Energy Brief: Perry Says Government Should Prioritize Nuclear Waste Storage

Washington Brief

  • Energy Secretary Rick Perry said the government needs to prioritize nuclear waste storage and move forward on the Yucca Mountain waste depository project when he testified on the energy budget before a House budget subcommittee. (The Washington Times)
  • The House of Representatives passed a nuclear energy tax credit bill that would increase incentives for the construction of nuclear facilities. (The Hill)
  • Secretary Ryan Zinke defended proposed cuts to the Interior Department’s budget and received praise from Republican senators on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee for proposed energy exploration on public lands. (The Washington Post)

Business Brief

  • Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc. announced support for the Republican proposal to tax carbon emissions, along with other corporations in the Climate Leadership Council. (The New York Times)
  • Ford Motor Company announced plans to import its Focus model from China to economize on the already slim profit margins in the U.S. for compact cars. (The Detroit Free Press)
  • A major oil terminal in the Gulf of Mexico has halted service due to tropical storm Cindy. (Bloomberg News)

Chart Review

U.S. refineries are running at record-high levels
U.S. Energy Information Administration

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

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



Perry: Government has ‘moral obligation’ to revive Yucca Mountain waste repository
Ben Wolfgang, The Washington Times

Energy Secretary Rick Perry told lawmakers Tuesday that the government has a “moral obligation” to revive the stalled Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and suggested that unlike other programs on the financial chopping block, the Trump administration is committed to pouring the necessary money into the politically perilous project.

Zinke defends Trump’s sharp cuts at Interior: ‘This is what a balanced budget looks like.’
Darryl Fears, The Washington Post

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Tuesday defended the $1.6 billion in funding cuts that President Trump has proposed for his department, telling a Senate hearing that “this is what a balanced budget looks like.” But Democrats on the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources took issue with the $400 million that the national parks would lose in fiscal 2018, which they said would trigger staff reductions at 90 percent of them.

Ford to import Focus from China instead of Mexico
Brent Snavely and Grace Schneider, The Detroit Free Press and The Courier Journal

Ford, which was under fire for much of 2016 for its plans to build the Focus in Mexico, said today it is shifting gears a second time and will instead import most of its next-generation Focus cars from China in a move designed to improve the automaker’s “operational fitness.” Today, Ford said it will save a total of $1 billion in investment costs by building the Focus in China and canceling plans for an all-new manufacturing facility in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

Dems, greens press Trump administration on methane rewrites
Devin Henry, The Hill

Environmentalists and Democrats levied new criticisms Tuesday against the Trump administration’s approach to methane regulations. A group of 15 state attorneys general joined a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency that alleges the EPA does not have the right to delay an Obama-era methane pollution rule while reviewing it.

EPA plans to buy out more than 1,200 employees this summer
Brady Dennis, The Washington Post

The Environmental Protection Agency plans on shedding more than 1,200 employees by early September through buyouts and early retirements, as part of a broader push by the Trump administration to shrink a government entity the president once promised to eliminate “in almost every form.” The departures would amount to about 8 percent of the current 15,000-person workforce of the EPA, where a hiring freeze also remains in effect.

Interior Does Not Expect to Follow White House Plans on Cuts to Parks
Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult

Department of the Interior officials do not expect to go through with the White House’s proposed cuts to national parks throughout the country, a department spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Senate confirms Trump’s nominee to lead FEMA
Matthew Trunko, The Washington Examiner

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Brock Long, President Trump’s pick to lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Long was the director of Alabama’s Emergency Management Agency from 2008 to 2011. He developed Alabama’s response to the H1N1 influenza and served as the state incident commander during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Long is the executive vice president at Hagerty, an emergency management consulting firm he joined in 2011.

Documents reveal Trump fossil fuel income
Nick Bowlin, E&E News

President Trump has taken in tens of millions of dollars from various real estate holdings during his first months in the White House, according to financial disclosure documents submitted voluntarily on Friday to the Office of Government Ethics.

Oil and Natural Gas

Exxon Mobil Lends Its Support to a Carbon Tax Proposal
John Schwartz, The New York Times

Exxon Mobil, other oil companies and a number of other corporate giants will announce on Tuesday that they are supporting a plan to tax carbon emissions that was pt forth this year by a group of Republican elder statesmen.

Gulf of Mexico Storm Cindy Disrupts Shipping, Crude Imports
Brian Sullivan, Bloomberg News

Tropical Storm Cindy has halted service at a major oil terminal in the Gulf of Mexico, prompted some evacuations at rigs and platforms and put states from Texas to Florida on notice for flooding rains. The storm has triggered watches and warnings along the Texas-Louisiana coast including Galveston Bay, the entrance to the Houston Ship Channel and Sabine Pass, the site of the only active liquefied natural gas export terminal in the lower 48 states.

Oil spill sends global stocks, bond yields sliding
Marc Jones and Sujata Rao, Reuters

A renewed slump in oil prices to seven-month lows dragged down world stocks on Wednesday and flattened bond curves as bets that inflation and interest rates will stay lower for even longer began to build again. Signs of a growing glut of supply sent Brent crude futures skidding back to $45.50 a barrel as European trading gathered momentum. Poorly performing banking stocks also made for a weak start for London, Paris and Frankfurt’s stock markets.

Natural gas production boom has pipeline demand exceeding supply
Geoffrey Morgan, The Financial Post

Natural gas producers want more pipeline space than many midstream companies are offering and have oversubscribed to two new expansion projects in the last week. TransCanada Corp. announced Wednesday that natural gas producers had bid for more space on a new $2-billion expansion of its Nova pipeline system than was available.

Oil slump spooks investors; China stocks underwhelmed by MSCI
Wayne Cole, Reuters

A renewed slump in oil prices to seven-month lows put Asian investors on edge on Wednesday, overshadowing a decision by U.S. index provider MSCI to add mainland Chinese stocks to one of its popular benchmarks. The slide in energy costs boosted bond prices and flattened yield curves as investors priced in lower inflation for longer, while safe-haven flows underpinned the U.S. dollar.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Obama energy chief’s new analysis group starting off with grid study
Amy Harder, Axios

Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is launching a new research nonprofit and its first project is going to be a report about America’s electricity grid. Moniz said his new group will be doing work similar to what was done in an Energy Department office he created in 2013, which the Trump administration has vowed to shut down.

Trump Power Study Riles Trade Groups Before It’s Released
Patrick Martin and Ari Natter, Bloomberg News

Critics aren’t waiting for opening night to pan a Trump administration study on the U.S. power grid they believe will demonize renewable energy while promoting coal and nuclear generation. The report, ordered up by Energy Secretary Rick Perry and expected this month, will examine whether policies that favor wind and solar energy are accelerating the retirement of coal and nuclear plants needed to ensure reliable power supplies, according to an April 14 memo obtained by Bloomberg News.

PG&E electricity use poised to break record as Bay Area heat peaks
Sarah Ravani and David Baker, The San Francisco Gate

With another hot streak expected to send inland Bay Area temperatures soaring to triple digits and prompt sweltering residents to crank up air conditioners and fans, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. crews are bracing for record use of electricity on Thursday and hoping it doesn’t short-circuit the power grid.


Fisticuffs Over the Route to a Clean-Energy Future
Eduardo Porter, The New York Times

Could the entire American economy run on renewable energy alone? Democrats in both the United States Senate and in the California Assembly have proposed legislation this year calling for a full transition to renewable energy sources.

Texas Is Too Windy and Sunny for Old Energy Companies to Make Money
Ryan Collins, Bloomberg News

In the cut-throat Texas energy market, the construction of these coastal wind turbines—some 900 in all—has had a profound impact. It’s been terrific for consumers, helping further drive down electricity bills, but horrible for natural gas-fired generators. They had ramped up capacity in recent years anticipating that midday price surge would mostly be theirs, not something to share with renewable energy companies. Without that steady cash influx, the business model doesn’t really work, the profits aren’t there and companies including Calpine Corp., NRG Energy Inc. and Exelon Corp. are now either postponing new gas-fired plants or ditching them all together.

Favorability Ratings for Tesla, SpaceX Jumped After Musk Snubbed Trump
Edward Graham, Morning Consult

Favorability ratings for Tesla and SpaceX improved after Elon Musk, the chief executive for each company, resigned from two of President Donald Trump’s advisory councils in protest of the administration’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, according to Morning Consult Brand Intelligence data.


Solar energy is killing coal, despite Trump’s promises
Matt Egan, CNN

Trump has taken steps to ease the burden on coal country by ripping up environmental rules and pledging to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. But those deregulatory steps do little to offset the mounting long-term challenge that coal faces from cleaner forms of energy, especially solar.


House passes nuclear energy tax bill
Devin Henry, The Hill

The House quickly passed a bill extending a nuclear energy tax credit on Tuesday. The bill, bipartisan legislation from Reps. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and others, would increase the number of utilities that can qualify for the tax credit and remove construction deadlines for facilities that use it.

A reactor in Idaho could change the future of nuclear energy — if it survives Trump’s budget
Zach Colman, The Washington Post

The future of the nuclear energy in the United States may well run through rural Idaho, where the federal Energy Department, a nuclear technology company and a power utility are collaborating on a power plant that nuclear advocates hope will boost the industry’s flagging fortunes.

Japan eyes U.S. nuclear pact that renews automatically amid Trump administration vacancies
The Japan Times

Japan will seek a nuclear pact with the United States that renews automatically while it continues reprocessing spent fuel and enriching uranium, rather than a long-term pact similar to one set to expire next year, government sources said Tuesday. Ahead of the current 30-year bilateral pact’s expiration in July next year, the government envisions the new type of agreement because it has little time for talks amid vacancies in U.S. departments tasked with negotiations under President Donald Trump’s administration, the sources said.


AP-NORC poll: Few favor Trump move to ditch Paris accord
Michael Biesecker and Emily Swanson, The Associated Press

Less than one-third of Americans support President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, a new poll shows, and just 18 percent of respondents agree with his claim that pulling out of the international agreement to reduce carbon emissions will help the U.S. economy. The survey conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research earlier this month found that a slim majority — 52 percent — worry that withdrawing will actually hurt the economy. Twenty-seven percent think it won’t have an impact either way.

Coral reefs are under stress but may be resilient
Erica Pandey, Axios

Human dependence on coral reefs is far-reaching: One billion people rely on reefs for food or fishing income, per the World Wide Fund for Nature. Tourism to the Florida Reef rakes in over $3 billion each year and coral reefs are on the cutting-edge of medical science, potentially providing proteins to fight HIV. But these reefs are quickly dying.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The Green Energy Revolution Will Happen Without Trump
Stuart Thompson and Vikas Bajaj, The New York Times

In the wake of President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, a dozen states and more than 300 cities have pledged to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in line with the Paris targets. The move suggests a possible future for climate change policy in the Trump era: States and cities are taking on the brunt of climate responsibility, building green energy capabilities and meeting ambitious climate targets in the process.

Zinke, Perdue break with tradition — and listen
Editorial Board, The East Oregonian

Bigwigs from Washington always come to town for a reason, usually to deliver the administration’s talking points as they relate to a particular audience. In a closed-door meeting with 10 producers before the Boise State event, Perdue and Zinke didn’t make speeches. They listened.

Research Reports

Electricity Markets, Reliability and the Evolving U.S. Power System
Paul Hibbard et al., Analysis Group

It is a common occurrence for the issue of reliability to be raised when market, technology or policy changes are affecting the financial outlook of different segments of the electric industry. This phenomenon has occurred several times over the past two decades, as the prospect of new industry and market structures, technological advancement, air pollution controls and customer-driven changes stood to alter the operations and economics of various types of power plants on the electric system. Sometimes these warnings spring from genuine concerns, such as the need to address the localized reliability impacts of potential plant closures; other times they reflect a first line of defense by opponents of the changes underway in the industry.