Energy Brief: Musk Promises Electricity Storage Plant in Australia in 100 Days

Washington Brief

  • The Environmental Protection Agency received so many phone calls that it had to create a makeshift call center after Administrator Scott Pruitt’s comment that he doesn’t agree with the scientific consensus that human emissions of greenhouse gas are the primary driver of global warming. (The Washington Post)
  • Glenn Coffee and Crystal Coon, who have both worked closely with Pruitt, began lobbying last week on the Renewable Fuel Standard for QuikTrip Corp. Coon was Pruitt’s chief of staff when he was Oklahoma’s attorney general, and Coffee’s law firm did election compliance work for Pruitt in Oklahoma, where they both previously served as state senators. (E&E News)
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will travel to McDowell County, W.Va., in Appalachian coal country, to pitch his economic agenda. (CBS News)

Business Brief

  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk vowed to build an electricity storage plant within 100 days to solve Australia’s problem with blackouts. (Financial Times)
  • Volkswagen pleaded guilty to three charges as part of a $4.3 billion agreement with the federal government over its emissions-cheating scandal. (BBC News)
  • A World Bank panel ruled that Venezuela will not have to pay $1.4 billion to Exxon Mobil Corp. for confiscating company assets during a wave of nationalizations. (The Associated Press)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

EEI National LAMPAC 12 p.m.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on energy infrastructure 10 a.m.
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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Scott Pruitt’s office deluged with angry callers after he questions the science of global warming
Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, The Washington Post

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s phones have been ringing off the hook — literally — since he questioned the link between human activity and climate change. The calls to Pruitt’s main line, 202-564-4700, reached such a high volume by Friday that agency officials created an impromptu call center, according to three agency employees.

VW pleads guilty to US emissions charges
BBC News

Volkswagen has pleaded guilty to three charges as part of a $4.3bn agreement with the US regulators over the diesel emissions scandal. The German car maker has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud, obstruction of justice and entry of goods by false statement.

Bernie Sanders to pitch populist agenda to coal county
John Bat, CBS News

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said on Sunday that he will travel to struggling McDowell County, West Virginia, on Monday to pitch his agenda on issues such as health care, jobs and education.

Behind the Quiet State-by-State Fight Over Electric Vehicles
Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times

When Georgia repealed its generous $5,000 tax credit on electric vehicles in July 2015, and instead slapped a $200 registration fee on electric cars, sales quickly tumbled. In the month before the repeal, nearly 1,300 electric vehicles were sold in the state. By August, those sales had all but evaporated — to just 97 cars.

Packed Calendar Has Investors in Holding Pattern
Adam Haigh and Samuel Potter, Bloomberg News

Markets were largely range-bound on Monday as investors enter a week packed with crucial central bank meetings, economic data releases, a national election in Europe and potentially the formal start of Brexit. Stocks edged higher, the dollar weakened and bonds advanced.

Oil and Natural Gas

Panel rules Venezuela won’t have to pay $1.4B to Exxon Mobil
The Associated Press

A World Bank arbitration panel has determined that Venezuela will not have to pay $1.4 billion to Exxon Mobil Corp. for confiscating company assets during a wave of nationalizations. The Washington-based panel issued a ruling that annulled most of the $1.6 billion judgment against Venezuela.

Oil Price Drop Triggers a ‘Herd Mentality’ of Selling
Clifford Krauss, The New York Times

Often turbulent, the oil market had become almost boring the past few months, with prices moving little and hovering around $51 to $56 a barrel. No one is yawning anymore.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Elon Musk makes bold bet to end Australia power crisis
Jamie Smyth, Financial Times

He is known for setting audacious targets for his companies, including a goal to fly space tourists around the moon before the end of next year. Now Elon Musk says he can build an electricity storage plant within 100 days to solve an energy dilemma in Australia.

Regulators want more info before deciding on power plant
Kathleen Wilson, Ventura County Star

State officials are demanding additional evidence on environmental issues raised over the construction of a proposed power plant on Oxnard’s coast, an order that came perhaps two months before a final decision was expected. In a document released Friday, a California Energy Commission committee ordered NRG Energy Inc. to conduct studies on the presence of biological species and provide more information on soil and water resources.


Maryland takes next step toward offshore wind
Sarah Gantz, Baltimore Sun

Hearings starting Monday could determine whether Maryland becomes a leader in the development of offshore wind power in the United States. The Maryland Public Service Commission will begin what could be two weeks of hearings on proposals from two developers to build wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean off Maryland.

Renewable energy tax credit pays dividends to state
Kevin Robinson-Avila, Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico’s 13-year-old renewable energy production tax credit has generated a lot of bang for the buck in terms of economic impact and local development of wind and solar generation, but the incentive is set to expire next year. Bipartisan legislation to extend it to 2023 is under consideration in both the Senate and House.


Trump May Help U.S. Coal Output, But Jobs Are Another Story
Tim Loh, Bloomberg News

America’s coal output is up 15 percent from 2016, suggesting this bruised and battered industry may be on the mend. Bringing jobs back to levels anywhere near the sector’s heyday, however, may be a promise impossible to keep.

Weldon power plant closing
John Dixon, [Roanoke Valley] Daily Herald

The twin flue-gas stacks of the Roanoke Valley Energy Facility standing boldly above the tree line are a familiar sight for drivers on Julian R. Allsbrook Highway. Now it seems those monoliths to modern industry will soon either stand inert or operate under different ownership.


Struggling With Japan’s Nuclear Waste, Six Years After Disaster
Motoko Rich, The New York Times

Six years after the largest nuclear disaster in a quarter-century, Japanese officials have still not solved a basic problem: what to do with an ever-growing pile of radioactive waste. Each form of waste at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, where three reactors melted down after an earthquake and a tsunami on March 11, 2011, presents its own challenges.

Mass protests in Taiwan against nuclear energy demanding closure of atomic plants
Economic Times

Thousands of citizens took to the streets in Taiwanese capital Taipei on Saturday demanding the closure of atomic power plants and more citizen involvement in decisions on radioactive waste storage. More than 60 anti-nuclear civil society groups rallied to demand greater openness and civic participation in managing nuclear waste, and advocated a move towards more sustainable forms of energy, Green Citizens’ Action Alliance secretary-general Tsuei Su-hsin told the media.

Wild Boars Take Over Towns Near Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Plant
NBC News

Beyond radiation risks, an unexpected nuisance looms for residents returning to towns vacated after the Fukushima nuclear crisis — wild boars. Hundreds of the animals, which have been known to attack people when enraged, descended from surrounding hills and forests into towns left deserted after the 2011 disaster.


The world’s oceans are storing up staggering amounts of heat — and it’s even more than we thought
Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post

The world is getting warmer every year, thanks to climate change — but where exactly most of that heat is going may be a surprise. As a stunning early spring blooms across the United States, just weeks after scientists declared 2016 the hottest year on record, it’s easy to forget that all the extra warmth in the air accounts for only a fraction of the heat produced by greenhouse gas emissions.

Alaska’s Big Problem With Warmer Winters
Christopher Flavelle, Bloomberg Businessweek

From 1932 to 2017, the daily minimum temperature in Homer, Alaska, averaged 19F in February. Narrow that to the past 10 years and the average rises to 21F; for the past five years, 25F.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Saudis Are Right Back Where They Started
Julian Lee, Bloomberg Gadfly

Saudi Arabia has ended up with precisely what it wanted to avoid. Its output cut has left it supporting rival producers, while its sacrifice of volume has yielded little in the way of higher prices.

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Research Reports

Albedo feedbacks to future climate via climate change impacts on dryland biocrusts
William A. Rutherford et al., Scientific Reports

Drylands represent the planet’s largest terrestrial biome and evidence suggests these landscapes have large potential for creating feedbacks to future climate. Recent studies also indicate that dryland ecosystems are responding markedly to climate change. Biological soil crusts (biocrusts) ‒ soil surface communities of lichens, mosses, and/or cyanobacteria ‒ comprise up to 70% of dryland cover and help govern fundamental ecosystem functions, including soil stabilization and carbon uptake.