Energy Brief: Perry Denies CO2 Role in Climate Change

Washington Brief

  • Energy Secretary Rick Perry denied that carbon dioxide emissions from human activities are the main cause of climate change or that climate change is primarily caused by CO2, contrary to scientific opinions and the conclusions of government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency. (CNBC)
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke discussed the importance of energy independence in the context of mining and drilling on federal land while reviewing national monuments, six of which are on land with mining and drilling potential. (Reuters)
  • House Democrats requested all documents relating to former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his work on a Saudi Arabia nuclear deal before he joined the Trump campaign, and the details of a U.S.-Russia venture. (ABC News)

Business Brief

  • Exxon Mobil Corp. and their biotech research partner, Synthetic Genomics, announced a breakthrough in algae-based biofuels research: the possibility to double the production of oil to 40 percent in algal mass through genetic manipulation of algae. (Financial Times)
  • Six senators wrote to the State and Treasury heads requesting a review of Russian involvement in the Venezuela-owned Citgo because of their U.S.-based infrastructure after the gas company defaulted on a loan to Russian energy company Rosneft. (The Hill)
  • The Supreme Court declined to hear a case that would have furthered Ecuador’s decades-long pursuit for environmental damage by Chevron subsidiary Texaco, upholding the Court of Appeals ruling that the American lawyer representing Ecuador had committed fraud. (Bloomberg News)

Chart Review

Power Sector Carbon Index
Carnegie Melon University’s Scott Institute for Energy Innovation

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Interior’s budget 10 a.m.
Energy Department’s Perry testifies at House Appropriations subcommittee hearing 1 p.m.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on restoring watersheds 2:30 p.m.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on water infrastructure 2:30 p.m.
Obama administration officials Moniz, Hagel, Whitman speak at energy and climate event at Atlantic Council 9 a.m.
Interior’s Zinke testifies to Senate Appropriations subcommittee 9:30 a.m.
Former Energy Secretary Moniz speaks at National Press Club 10 a.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on Helium Extraction Act 10 a.m.
House Science subcommittee hearing on environmental technologies 10 a.m.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s New Energy Outlook 2017 discussion at CSIS 10 a.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on Indian Health Service bill 2 p.m.
Energy Secretary Perry testifies at Senate Appropriations subcommittee 2:30 p.m.
Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on Commodity Futures Trading Commission nominee 9:30 a.m.
House Natural Resources Committee hearing on Interior’s budget 9:30 a.m.
House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee hearing on rail infrastructure 10 a.m.
Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing on marine debris 10 a.m.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Energy Department’s budget 10 a.m.
Statoil Energy Perspectives 2017 discussion at CSIS 1 p.m.
No events scheduled



Interior head says public lands can make U.S. a ‘dominant’ oil power
Valerie Volcovici, Reuters

Boosting drilling and mining on America’s protected federal lands can help the United States become not just independent, but “dominant” as a global energy force, according to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose agency manages about one-fifth of U.S. territory. In an interview with Reuters, Zinke outlined his approach to development and conservation in America’s wildest spaces, and discussed how that philosophy was guiding his review of which national monuments created by past presidents should be rescinded or resized to make way for more business.

Flynn failed to report foreign trip to broker US-Russia nuclear deal, House Democrats say
Matthew Mosk et al., ABC News

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn made an unreported trip to the Middle East in 2015 to work on a U.S.-Russian venture in Saudi Arabia before he joined the Trump campaign, possibly having multiple contacts with Saudi officials that he failed to disclose when seeking renewal of his security clearances, according to Democrats who are seeking detailed records of Flynn’s travels.

Trump regulators trigger pollution fight
Devin Henry, The Hill

The fight over former President Barack Obama’s methane agenda has moved to the courts. The Trump administration last week took two major steps toward wiping a pair of Obama-era methane pollution rules off the books. Environmental groups have sued to stop President Trump from nixing the rules, though the oil and gas industry has stepped up to defend the administration’s actions.

How Al Gore Keeps His Cool Over Climate Change
Adele Peters, Fast Company

A decade after the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth made the threat of climate change real to millions of moviegoers, the film’s star, Al Gore, is back to make it even more so. In An Inconvenient Sequel, due in theaters July 28, he shares an outlook that is both more dire and more optimistic: Last year was the hottest ever on record, but it also marked a high point for installations of renewable energy.

Environmentalists Say Arctic Drilling Revenue Predictions ‘Way Off’
Iulia Gheorghiu, Morning Consult

Conservation advocates believe opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, America’s largest swath of wilderness, isn’t likely to be the boon to federal coffers that President Donald Trump expects. Opening up the wilderness region is a perennial issue; bipartisan bills are introduced each Congress to definitively label the area as “wilderness” while industry groups seek to gain access to a section of land that had been designated for oil and gas exploration.

Oil and Natural Gas

ExxonMobil biofuel partnership makes oil from algae ‘breakthrough’
Clive Cookson, The Financial Times

After eight years, a research collaboration between ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics to produce biofuels from algae has produced what the two US companies say is the first “breakthrough”. The researchers identified a biological switch called ZnCys that regulates the conversion of carbon to oil in Nannochloropsis gaditana, an algal species that grows in seawater and is a leading candidate for biofuel production. Through genetic manipulation, they fine-tuned the process to double the proportion of lipid (oil) in the algal biomass.

Senators ask administration to probe possible Russian takeover of Citgo
Sylvan Lane, The Hill

Six senators are calling on the secretaries of State and Treasury to review whether a potential Russian takeover of petroleum company Citgo could threaten national security and violate economic sanctions. Citgo, owned by the government of Venezuela, risks defaulting on a loan from Rosneft, a Russian state-owned energy company. Rosneft could take control of Citgo upon default, giving a company with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin command of United States infrastructure.

Chevron Shielded From $9 Billion Verdict
Greg Stohr, Bloomberg News

The U.S. Supreme Court left intact a ruling that protects Chevron Corp. from having to pay $8.6 billion in a decades-long battle over oil pollution in Ecuador, rebuffing an American lawyer who was found to have committed fraud in the South American country’s court. The attorney, Steven Donziger, said a federal appeals court had exceeded its authority by letting Chevron use a U.S. racketeering law to block enforcement of the Ecuadorian award.

Oil prices hit seven-month lows on global oversupply
Christopher Johnson, Reuters

Oil prices fell to seven-month lows on Tuesday after news of increases in supply by several key producers, a trend which has undermined attempts by OPEC and other producers to support the market through reduced output. Benchmark Brent LCOc1 dropped $1.06 to a low of $45.85 a barrel, its weakest since Nov. 18, just before OPEC and other producers agreed to cut output by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) for six months from January.

Both Climate Leader and Oil Giant? A Norwegian Paradox
Somini Sengupta, The New York Times

In an unseasonably warm day in May, Norway’s climate minister, Vidar Helgesen, strolled through a vast parking lot for electric cars, counting Teslas. “Two, three, four, five,” the minister marveled.

Shale’s Record Fracklog Could Force Crude Prices Even Lower
David Wethe and Joe Carroll, Bloomberg News

There’s yet another concern growing as oil prices continue to erode: A record U.S. fracklog. There were 5,946 drilled-but-uncompleted wells in the nation’s oilfields at the end of May, the most in at least three years, according to estimates by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Utilities and Infrastructure

A bitter scientific debate just erupted over the future of America’s power grid
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

Scientists are engaged in an increasingly bitter and personal feud over how much of the United States’ power it can get from renewable sources, with a large group of scientists taking aim at a popular recent paper that claimed the country could move beyond fossil fuels entirely by 2055. In 2015, Stanford professor Mark Jacobson and his colleagues argued that between 2050 and 2055, the U.S. could be entirely powered by “clean” energy sources and “no natural gas, biofuels, nuclear power, or stationary batteries are needed.”

Trump Brings Uncertainty to ISO-NE, Regulators
Michael Kuser, RTO Insider

Environmental activists and state and RTO officials agreed Thursday that President Trump’s rollback of Obama administration energy and climate policies are causing uncertainty for New England officials even as some states attempt to fill the void.


Nevada Governor Vetoes Renewable Bill in Setback for Advocates
Mark Chediak, Bloomberg News

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval vetoed a bill late Friday that would have boosted the state’s renewable energy target, dealing a setback for clean-energy advocates looking for state action after President Donald Trump said he would pull the U.S. from the Paris climate pact. The legislation required that 40 percent of the state’s electricity come from clean energy sources by 2030, up from the current target of 25 percent by 2025.

Solar panel makers look to White House for help
Timothy Cama, The Hill

Solar panel manufacturers are pushing to impose trade penalties on imports to the United States, dividing their industry while potentially creating a new trade case for President Trump. Two companies that manufacture solar panels and related technology in the United States are asking the Trump administration to impose pricing policies, such as tariffs or price floors, on imported panel technologies.

Scientists Sharply Rebut Influential Renewable Energy Plan
James Temple, The MIT Technology Review

On Monday, a team of prominent researchers sharply critiqued an influential paper arguing that wind, solar, and hydroelectric power could affordably meet most of the nation’s energy needs by 2055, saying it contained modeling errors and implausible assumptions that could distort public policy and spending decisions.

More solar jobs than coal jobs in Virginia, for first time in history
Chris Hoffman, WSET Lynchberg

It’s a booming industry with a very bright future. Right now there are more solar jobs than coal jobs for the first time in Virginia’s history. According to the Solar Foundation, there were more than 3,200 jobs for solar power in the state while coal only had less than 2,900, according to the Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy.


Coal’s Decline Spreads Far Beyond Appalachia
Jon Kamp and Kris Maher, The Wall Street Journal

Far from the mines of Appalachia, the decline of coal is hitting communities that relied on coal-fired power plants for jobs and income. During the past five years, roughly 350 coal-fired generating units shut down across the U.S., ranging from small units at factories to huge power plants, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.

Investors plan $80 million coal enhancement facility for the Powder River Basin
Heather Richards, The Casper Star Tribune

A year ago, tempting investment in Wyoming coal was little more than a dream. Now, a group of investors plans to raise $80 million to build a coal treatment facility in the Powder River Basin that they say would increase the value of local coal.


Nuclear power on the ‘front burner,’ says Energy Secretary Rick Perry
Tom DiChristopher, CNBC

The Trump administration sees nuclear power as “a very important part” of an all-of-the-above energy strategy, Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Monday. “Bringing our nuclear energy industry back, small modular reactors for instance, that’s on the front burner so to speak,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on the sidelines of the SelectUSA Investment Summit, which promotes investment in the U.S.

Russia’s Rosatom plans to sign deal with Turkey’s Cengiz-Kolin-Kalyon on Akkuyu project
Katya Golubkova and Alexander Winning, Reuters

Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) plans to sign a term sheet with Turkey’s Cengiz-Kolin-Kalyon consortium on entering the Akkuyu nuclear power plant project, according to a media sheet published on Monday. It gave no other detail.


Energy Secretary Rick Perry says CO2 is not the main driver of climate change
Tom DiChristopher, CNBC

Energy Secretary Rick Perry told CNBC on Monday he does not believe carbon dioxide emissions from human activity are the main driver of climate change, joining the EPA administrator in casting doubt on the conclusion of some of the government’s top scientists. Asked whether CO2 emissions are primarily responsible for climate change, Perry told CNBC’s “Squawk Box”: “No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.”

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Electric Power Industry, Government Work Together to Protect the Grid
Sue Kelly et al., Morning Consult

More and more, we are reading about new cybersecurity threats and hearing commentary about how critical infrastructure is in the crosshairs of adversaries around the world. In May, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order directing the federal government to undertake a security review to identify opportunities for the private sector and government to work more closely together to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure, including the energy grid, against cyberattacks.

Mega-cities need nuclear energy
Llewellyn King, The Post and Courier

The nuclear electric industry has sustained some mighty blows in the United States and Western Europe in recent years. It might be reeling, but it is not out and it is not going down for the count. Taken globally, things are good. The need to curb carbon in the air, to service a growing world population and the surging cities are impelling nuclear forward.

Natural gas offers cleaner air without sacrificing jobs
Jackie Stewart, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

The shale revolution is upon us, and one need look no further than the Buckeye State to see just how much of a positive impact hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has had on job creation, economic development and even the environment.

Research Reports

Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar
Christopher Clack et al., PNAS

A number of analyses, meta-analyses, and assessments, including those performed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the International Energy Agency, have concluded that deployment of a diverse portfolio of clean energy technologies makes a transition to a low-carbon-emission energy system both more feasible and less costly than other pathways.

Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline Flow: Doing Just Fine After 40 Years
Lois Epstein, The Wilderness Society

Recent oil discoveries in the U.S. Arctic will continue the upward trend in trans-Alaska oil pipeline flow begun in 2016 for many years to come. The pipeline will continue operating for decades, with no need to drill in controversial, ecologically-important and federally protected Arctic regions, i.e., the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, off-limits portions of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, and the Arctic Ocean. Pipelines are designed and operated to carry less than peak flow so there is no basis for alarmist statements about trans-Alaska oil pipeline flow decline.