Energy Brief: Former Republican Secretary of State to Pitch Carbon Tax to White House

Washington Brief

  • Former Secretary of State James Baker is scheduled to meet Wednesday with Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials to make the case for a carbon tax as a conservative solution to climate change. (The New York Times)
  • A memo prepared for Rick Perry, the nominee to lead the Department of Energy, calls for the end to the loan program that notably backed the unsuccessful solar panel company Solyndra. (Bloomberg Politics)
  • The House voted 234-186 to block the Obama administration’s “Planning 2.0” rule on federal land management. (The Hill)
  • The Army Corps of Engineers said in a court filing it plans to grant an easement for the Dakota Access pipeline. (NPR News)

Business Brief

  • More than 51,000 solar industry jobs were added in 2016, a 24.5 percent increase over 2015, according to a report by the Solar Foundation. (The Washington Post)
  • Statoil said it can lower its break-even oil price to $27 by 2022, while BP said its break-even will rise to $60 at the end of this year. (Financial Times)
  • The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects a 3 percent increase in coal production in 2017 due to a surge in demand from power plants. (Washington Examiner)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Climate Leadership Council Report announcement 9:30 a.m.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on modernizing infrastructure 10 a.m.
Shaheen speaks at energy-efficiency event 2 p.m.
National Electric Transmission Infrastructure Summit 8 a.m.
National Electric Transmission Infrastructure Summit 8 a.m.



House passes bill to block Obama land planning rule
Devin Henry, The Hill

The House passed a resolution Tuesday to undo an Obama administration rule for public lands that opponents say gives the federal government too much power. Members voted 234-186 to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to strip the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) “Planning 2.0” rule from the books.

White House eyeing fossil fuel lobbyist for energy adviser job
Andrew Restuccia and Anna Palmer, Politico

Fossil fuel industry lobbyist Mike Catanzaro is under consideration to serve as an energy adviser on the National Economic Council, sources told POLITICO, an appointment that would test President Donald Trump’s promise to limit the number of lobbyists who serve in his administration. Catanzaro, who was a registered lobbyist as of last month, is a partner at the firm CGCN Group.

Good Luck Killing the EPA
Eric Roston, Bloomberg News

The new U.S. president and Congress are taking a hard look at environmental rules—none harder than a freshman U.S. representative whose new bill would “terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.” Republicans have been known to threaten this from time to time, with the understanding that it was red meat for ideological or business interests with no real chance of success.

California Lawmakers Press for Renewed Exxon Climate Investigation
David Hasemyer, Inside Climate News

California’s new attorney general is being urged to continue a climate fraud investigation of ExxonMobil by a host of the state’s Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives who say the oil giant and other fossil fuel companies have misled the public regarding climate change. Eighteen representatives have asked Attorney General Xavier Becerra to build on an investigation they say was opened by his predecessor, Kamala Harris, into early research by Exxon and other fossil fuel companies that confirmed the risks of climate change.

Earnings Buoy Stocks as Peripheral Bonds Recover
Natasha Doff and Aleksandra Gjorgievska, Bloomberg News

European stocks got a boost from earnings pointing to improving corporate and economic health, while bonds from Italy to France recovered as attention was diverted away from political risk. Vinci SA jumped after saying 2017 should mark the start of a recovery in construction work.

Oil and Natural Gas

Oil majors try to keep their balance
Matthew Vincent, Financial Times

Statoil and BP both revised the break-even oil price — or, to use BP’s preferred wording, the balancing point between sources and uses of cash — for their new oil projects. Statoil said it was heading downhill, and fast.

Moelis chosen as sole independent adviser on Saudi Aramco IPO
James Fontanella-Khan et al., Financial Times

Moelis & Co has been chosen as the sole independent adviser for the planned initial public offering of Saudi Aramco, according to three people familiar with the process, scoring the New York boutique investment bank the biggest equity advisory mandate to date. Winning the hotly contested mandate represents a coup for the independent firm, which was founded by veteran dealmaker Ken Moelis in the midst of the financial crisis in 2007.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Army Approves Dakota Access Pipeline Route, Paving Way For The Project’s Completion
Rebecca Hersher, NPR News

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has granted an easement allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under the Missouri River north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, paving the way for construction of the final 1.5 miles of the more than 1,700-mile pipeline. In doing so, the Army cut short its environmental impact assessment and the public comment period associated with it.

After pipeline protests, North Dakota acts to tighten its rioting laws
David Freddoso, Washington Examiner

Protestors against the Dakota Access Pipeline set fire to construction vehicles and piles of tires in a series of violent riots last fall. The protests repeatedly became violent, and cost North Dakota tens of millions in law enforcement costs. Protestors also left a mountain of garbage in their wake that now threatens to contaminate the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers when spring flooding begins.


Trump’s Team Said to Urge Freeze to Program That Aided Solyndra
Ari Natter, Bloomberg Politics

President Donald Trump’s advisers have recommended the Energy Department freeze and consider ending a loan program that famously backed the failed solar panel maker Solyndra LLC, according to two people familiar with the plan. A memo prepared by Trump’s transition team for Energy secretary nominee Rick Perry calls for a halt to new loan guarantees while the department determines what should be done with more than $25 billion still available for use, the people said.

Trump’s energy plan doesn’t mention solar, an industry that just added 51,000 jobs
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

The White House website may not even mention it as part of Trump’s “America First Energy Plan” — but the U.S. solar industry continues to post dramatic job growth numbers. According to a new annual report by the nonprofit Solar Foundation, more than 51,000 solar industry jobs were added in 2016, a 24.5 percent increase over 2015. Overall, the foundation finds, some 260,000 Americans now work in the solar industry.

Offshore Wind Moves Into Energy’s Mainstream
Stanley Reed, The New York Times

When engineers faced resistance from residents in Denmark over plans to build wind turbines on the Nordic country’s flat farmland, they found a better locale: the sea. The offshore wind farm, the world’s first, had just 11 turbines and could power about 3,000 homes.


Coal miners projected to go back to work
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Coal miners will be going back to work with an increase in demand coming primarily from coal-fired power plants throughout 2017, said the head of the Energy Department’s energy analysis arm on Tuesday. “Higher coal-fired electricity generation in 2017 is expected to contribute to a boost in U.S. coal production this year,” said Howard Gruenspecht, acting administrator of the Energy Information Administration, in issuing the new monthly short-term energy outlook.

‘Irrational’ Coal Plants May Hamper China’s Climate Change Efforts
Edward Wong, The New York Times

When scientists and environmental scholars scan the grim industrial landscape of China, a certain coal plant near the rugged Kazakhstan border stands out. The plant, in the country’s far west, converts coal to synthetic natural gas.

Why China’s ‘green certificate’ trading scheme will keep coal-fired power plant bosses on their toes
South China Morning Post

Beijing’s plan to launch the long-awaited “green certificate” trading scheme is part of an effort to ease the snowballing deficit of the state-run renewable energy subsidy fund, and shift part of the financial burden for reducing pollution from consumers to coal-fired power producers. But scant details on how the scheme would operate means the impact on the worst polluters in electricity generation is still up in the air, although the launch timetable’s announcement comes as the coal-fired industry’s profitability has been squeezed by higher coal costs and frozen benchmark power prices.


Trump and U.S. Nuclear Power Find Common Ground in Jobs Push
Jonathan Crawford, Bloomberg News

Nuclear power providers, battered by low prices and competition from cheap natural gas, say they can help President Donald Trump fulfill a campaign promise to put more people to work. Trump will throw more support behind nuclear power than the Obama administration, which gave a higher priority to wind and solar power, Maria Korsnick, president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, said in an interview Tuesday.

Brexit bill prompts Anglesey nuclear power plant concerns
BBC News

Plans to build a nuclear plant on Anglesey will face big challenges if the UK leaves a European nuclear cooperation institution due to Brexit, according to an expert. Prof Dr Glyn O Phillips said leaving Euratom would make it difficult to get staff for projects like Wylfa Newydd.


‘A Conservative Climate Solution’: Republican Group Calls for Carbon Tax
John Schwartz, The New York Times

A group of Republican elder statesmen is calling for a tax on carbon emissions to fight climate change. The group, led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, with former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Henry M. Paulson Jr., a former secretary of the Treasury, says that taxing carbon pollution produced by burning fossil fuels is “a conservative climate solution” based on free-market principles.

House Republicans Chide NOAA Scientists Over Climate Data
Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult

House Republicans accused National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists of cooking the books on climate data on Tuesday, citing comments from a former agency scientist who has since reined in some of his accusations. The issue came up at a hearing that was scheduled to discuss transparency requirements for the Environmental Protection Agency’s use of scientific data to justify regulations.

‘Whistleblower’ says protocol was breached but no data fraud
Scott Waldman, Climatewire

The federal climate scientist hailed by conservatives as a whistleblower for allegedly revealing manipulated global warming data said yesterday he was actually calling out a former colleague for not properly following agency standards for research. In an interview with E&E News, former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration principal scientist John Bates had a significantly more nuanced take on the controversy that has swirled since a top House Republican hailed his blog post as proof that the agency “played fast and loose” with temperature data to disprove the theory of a global warming “pause.”

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Corrupt Practice
Kate Bateman, Foreign Policy

Last week, along largely partisan lines, Congress voted to repeal a Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose the payments they make to governments for access to natural resources. According to congressional Republicans and some in the oil and gas industry, the rule creates unacceptable burdens and puts U.S. companies at a disadvantage to foreign competitors.

The case for — and against — scientists marching on Washington
Brian Resnick, Vox

In 2015, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that created the White House’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Team, a team of social scientists tasked with using psychological research to make the government work better. Mostly, the team went after projects like A/B testing language on a human resources form to get more service members to sign up for a savings plan, and testing whether a single signature box could get government vendors to report sales more accurately.

BP Is Straining at the Leash
Chris Bryant, Bloomberg Gadfly

BP PLC is big oil’s chastened puppy: at once yearning for its masters’ (investors) approval yet still pulling at the leash, desperate to be let out to play (spend) again. Though rising oil prices have made equity and debt investors a little more comfortable about the British company’s financial position, chief executive Bob Dudley would do well not to try their patience.

Research Reports

Humans have already increased the risk of major disruptions to Pacific rainfall
Scott B. Power et al., Nature Communications

Intermittent disruptions to rainfall patterns and intensity over the Pacific Ocean lasting up to ∼ 1 year have major impacts on severe weather, agricultural production, ecosystems, and disease within the Pacific, and in many countries beyond. The frequency with which major disruptions to Pacific rainfall occur has been projected to increase over the 21st century, in response to global warming caused by large 21st century greenhouse gas emissions.