Energy Brief: Exxon Defends Tillerson’s Email Alias

Washington Brief

  • President Donald Trump’s budget proposal calls for cuts to several agencies’ programs researching and addressing climate change. (The Washington Post)
  • David Schnare, a member of the Environmental Protection Agency’s beachhead team, said he is resigning from the agency, for a reason that involves “misuse of federal funds, failure to honor oaths of office, and a lack of loyalty to the President.” (E&E News)
  • Trump’s support for shale gas may effectively negate his lack of concern over climate change, as a report by the International Energy Agency highlights that the shale revolution has helped global greenhouse gas emissions stay flat for three years. (Financial Times)

Business Brief

  • Exxon Mobil Corp. defended former CEO Rex Tillerson, now the secretary of State, after news that he used an alias email to discuss major issues, including climate change. The company said it was to prioritize the emails, not to keep them secret. (The Hill)
  • The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management auctioned off 122,405 acres off the coast of North Carolina for slightly more than $9 million, which will be used for an offshore wind facility.
  • OPEC will have to extend its oil output cuts in order to avoid a drop in prices, according to a poll of market analysts. (Reuters)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

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Trump’s budget would torpedo Obama’s investments in climate change and clean energy
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

From the elimination of major programs to the shifting of scientific priorities, the Trump administration budget proposal unveiled Thursday presents a wholesale repudiation of two main Obama administration objectives: fighting climate change and stoking a revolution in renewable energy. At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, $250 million in coastal and ocean grants and programs — many of which help ready communities for rising seas and a warmer, more acidic ocean — would be cut.

Questions trail agency critic’s exit
Kevin Bogardus, E&E News

David Schnare, a member of President Trump’s “beachhead” team for U.S. EPA, is resigning from the agency, according to an internal email obtained by E&E News.

ExxonMobil attorneys defend Tillerson’s use of alias email
Max Greenwood, The Hill

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used an alias email account during his tenure as CEO of ExxonMobil to increase efficiency, attorneys for the company argued Thursday, saying there was nothing improper about the move. “Mr. Tillerson’s use of the Wayne Tracker account was entirely proper,” attorneys at the New York-based law firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP wrote in a letter to a state supreme court justice.

White House: Climate funding is ‘a waste of your money’
Devin Henry, The Hill

The White House on Thursday defended a proposal to slash federal funding for climate change programs, calling it “a waste of your money.” “I think the president was fairly straightforward on that: We’re not spending money on that anymore,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said at a White House briefing on Thursday.

Jim Inhofe: Trump’s budget will stop EPA from ‘brainwashing our kids’
Kyle Feldscher, Washington Examiner

A top Republican senator said Thursday that President Trump’s massive cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency will keep the country’s environmental cop from “brainwashing” the country’s children. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said on CNN that fears about what the budget cuts will mean for the EPA’s ability to perform are unfounded.

Budget Proposal Proves All Environmental Politics Is Local
Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult

President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint followed through on his campaign promises to slash spending on environmental programs, but still received pushback from some Republicans over issues that affect their constituents. The budget’s proposals on Great Lakes restoration efforts, nuclear waste storage, and Superfund cleanups could attract opposition even from Republicans who supported Trump’s Cabinet picks.

Oil and Natural Gas

OPEC will need to extend output curbs to sustain oil price recovery: Reuters poll
Vijaykumar Vedala, Reuters

OPEC will have to extend its oil output curbs in order to sustain a recovery in prices, as a revival in crude production outside the group may scupper its efforts to erode an overhang of unused inventory, a poll of market analysts showed on Friday. Six of the 10 analysts polled by Reuters said they believed OPEC will extend its output cuts beyond June this year, while two felt the group did not need to extend the deal and a further two were undecided.

BP in talks to sell North Sea pipeline to Ineos
Nathalie Thomas and Andrew Ward, Financial Times

Ineos, the UK petrochemicals group, is in talks with BP to buy the Forties pipeline system, one of the most strategically important pieces of infrastructure in the North Sea. The Forties network is made up of about 100 miles of pipeline and handles around 450,000 barrels of oil a day — equivalent to 40 per cent of UK production — from 80 different oilfields.

Enviros attack Trump team’s plan to scrap fracking rule
Ellen M. Gilmer, E&E News

Supporters of an Obama-era hydraulic fracturing rule are mobilizing to oppose the Trump administration’s newly announced effort to scrap the regulation. Hours after government officials notified a federal court yesterday that they are working to rescind the fracking rule, a filing by environmental groups urged a panel of judges to allow litigation to move forward as scheduled.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Wealthy Californians Go Green, Putting Utilities in a Squeeze
Brian Eckhouse and Chris Martin, Bloomberg News

California utilities are losing business to local power authorities that were created to deliver clean power to residents. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the state’s biggest utility, expects to lose about 7.3 percent of its electric load this year, and potentially 21 percent by 2020, to these so-called community choice aggregators, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

Arizona utility regulators vote against funding APS records fight
The Associated Press

Arizona utility regulators have voted to fire an attorney and allow the state’s largest utility to openly defy one regulator’s orders to provide political finance records. The Corporation Commission’s 3-1 vote Tuesday leaves Commissioner Bob Burns without a lawyer in his fight against Arizona Public Service Co.


Xcel unveils new phase of wind power construction, with huge plant in South Dakota
Mike Hughlett, Minneapols Star-Tribune

Xcel Energy Inc. will build its largest Upper Midwest wind project ever in eastern South Dakota, the latest phase of a huge new wind power investment in Minnesota and the Dakotas. The Minneapolis-based utility unveiled new details of the wind plan Thursday, which include three new projects, one each in Minnesota, South Dakota and western North Dakota.

Google finds most Asheville rooftops OK for solar panels
Tonya Maxwell, Citizen-Times

Solar energy generated from rooftops could offset the need for the existing Lake Julian coal plant, according to data compiled by Google, though that thought experiment comes with caveats, experts say. The number of Asheville rooftops that could serve as a source of solar energy – Google puts that number at more than 20,000 based on satellite imagery and other data – could generate 442 megawatts of power, according to data released by Google last month as part of Project Sunroof.

Tesla Teams With Tiny Hawaiian Utility to Store Solar
David Wagman, IEEE Spectrum

A 33,000-member electric power cooperative on the island of Kauai in the Hawaiian archipelago is emerging as a leader as it moves from fossil-based power generation to renewables, and deploys what ranks as one of the world’s largest arrays of lithium-ion battery packs. The battery storage became operational in March and is expected to make solar power produced during the daytime available to customers well into peak demand periods after sunset.

How to Make Electricity in a Disused Coal Mine
Brian Parkin, Bloomberg News

A coal-mine that powered German industry for almost half a century will get a new lease on life when it’s turned into a giant battery that stores excess solar and wind energy. The state of North-Rhine Westphalia is set to turn its Prosper-Haniel hard coal mine into a 200 megawatt pumped-storage hydroelectric reservoir, which acts like a battery and will have enough capacity to power more than 400,000 homes, said state governor Hannelore Kraft.


Trump seeks to ax Appalachia economic programs, causing worry in coal country
Valerie Volcovici, Reuters

President Donald Trump has proposed eliminating funding for economic development programs supporting laid-off coal miners and others in Appalachia, stirring fears in a region that supported him of another letdown on the heels of the coal industry’s collapse. The 2018 budget proposal submitted to Congress by the White House on Thursday would cut funds to the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

NV Energy pulling plug on coal-fired power plant near Vegas
Ken Ritter, The Associated Press

Environmental advocates and members of an Indian tribe who live nearby hailed the closure Thursday of an embattled coal-fired NV Energy power plant 40 miles north of Las Vegas. Officials from the state’s dominant electric utility marked the occasion by flipping a transformer switch to disconnect the fourth and final unit of the Reid Gardner Generating Station near Moapa from the regional power grid. The first three units shut down in late 2014.


Texas sues feds — including Rick Perry — for failing to license nuclear waste facility
Jim Malewitz, Texas Tribune

Texas is trying to take the federal government to task for failing to find a permanent disposal site for thousands of metric tons of radioactive waste piling up at nuclear reactor sites across the country. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday night, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton accuses U.S. agencies of violating federal law by failing to license a nuclear waste repository in Nevada — a plan delayed for decades amid a highly politicized fight.

China Needs to Accelerate Nuclear Power Development to Meet 2020 Target: Ex-Official
Chen Aizhu, Reuters

China needs to speed up building planned nuclear reactors and make quick new approvals over the next few years to meet a target for 2020 and keep projects rolling beyond that, an ex-chairman of China National Nuclear Corporation [CNNNC.UL] said. CNNC aims to start up around November this year – nearly four years behind an original timeline – the world’s first Westinghouse AP1000 reactor, said former chairman Sun Qin in an interview this week.


German greenhouse gas emissions rise as 2020 target looms
Guy Chazan, Financial Times

Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions rose last year despite Chancellor Angela Merkel’s efforts to position the country as a world leader in fighting climate change and shifting from fossil fuels to wind and solar power. Germany’s carbon dioxide emissions rose by 4m tonnes to 906m tonnes, an increase of 0.7 per cent, according to a study by Arepo Consult carried out for the opposition Green party.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Mr. Trump’s Tear-Down Budget
The Editorial Board, The New York Times

The White House budget director, Mick Mulvaney, defended the president’s budget proposal for 2018 by saying it puts numbers on Mr. Trump’s campaign promises. That it does, but in so doing, it shows that many of those promises simply cannot be kept.

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Research Reports

Impacts of Greenhouse Gas Regulations On the Industrial Sector
NERA Economic Consulting for the American Council for Capital Formation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century Energy

It is widely agreed that the total potential emissions reductions from existing policies together with planned policies announced by the Obama Administration are insufficient to achieve the NDC pledge and would fall dramatically short of the 2050 goal. While the projected size of the NDC emissions “gap” varies somewhat among various analyses, it is clear that such a gap cannot be filled without contributions from the industrial sector.