily Caller

A coalition of scientists and environmentalists sent a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in Wednesday to caution against a planned shift from nuclear reactors to green energy. Twenty-seven U.S. scientists and environmentalists signed the letter, arguing that closing nuclear plants would hurt the environment.


A landmark climate lawsuit against Trump is scheduled for trial next year. Here’s what to expect.
Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post

A trial date has finally been set for a groundbreaking, climate-change lawsuit being brought against the federal government after multiple hurdles in the past year threatened to prevent it from moving forward. Last week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin ordered that the trial begin Feb. 5, 2018. While the lawsuit was originally filed against the Obama administration, the Trump administration has now assumed the defense by default.

‘Something isn’t right’ in Mont. wheat fields
Marc Heller, E&E News

The prospect of shrinking harvests hangs over Montana and other wheat-producing regions as politicians in Washington fight over what role the United States should play in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. While the political battle plays out, scientists and wheat growers are working together on one aspect of the debate where they agree: Farmers need new wheat varieties and practices to help one of the world’s top sources of nutrition adjust to nature’s challenges, human-influenced or not.

Climate Activists Fear Group of 20 May Waver in Support for Paris Climate Deal
Iulia Gheorghiu, Morning Consult

Climate action advocates fear the United States’ decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement could prompt other countries to follow suit at the Group of 20 summit this week. The U.S. has been the only major country to openly oppose the Paris climate agreement ahead of the G20 meetings in Germany, where leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies will address global challenges such as worldwide carbon emissions.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

‘Energy Dominance’ Is Un-American
David Hart, Morning Consult

The Trump administration devoted the week leading up to the Fourth of July to energy policy. Yet, its “Energy Week” jettisoned the very concept that we celebrate on that date. “Energy independence” was replaced by “energy dominance” as the declared goal of the United States. Quite frankly, neither goal makes a lot of sense, but “energy dominance” is much worse. In fact, it’s downright un-American.

Keys to developing an effective utility EV charging program
Dave Packard, Utility Dive

Innovation in electric vehicles (EVs) and EV charging, supported by a dynamic marketplace, has fueled record-breaking EV adoption over the past year. Continuing to accelerate EV adoption is critical to meeting global climate goals and providing electric utilities with much needed electric load to maintain affordable rates. Sound utility program design is key to successfully incentivizing charging infrastructure deployment and finding the win-win for the utility and the EV market.

Mississippi power plant’s shutdown confirms that ‘clean coal’ as an industry savior is a myth
Michael Hiltzik, The Los Angeles Times

The faith of coal advocates in the doctrine of “clean coal”— technology that would allow utilities to burn coal for electricity without somehow poisoning the environment — has suffered a possibly fatal blow. Southern Co., which has been building a “clean coal” plant in eastern Mississippi since 2010, has just pulled the plug on the project and is preparing to take a loss of as much as $3.4 billion.

Research Reports

Comparing electricity production costs of renewables to fossil and nuclear power plants in G20 countries
Manish Ram et al., Greenpeace Germany

As the G20, a group of major industrialised and emerging economies, convenes this year in Germany, one of the most important challenges confronting the world is dealing with global climate change, its proven economic impacts and its detrimental consequences for humankind as a whole. There is an urgent need to curtail and then phase-out the global consumption of fossil fuels, which still account for a major share of the world’s total energy demand. In this regard, renewable based power infrastructure has reached sufficient maturity to not only constitute a sound economic proposition but also emerge as the preferred mitigation option to address the challenges of climate change.