Energy Brief: Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner Pushed to Keep Anti-Paris Language Out of Executive Order

Washington Brief

  • Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner persuaded President Donald Trump not to include language critical of the Paris climate agreement in an upcoming executive order rolling back former President Barack Obama’s climate regulations. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • ExxonMobil Corp., Devon Energy, and coal magnate Joseph W. Craft III were among those who financially contributed to the nonprofit that handled President Donald Trump’s transition into office. (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Eric Trump’s brother-in-law, Kyle Yunaska, was hired as part of the “beachhead team” running the Department of Energy before a secretary is confirmed. (Axios)

Business Brief

  • Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren said he “underestimated the power of social media” that fueled protests against the Dakota Access pipeline. (Bloomberg News)
  • California’s significant snowpack and high lake levels are expected to lead to a productive year for hydropower electricity generation, but could also depress electricity prices. (CNBC)
  • Natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy reported a loss of $741 million in the fourth quarter of 2016, compared to a loss of $2.23 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015. Production dropped 13.1 percent between those quarters. (Reuters)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Friday
WCEE event on wholesale capacity markets 12 p.m.

 

General

Billionaires and corporations helped fund Donald Trump’s transition
Carrie Levine and Michael Beckel, Center for Public Integrity

The nonprofit formed to handle President Donald Trump’s transition raised about $6.5 million in private contributions, fueled in part by corporate interests, billionaires and lobbyists, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of a new federal filing. The transition nonprofit had spent roughly $4.7 million of this money as of Feb. 15.

Eric Trump’s brother-in-law landed an Energy Department job
Ben Geman, Axios

A member of President Trump’s extended family who once competed for the title of “hottest bachelor” in Washington, D.C. is helping to prepare the new administration’s overhaul of energy policy. Kyle Yunaska, who is Eric Trump’s brother-in-law, is part of the “beachhead” team of temporary political appointees working at the Energy Department.

White House to eject its environmental advisers from their longtime main headquarters on Friday
Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

The White House on Friday will move its Council on Environmental Quality out of its main headquarters at 722 Jackson Place, a red brick townhouse it has occupied since it was established more than four decades ago. Although some White House CEQ staffers will remain in adjoining townhouses, the shift means the council will lose its main conference room.

Billionaire Behind Dakota Access Pipeline ‘Underestimated’ the Power of Social Media
Tim Loh, Bloomberg News

Billionaire Kelcy Warren, who faced months of protests over the Dakota Access oil pipeline, said his company followed every law and still fell into a “mess.” Warren “underestimated the power of social media” during the standoff with environmental and Native American-rights activists, he said on a call with analysts Thursday.

House chairman criticizes FEMA’s Louisiana flood response
Timothy Cama, The Hill

A House panel is investigating the federal government’s emergency response to last year’s historic flooding in Louisiana. The House Oversight Committee, led by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), asked in a Thursday letter for information and documents from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) related to programs that were central to its recovery efforts after the floods.

Pruitt’s Favorability Untarnished by Contentious Confirmation
Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is no less popular after a heated hearing, boycotted committee vote, close final confirmation vote and heavily publicized email dump, according to Morning Consult polling. In a nationwide poll, 32 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of Pruitt, while 25 percent had an unfavorable opinion.

Taiwan’s Formosa Seeks U.S. Permit for $9.4 Billion Investment
Adela Lin et al., Bloomberg News

Formosa Plastics Group is seeking permission from the U.S. state of Louisiana to invest $9.4 billion to build petrochemical plants. The Taiwanese chemicals producer is waiting for the U.S. state’s authorization for construction of the facilities in St. James, according to Lin Keh-Yen, executive vice president of Formosa Petrochemical Corp.

Equities Stall as Gold Rises Before Trump Speech
Robert Brand and Adam Haigh, Bloomberg News

Investors adopted a cautious tone as European stocks pared a third straight week of gains before a major speech from U.S. President Donald Trump. Gold headed for a three-month high as the dollar weakened.

Oil and Natural Gas

Chesapeake Energy posts smaller quarterly loss
Arathy S. Nair and Gary McWilliams, Reuters

Shares in U.S. natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy Corp fell on Thursday after posting a smaller fourth-quarter loss than a year earlier, when it took huge charges to write down the value of some oil and gas assets. Results were hurt by lower volumes, weaker prices and losses on hedging, and shares in Chesapeake were down more than 7 percent around 1:00 p.m. EDT at $5.49.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Gas-fired power plants failed during NSW heatwave, report reveals
Christopher Knaus, The Guardian

Gas-fired power plants failed during this month’s New South Wales, Australia, heatwave, forcing authorities to urgently cut demand from the Tomago aluminium smelter to prevent outages. The record-breaking heat put enormous strain on NSW’s electricity supply on Feb. 10 when demand peaked at 4.30pm at 14,181MW.

Renewables

California expects surge in hydropower but that could be bad news for these power companies
Jeff Daniels, CNBC

The huge winter storms in California and out West produced a significant snowpack across the region and increased lake levels, setting the stage for major hydropower generation this year. Yet analysts say the boom in hydroelectricity could further depress power prices, which might be good news for rate payers but bad news ultimately for independent power producers, or IPPs.

Dream of Offshore U.S. Wind Power May Be Just Too Ugly for Trump
Joe Ryan and Jennifer A Dlouhy, Bloomberg News

Offshore wind companies have spent years struggling to convince skeptics that the future of U.S. energy should include giant windmills at sea. Their job just got a lot harder with the election of Donald J. Trump.

N.D. Senate declines wind power moratorium, passes study
John Hageman, Forum News Service

A proposal that would have created a two-year moratorium on new wind energy development in North Dakota was stripped from legislation that ultimately passed the Senate as a study of the state’s energy plan Wednesday. Senate Bill 2314, as passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Tuesday, would have prevented the Public Service Commission from approving a wind farm application submitted in the two years starting Aug. 1 unless the commission determined that added generation was needed for the state’s consumers.

Coal

North Korea raps old ally China after China’s ban on coal
Jack Kim, Reuters

North Korea issued a rare reproach of China on Thursday saying its main diplomatic backer was “dancing to the tune” of the United States for halting North Korean coal imports because of its nuclear and missile programs. The North’s state-run KCNA news agency did not refer directly to China by name but in an unmistakable censure it accused a “neighboring country” of going along with North Korea’s enemies to “bring down its social system”.

Eastern Ky. coal mines sold to Georgia company
The Associated Press

Coal producer Alpha Natural Resources has sold its mining assets in Harlan County, Ky., to a Georgia company that plans to reopen the idled mines. Alpha said in a statement Thursday that it sold the mining assets to JRL Coal of Marietta.

Nuclear

Eight nuclear reactors to be built this year
The China Post

China plans to beef up its nuclear power sector in 2017, kicking off construction of eight reactors this year with installed capacity totaling 9.9 gigawatts, the National Energy Administration said. The NEA has issued new guidelines on nuclear power development.

2 more nuclear reactors pass test to resume operation
Japan Today

The Nuclear Regulation Authority has given a provisional OK for Kansai Electric Power Co (KEPCO) to restart the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at its Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture after they passed safety inspection tests. Twelve idle nuclear reactors across have so far been given the green light to restart after satisfying the new safety standards, Fuji TV reported.

Climate

Kushner, Ivanka Trump Pushed to Remove Words Critical of Climate Deal From Executive Order
Amy Harder and Peter Nicholas, The Wall Street Journal

At the request of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his wife, Ivanka Trump, language critical of a global climate deal was struck from an executive order that Mr. Trump is planning to sign soon, according to multiple people familiar with the move. Mr. Trump is expected to sign within days at least two executive orders that will begin the process of trying to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s climate and environmental regulations.

Exxon’s New Chief Endorses Carbon Tax to Combat Climate Change
Joe Carroll, Bloomberg News

In his first blog post since succeeding Rex Tillerson, the new head of Exxon Mobil Corp. focused on climate change, calling for a carbon tax to discourage use of polluting fuels. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods said a revenue-neutral carbon tax “would promote greater energy efficiency and the use of today’s lower-carbon options, avoid further burdening the economy, and also provide incentives for markets to develop additional low-carbon energy solutions for the future.”

Trump urged by climate skeptics to exit UN climate pact
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Hundreds of scientists skeptical of climate change urged President Trump on Thursday to withdraw from the United Nations framework on global warming, arguing that doing so would support the administration’s pro-jobs agenda and help “people bootstrap themselves out of poverty.” The 300 scientists, led by well-known climate researcher Richard Lindzen of the Massaschusetts Institute of Technology, sent a letter to the White House with a petition urging the U.S. to exit from the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Let’s Hit the Reset Button on Regulating Offshore Oil & Gas
Josh Sherman, Morning Consult

In July 2016, through agency action and without congressional approval, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued new regulations (NTL No. 2016-N01) requiring oil and gas lessees to post supplemental surety bonds to guarantee 100 percent of the future decommissioning costs for offshore properties in which they own a working interest.

Trump wants to roll back Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Here’s how he’ll do it.
Brad Plumer, Vox

In the coming days, President Donald Trump is widely expected to sign an executive order that will kick off the long, difficult process of dismantling President Barack Obama’s signature climate policy — the Clean Power Plan. Trump’s executive order, by itself, won’t repeal the Clean Power Plan, which is a massive Environmental Protection Agency regulation that aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels.

Wind and solar power are disrupting electricity systems
The Economist

Almost 150 years after photovoltaic cells and wind turbines were invented, they still generate only 7% of the world’s electricity. Yet something remarkable is happening.

Research Reports

Changes in biomass allocation buffer low CO2 effects on tree growth during the last glaciation
Guangqi Li, Scientific Reports

Isotopic measurements on junipers growing in southern California during the last glacial, when the ambient atmospheric [CO2] (ca) was ~180 ppm, show the leaf-internal [CO2] (ci) was approaching the modern CO2 compensation point for C3 plants. Despite this, stem growth rates were similar to today.

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