Energy Brief: EPA to Reopen Review of Auto Emission Standards

Washington Brief

  • President Donald Trump will announce that the Environmental Protection Agency will reopen its review of its greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and light trucks, a White House senior official said. (Detroit News)
  • Trump will sign a directive reversing an Obama administration guidance instructing agencies to factor climate change into environmental reviews. (Bloomberg News)
  • Secretary of Defense James Mattis said climate change is real and threatens American interests abroad in unpublished written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee after his confirmation hearing. (ProPublica)

Business Brief

  • OPEC oil production dropped to a combined 31.96 million barrels a day in February, compared to 32.1 million barrels a day in January, as Saudi Arabia cut output to make up for countries that didn’t. (CNBC)
  • Royal Dutch Shell and Maersk are fitting an oil tanker with two “rotor sails” that generate wind power, aiming to cut its fuel costs by 10 percent. (Financial Times)
  • Toshiba CEO Satoshi Tsunakawa said its U.S. nuclear subsidiary, Westinghouse Electric Co., could file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection or be sold. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

ACORE National Renewable Energy Policy Forum 8 a.m.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on invasive species 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on energy infrastructure 10 a.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on marine monuments 10 a.m.
2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook 12 p.m.
Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on Indian Country infrastructure 2 p.m.
House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on Venezuela 2 p.m.
Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna speaks at CSIS 2:30 p.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on infrastructure on federal lands 10 a.m.
USEA discussion on carbon capture 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on drinking water systems 10:15 a.m.
ASE event on efficiency and infrastructure 12:15 p.m.
Atlantic Council discussion on U.S.-Mexico energy relationship 12:30 p.m.
House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on forestry initiatives 2 p.m.
“Roast and Toast” of EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski 6 p.m.
No events scheduled


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Trump will offer boost for carmakers today
Melissa Burden and Melissa Nann Burke, Detroit News

President Donald J. Trump will tell autoworkers and car executives in a Wednesday speech outside Detroit that his administration is reopening an automaker-requested review of a strict fuel economy mandate, a senior White House official said. The Trump official said the administration plans to spend the next year reviewing data and will set gas mileage standards in 2018 that are technically and economically realistic and would allow automakers to continue growing and adding jobs.

Trump is poised to issue a sweeping order dismantling Obama’s climate plan this week
Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

President Trump could issue a sweeping executive order within days aimed at reversing his predecessor’s climate policies, a measure that energy industry officials and environmentalists have been anticipating for weeks. The directive will instruct members of the Cabinet to rewrite regulation restricting carbon emissions from both new and existing power plants, lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and revise the way climate change is factored into federal decision-making — all key elements of the Obama administration’s effort to address climate change.

Trump considering gas export advocate to lead CEQ
Hannah Northey, E&E News

President Trump is considering Bill Cooper, a House staffer with years of experience lobbying for gas export companies, to head the Council on Environmental Quality, according to sources. The job could be among the most powerful environmental jobs in government, yet it remains to be seen what role the CEQ will play in the Trump administration.

EPA Deputy Accused of Working With Monsanto to Kill Cancer Study
Joe Rosenblatt, Bloomberg News

The Environmental Protection Agency official who was in charge of evaluating the cancer risk of Monsanto Co.’s Roundup allegedly bragged to a company executive that he deserved a medal if he could kill another agency’s investigation into one of the herbicide’s key chemicals. The boast was made during an April 2015 phone conversation, according to farmers and others who say they’ve been sickened by the weed killer.

EPA heeds industry concerns, freezes safety regs
Sean Reilly, E&E News

U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has frozen implementation of updated safety regulations for thousands of chemical plants, oil refineries and other industrial facilities, saying the delay is needed to consider an industry coalition’s petition to scrap the new rules. “As an agency, we need to be responsive to concerns raised by stakeholders regarding regulations so facility owners and operators know what is expected of them,” Pruitt said in a news release announcing the three-month postponement.

The EPA Used to Tweet About the Environment. Now It Just Tweets About Scott Pruitt
Rebecca Leber, Mother Jones

One of the first actions the Trump administration took when it entered office was to crack down on the Environmental Protection Agency, starting with its social media feeds and website. The agency’s work on climate and energy policy has slowed to a crawl, but it has been replaced with a different focus: The promotion of the new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt.

Europe Stocks, Oil Rise as Bonds Steady Before Fed
Benjamin Purvis and Samuel Potter, Bloomberg News

Crude prices were once again a dominant story in markets, with oil’s rebound helping underpin European stocks as investors wait for Wednesday’s expected U.S. interest rate increase. The British pound pared a rebound and metals climbed.

Oil and Natural Gas

OPEC’s oil production ticks down in February as Saudis shoulder most cuts
Tom DiChristopher, CNBC

OPEC production fell in February as Saudi Arabia continued to compensate for other cartel members who have not yet achieved promised output cuts. The producer group also raised concerns about rising global oil inventories and resurgent U.S. supply in its monthly report, and raised its forecast for non-OPEC production for 2017.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Utility regulators vote 3-1 to let APS slide on political finance records
Ryan Randazzo, The Arizona Republic

Arizona utility regulators voted 3-1 Tuesday to fire an attorney and allow Arizona Public Service Co. to openly defy one regulator’s orders to provide political finance records. The five Arizona Corporation Commissioners had a brief, heated discussion over the matter.


Shipping groups trial use of wind-power to cut tankers’ fuel bills
Pilita Clark, Financial Times

Is the world ready for wind-powered oil tankers? Royal Dutch Shell and Maersk shipping group are about to find out, as they team up to fit a tanker with two “rotor sails” to see if the futuristic devices can make a serious dent in fuel bills.

Solar firm Sunnova lands $80 million investment
Ryan Handy, Houston Chronicle

Sunnova, a Houston solar power company, received an $80 million investment from a subsidiary of U.S. Bank to help it fund more than $200 million worth of residential solar projects, Sunnova said Tuesday. The investment is a tax equity deal, in which the subsidiary, U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp., takes a stake in the company, which allows it to claim the federal tax credit for installed solar systems, said Jordan Kozar, the company’s CFO.

Vancouver’s renewable energy goals require bolder action: report
Frances Bula, The Globe and Mail

If Vancouver really wants to achieve its goal to move to 100-per-cent-renewable energy by 2050, it will need to bring in dramatic measures to get residents and businesses off fossil fuels to power their vehicles and heat their buildings, according to new report. Simon Fraser University professor Mark Jaccard, the co-author of the report analyzing Vancouver’s climate-change efforts, said the city currently focuses on making buildings more energy-efficient and encouraging alternative modes of transportation.


Trump clean coal advisers scrap meeting
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

resident Trump’s coal advisers canceled their two-day spring meeting slated to begin Tuesday because of the snow and sleet storm that hit Washington, as a group of some of the largest coal companies pressed the administration not to scrap clean coal programs in the budget to be released this week. The focus of the National Coal Council meeting, March 14-15, was supposed to be on the novel technologies being developed by Exxon Mobil and others to make coal power plants competitive and climate friendly in the new century.

As China’s Coal Mines Close, Miners Are Becoming Bolder In Voicing Demands
Rob Schmitz, NPR

The streets of Dalianhe, in China’s frigid northeast province of Heilongjiang, are lined with black snow. The town is home to one of China’s largest open-pit coal mines.


Westinghouse prepares for changes as Toshiba deals with financial fallout
Anya Litvak, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As its parent company Toshiba Corp. stepped up efforts to deal with the financial fallout from its nuclear power business, Westinghouse Electric Co. has brought in a turnaround specialist and adjusted employee benefits, including a provision that concerns layoff severance payments. Cranberry-based Westinghouse retained Lisa Donahue as its chief transition and development officer.

In Kentucky coal country, a potential embrace of nuclear power
The Associated Press

Donald Trump promised to bring back coal jobs, but even the country’s third-largest coal producer appears to be hedging its bets on a comeback. Kentucky is on the cusp of doing what was once unthinkable: opening the door to nuclear power.


Trump to Drop Climate Change From Environmental Reviews, Source Says
Jennifer A Dlouhy, Bloomberg News

President Donald Trump is set to sign a sweeping directive to dramatically shrink the role climate change plays in decisions across the government, ranging from appliance standards to pipeline approvals, according to a person familiar with the administration’s plan. The order, which could be signed this week, goes far beyond a targeted assault on Obama-era measures blocking coal leasing and throttling greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that has been discussed for weeks.

Trump’s Defense Secretary Cites Climate Change as National Security Challenge
Andrew Revkin, ProPublica

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has asserted that climate change is real, and a threat to American interests abroad and the Pentagon’s assets everywhere, a position that appears at odds with the views of the president who appointed him and many in the administration in which he serves. In unpublished written testimony provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee after his confirmation hearing in January, Mattis said it was incumbent on the U.S. military to consider how changes like open-water routes in the thawing Arctic and drought in global trouble spots can pose challenges for troops and defense planners.

Al Gore: There’s a ‘realistic chance’ that Trump won’t bail on the Paris climate agreement
Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

Former vice president Al Gore said in an interview Tuesday that he thinks “there is a realistic chance” President Trump will opt to keep the United States as a participant in the Paris climate agreement. Gore, who met with Trump in early December, declined to reveal any details about that discussion.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Asia Recovers Its Appetite for Oil
David Fickling, Bloomberg Gadfly

Forget oil’s drop below $50 a barrel and rising U.S. stockpiles. Emerging Asia, home to more than half the world’s population and 40 percent of forecast economic growth through 2020, is showing signs of recovering its appetite for crude.

A Message from American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers:

American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers produce the jet fuel allowing U.S. airlines to move more than 2 million passengers and nearly 50,000 tons of cargo each day, and the diesel fuel that America’s trucking fleet uses to move more than 98 percent of consumer goods to market. Learn how American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers are making our lives easier, healthier, safer and more productive at At AFPM, we make progress.

Research Reports

Assessing the Methane Emissions from Natural Gas-Fired Power Plants and Oil Refineries
Tegan N. Lavoie et al., Environmental Science & Technology

Presently, there is high uncertainty in estimates of methane (CH4) emissions from natural gas-fired power plants (NGPP) and oil refineries, two major end users of natural gas. Therefore, we measured CH4 and CO2 emissions at three NGPPs and three refineries using an aircraft-based mass balance technique.