Energy Brief: Fuel Shortages to Spread East Following Cutback in Texas Shipments

Government Brief

  • William Bradford, a Trump appointee in charge of the Energy Department’s Office of Indian Energy, resigned after saying that inflammatory comments online attributed to him were the result of hacking, according to a DOE spokesperson. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) had requested more information from the agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding Bradford’s comments about being hacked. (CNN)
  • The fires burning from explosions at the flooded French-owned Arkema SA chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, did not emit a dangerous concentration of toxic materials, according to a statement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Local authorities plan to let the chemicals burn out, though the risk of additional chemical explosions remains. (Washington Examiner)
  • Democratic state officials alleged that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was “legally incorrect” when he wrote in March that states do not need to comply with the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, even if the Supreme Court put the climate change rule on hold in February 2016. The Trump administration has said it plans to roll back the Clean Power Plan, but the letter says it “remains the law of the land.” (The Hill)

Editor’s note: Wednesday’s brief misstated Bradford’s position at the Department of Energy.

Business Brief

  • Gasoline futures jumped as prices spiked to a two-year high — up 14 cents since before Hurricane Harvey’s landfall — and oil shipments are being curtailed as a result of disrupted access to major pipelines from refineries in Texas. While it’s unclear when most refiners will resume normal activity, analysts expect the fuel supply to be greatly reduced or unavailable from Texas to Maryland. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is frustrated with the low level of global oil prices despite the disruptions to U.S. energy infrastructure stemming from Tropical Storm Harvey. Crude prices did not get a boost when U.S. refineries went offline, while OPEC and partnering countries maintain their production cap on oil supplies in an effort to increase prices. (Reuters)
  • Tesla Inc. is starting production of photovoltaic cells for its textured solar tiles, designed to look like regular roof tiles, at its factory in Buffalo, N.Y. Tesla workers will combine the cells, made by partner Panasonic Corp., into modules for the glass roof tiles at the Buffalo location, the company’s first site for larger scale solar tile production. (The Associated Press)

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Trump Energy official who said controversial comments were result of hacking resigns
Andrew Kaczynski, CNN

William C. Bradford, a Trump administration appointee who heads the Energy Department’s Office of Indian Energy, resigned Thursday after claiming this week inflammatory comments that appeared to have been made by him online were the result of hacking. “William Bradford tendered his resignation this afternoon and is no longer with the Department of Energy,” said DOE spokesperson Shaylyn Hynes.

EPA gives all clear: No toxic cloud after Houston chemical plant explosion
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said there are no toxic emissions emanating from a Houston-based chemical plant that exploded Thursday morning, as the company that owns the plant supports allowing the chemical fires to burn themselves out. Pruitt said there are “no concentrations of concern for toxic materials” emanating from the plant after several explosions rocked the neighborhood of Crosby, Texas, early on Thursday morning from the Arkema facility.

Chemical safety agency that Trump wants to eliminate begins investigation of Texas plant explosion
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

The administration’s proposed budget would wind down funding for the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, a small, independent federal agency tasked with investigating chemical accidents. But with that budget still only a proposal, the board announced an investigation of the fires at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas Thursday afternoon.

Henderson Mine in Clear Creek County resuming operations, which could delay closure by 6 years
Jason Blevins, Denver Post

Clear Creek County’s Henderson Mine is resuming operations after a sustained decline in the molybdenum market suspended mine development last year. Citing an uptick in the moly market — currently priced around $8.30 a pound, up from less than $5 a pound last year — Henderson owner Freeport-McMoRan on Wednesday announced it will resume mining in a dormant area, add employees and extend the mine’s life to 2026 from the expected deadline of 2020.

Oil Price Fundamental Daily Forecast – Bargain-Hunters, Short-Covering Supporting Market
James Hyerczyk, Yahoo Finance

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices closed 2.76% higher and international-benchmark Brent crude oil settled up 4.20% on Thursday, rebounding from losses made earlier in the session. However, it wasn’t enough to stop U.S. crude oil from its steepest monthly loss in more than a year on demand concerns after floods knocked out a quarter of U.S. refining capacity.

Oil and Natural Gas

Storm’s Impact on Oil Industry Is Felt at Gasoline Pumps
Clifford Krauss, The New York Times

Nationally, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline on Thursday morning jumped 5 cents from the day before, to $2.45, the highest price of the year, according to the AAA motor club. Experts said prices at the pump could easily rise an additional 30 cents a gallon.

As oil prices weather storm, OPEC looks for long-term boost from Harvey
Ahmad Ghaddar and Dmitry Zhdannikov, Reuters

For veteran OPEC officials, Hurricane Harvey’s impact on global oil markets is one of the strangest things they have seen. The storm has led to some of the biggest disruptions to U.S. energy infrastructure; yet it has failed to boost crude prices.

Harvey’s Floods Could Delay 10% of U.S. Fracking: Analyst
David Wethe, Bloomberg

As much as 10 percent of U.S. fracking work could be delayed after Hurricane Harvey ripped through southeast Texas, soaking thousands of miles of dirt roads snaking through one of the nation’s busiest oilfields. More than half of the rigs running in Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale are estimated to have suspended drilling because of the storm, Marshall Adkins, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates Inc., wrote Thursday in a note to clients.

Trump admin violated law in delaying royalties rule — court
Ellen M. Gilmer, E&E News

The Trump administration violated the law when it tried to delay a fossil fuel regulation that had already taken effect, a federal court ruled yesterday. In a decision with major implications for other regulatory rollbacks, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California found that the Interior Department failed to go through proper procedure when it postponed an Obama-era rule aimed at reforming royalty calculations for oil, gas and coal produced on federal and tribal lands.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Officials: Exelon project will aid trades and the community
Jennifer DeWitt, Quad-City Times

On the eve of Labor Day weekend, Exelon Generation’s Quad-Cities Station pledged to hiring Quad-City area labor and trades for its new $20 million construction project. Advocates touted how the investment creates jobs for Quad-Citians, supports the region’s economy and contributes to its growth.

HECO files final $205M grid modernization plan
Robert Walton, Utility Dive

Hawaiian Electric Cos. (HECO) has filed a final Grid Modernization Strategy with state regulators, laying out its plan to build a more resilient grid while meeting the state’s 100% renewables by 2045 mandate. HECO estimates it will cost $205 million to update the energy networks of Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaiʻi Electric Light over the next six years.


Tesla starts production of solar cells in Buffalo
Dee-Ann Durbin, The Associated Press

Tesla Inc. is starting production of the cells for its solar roof tiles at its factory in Buffalo, New York. Tesla’s Chief Technical Officer, JB Straubel, says the company now has several hundred workers and machinery installed in its 1.2 million-square-foot factory in Buffalo.

Tesla Model 3 killer? Nissan to launch redesigned Leaf
Claudia Assis, MarketWatch

Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. will launch its redesigned Leaf next week, with all eyes on how the all-electric vehicle’s battery range will stack up against its Tesla Inc. and General Motors Co. competitors. The Leaf is the reigning EV champion in sales — Nissan says it sold more than 280,000 Leafs worldwide, from the car’s debut in December 2010 to last month.

New Jersey regulators to study impacts of widespread EV adoption
Robert Walton, Utility Dive

Electric vehicles remain a relatively small portion of utilities’ demand, but in New Jersey, regulators say they believe widespread adoption may be on the way — and they want their grid to be prepared. Electric vehicles remain a relatively small portion of utilities’ demand, but in New Jersey, regulators say they believe widespread adoption may be on the way — and they want their grid to be prepared.


Critics question if Trump’s bring back coal pledge halted health risks study
Kery Murakami, The Beckley Register-Herald

Dueling scientific studies in recent years have raised a public health question in central Appalachia: Does mining for coal by blasting off mountain tops contribute to mortality rates and serious diseases for residents of surrounding communities? But the work was recently suspended “until further notice” of cost review by the U.S. Interior Department, leading to accusations President Donald Trump’s administration seeks to stifle conclusions that could hinder the coal industry it wants to free from government regulations.

Finland to introduce law next year phasing out coal

Finland will introduce legislation next year to phase out coal and increase carbon taxes, a top government official told Reuters, which would require the country to find alternative energy sources to keep its power system stable. Coal produces roughly 10 percent of the energy consumed by Finland, which is the Nordics’ heaviest coal consumer and burned about 4.1 million tonnes of oil equivalent in 2016.


Georgia Power provides lifeline for $19bn nuclear power plant
Andrew Ward, Financial Times

A $19bn nuclear power plant in the US state of Georgia has been given a reprieve after its biggest investor recommended the troubled project should be completed. Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, one of the biggest US electricity generators, said on Thursday it wanted to press ahead with construction of Plant Vogtle, despite work running years late and being billions of dollars over budget.


States say EPA’s climate rule guidance is ‘legally incorrect’
Timothy Cama, The Hill

Democratic attorneys general want the Trump administration to rescind guidance that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent to states about complying with the Obama administration’s main climate change regulation. The coalition, representing 13 states and seven cities and counties, said in a Thursday letter that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt incorrectly told states that if the Clean Power Plan takes effect, compliance deadlines will be extended.

NPS chief scraps climate-focused order
Rob Hotakainen, E&E News

In a move that’s drawing fierce criticism, the acting head of the National Park Service has rescinded a 2016 order by the Obama administration that called for a focus on climate change in managing natural resources in U.S. parks. Former NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis signed the order — formally known as Director’s Order No. 100, or DO 100 for short — on Dec. 20, 2016, as one of the last acts of his tenure as director.

Kellyanne Conway spars with Chris Cuomo over Harvey funding, climate change
Leinz Vales, CNN

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, said Wednesday she hopes Congress “puts politics aside” and quickly approves funding for Harvey disaster relief. Cuomo went on to ask Conway about whether the Trump administration would be open to a conversation about whether or not climate change had an impact on the storm and flooding.

Ayotte Wants Both Parties to Move From Climate Debate to Collaboration
Iulia Gheorghiu, Morning Consult

Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said both political parties should move past polarizing debates on climate change and focus instead on working together to develop energy technologies such as battery storage and grid modernization. Her remarks are in line with a broader trend among some Republicans who are beginning to approach clean energy based on its economic merits, like the potential to lower costs.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Are Ride-Sharing Services Environmentally Friendly?
Kate Harveston, Morning Consult

For decades now, people have suggested ride sharing as a way to curb carbon emissions. If you ride a bus or train to work, you’ve taken maybe 50 cars off the roads, and certainly more if you live near a large city.

In Hurricane Harvey’s Wake, We Need a Green ‘New Deal’
Rebecca Elliott, The New York Times

For all of the uncertainties that await Houston and coastal Texas, we can be reasonably sure about one thing: Many of those flooded out by Hurricane Harvey will watch their investments and savings collapse into debt and bankruptcy. And the heaviest burdens, of course, will fall on the shoulders of low- and middle-income residents. Preliminary estimates put losses from the storm at $30 billion to $40 billion.

Why Trump should leave national monuments alone
Editorial Board, The Mercury News

The president should let go of his misguided notion that reducing the size of three or more national monuments would benefit the nation by opening them up to logging, grazing and oil and gas drilling. The potential damage to national treasures is immense, while the economic gains are seen by a majority of economists as minimal, at best.

Whistleblowers in the Energy Department can resist Trump, Perry from the inside
Basav Sen, The Hill

The Department of Energy just issued a new study on alleged threats to the reliability of the electric grid. Maybe that sounds boring and arcane to you, but the backstory is actually quite gripping. It’s a tale of high-level government corruption, an Inquisition-like atmosphere for career government scientists, and a sinister agenda that appears to be going off the rails, thanks partly to brave whistleblowers.

Research Reports

Rapid adaptive responses to climate change in corals
Gergely Torda et al., Nature Climate Change

Pivotal to projecting the fate of coral reefs is the capacity of reef-building corals to acclimatize and adapt to climate change. Here, we discuss prospects for observing transgenerational plasticity in corals and the mechanisms that could enable adaptive plasticity in the coral holobiont, including the potential role of epigenetics and coral-associated microbes.