Energy Brief: Climate Change Draft Report Outlines Ongoing Impact on US

Government Brief

  • A draft report of the national climate assessment made by government scientists was leaked due to concerns that the Trump administration would suppress it because of its conclusions that contradict climate change beliefs in the White House. Climate change is affecting Americans right now, according to the research signed off by the National Academies of Sciences. (The New York Times)
  • Former Obama administration energy official Steve Koonin, who formerly asked for a “red team” discussion of climate change, met with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and other White House officials to discuss a scientific climate debate. (E&E News)
  • The Trump administration filed briefs seeking to throw out an environmental lawsuit opposing the Keystone XL natural gas pipeline construction, by calling the decision a presidential action. (Washington Examiner)

Business Brief

  • Trump adviser Carl Icahn’s bet against the future of renewable biofuel credits led to a $280 million liability for his investment, CVR Energy. Icahn did not sway the Trump administration to change the policy which makes oil refiners responsible for mixing biofuels into gasoline. (CNBC)
  • Warren Buffett’s utility conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway Inc., a large owner of clean energy sources, pushed back against the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act which forces utilities to buy more electricity when needed. Solar developers viewed the action as hostile to smaller solar rooftop projects, as those companies resist changes to PURPA. (Bloomberg)
  • Canadian oil producer Suncor Energy bought out competitors in mining the country’s costly and difficult oil sands in addition to its conventional crude production, which would generate the company a lot of cash once oil prices rise again, according to expert analysis. (The Wall Street Journal)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

FERC seminar on environmental reviews in pipeline construction projects 8 a.m.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace panel discussion on oil corruption and controversies 12 p.m.
FERC seminar on environmental reviews in pipeline construction projects 8 a.m.
2017 Offshore Wind Executive Summit in Houston 8:30 a.m.
Webinar on energy resources booms hosted by Resources for the Future 1 p.m.
FERC seminar on environmental reviews in pipeline construction projects 8 a.m.
2017 Offshore Wind Executive Summit in Houston 8:30 a.m.
Boston Climate Action Network meeting 6 p.m.
International Food Policy Research Institute event on agricultural research and development 12 p.m.

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EPA completes review of chemical approval backlog
Devin Henry, The Hill

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed its review of the 600 new chemicals that were awaiting government approval when Administrator Scott Pruitt took office in February. Pushing the chemicals through the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) approval process had been a key goal for Pruitt.

Germany’s diesel scandal shines a light on how cozy the government is with carmakers
Jill Petzinger, Quartz

The emissions cheating scandal that began with Volkswagen in 2015 has now spread to include all the big German automakers. With less than two months to go to election day, the government stepped in last week and hastily organized a summit with car chiefs, who were desperate to try and stave off a ban on diesel motors.

Local Stakeholders Upset Interior’s Sage Grouse Plans Cut Them Out
Iulia Gheorghiu, Morning Consult

The Interior Department wants to reduce conservation efforts for the greater sage grouse and its habitats, upsetting local stakeholders who had come up with their own plans for how to help the small bird with falling population numbers across the Western United States.

Crude Rises on Talk of Saudi Oil-Export Cut
Christopher Alessi and Jenny W. Hsu, The Wall Street Journal

Oil prices were up slightly Tuesday on the back of reports that Saudi Arabia is planning to cut exports to Asia next month. Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 0.46%, to $52.58 a barrel, in London midmorning trading. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate futures were up 0.55%, at $49.63 a barrel.

Oil and Natural Gas

Keystone XL pipeline faces key challenges to its approval
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

The Trump administration faces challenges to the Keystone XL pipeline project in the courts as well as at the state level this week that could stifle the project. On the court front, the Trump administration late Friday filed briefs in a Montana federal district court looking to get a lawsuit filed by environmental groups against the pipeline thrown out.

A Gusher of Cash at Suncor
Spencer Jakab, The Wall Street Journal

Canada’s oil sands are dirty, costly and the opposite of fast-money shale drilling, but the companies that mine them generate gushers of cash and are some of the biggest bargains in the stock market right now. Canada’s Suncor Energy is among the world’s higher-cost producers of oil. By all rights it should have scaled back its ambitions during the last few difficult years.

BP makes big natural gas find near Colorado border in San Juan Basin
Aldo Svaldi, The Denver Post

Oil giant BP has made a natural gas discovery in the Mancos formation of the San Juan Basin near the Colorado border that could help revive the fortunes of an out-of-favor region. The company, which is relocating the headquarters for its U.S. onshore operations to Denver, said Monday a new well it drilled seven miles south of the the Colorado border in New Mexico averaged production of 12.9 million cubic feet of gas per day, the highest achieved by a well in that area in 14 years.

Chinese Gas Sellers Sidestep State Giants to Exploit Demand Surge

China’s independent energy firms are seeking to circumvent its state-backed giants as they cash in on swelling natural gas use, buoyed by President Xi Jinping’s drive for cleaner fuels and nimbler companies. New import facilities developed by firms including Guanghui Energy Co. and ENN Group offer direct access to cheap liquefied natural gas and cut their reliance on supply and infrastructure controlled by the the country’s national oil companies.

Mexico expects participation in repeat auction for natural gas pipeline capacity
Daniel Rodriguez, Platts

Mexico’s National Gas Control Center, or CENAGAS, expects companies to participate Thursday in the auction repeat for state-run power utility CFE’s cross-border natural gas pipeline capacity in the northern region. David Madero, CENAGAS’ general director, said late Friday that companies expressed interest for the capacity the first time it was auctioned, but they didn’t register to bid.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Warren Buffett Likes Solar, but Not the Price Tag
Brian Eckhouse and Noah Buhayar, Bloomberg

Warren Buffett has called global warming a “major problem” and put his company’s money where his mouth is, spending billions to develop solar and wind power. They say the utility arm of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., his conglomerate, has been trying to undermine an almost 40-year-old law intended in part to promote the growth of cleaner energy. Berkshire, they say, is effectively stifling solar projects to protect utilities it owns, such as PacifiCorp, based in Portland, Ore.

Utilities want higher rates to update electric grid
Christian M. Wade, Gloucester Times

Massachusetts electricity consumers, who already pay some of the highest rates in the nation, can expect to dig deeper into their pockets in coming years to foot the bill for upgrades to the regional power grid. Eversource has filed a request with the state Department of Public Utilities to raise rates by nearly $300 million over five years. The utility wants to raise rates by $96 million for its 1.4 million customers in 2018, and $188 million more over the next four years.

Oncor drops proposed minimum charge for DER customers
Robert Walton, Utility Dive

As the search for a new Oncor owner chugs along, the utility is continuing with business as usual. That includes a 7.5% rate hike the utility says is needed to pay for grid investments. But in order to get approval for the rate case, Oncor officials have agreed to drop a proposed minimum fee that would primarily impact solar customers with arrays capable of generating 2 kW or greater.


Here’s how Carl Icahn’s bet on Donald Trump went terribly wrong
Tom DiChristopher, CNBC

Carl Icahn’s bet on an obscure biofuel credit is going south and threatens to leave an energy company he controls with a big unpaid bill. The wager is remarkable because Icahn’s role as a special advisor to President Donald Trump has directly influenced the price of the credits he is betting on.

Shares in solar power firm Sunrun drop about 10 percent on results
Nicholas Groom, Reuters

U.S. residential solar company Sunrun Inc on Monday reported second-quarter revenue and earnings per share that fell short of Wall Street estimates, sending its shares down nearly 10 percent in extended trading. Sunrun is known for its no-money-down financing schemes for residential systems that allow homeowners to pay monthly fees for solar power and avoid tens of thousands of dollars in upfront costs.

The biggest market for hydrogen as a clean fuel may not be cars—but homes
Akshat Rathi, Quartz

Cadent, a British gas distribution company that owns the country’s biggest network, has proposed spending £600 million ($800 million) to test providing hydrogen instead of natural gas, or methane. It can be transported through the same pipes as natural gas, it is believed to be just as safe, and when it burns, it produces only water.


Interior scraps Obama-era rule on coal royalties
Matthew Daly, The Associated Press

The Interior Department has scrapped an Obama-era rule aimed at ensuring that coal companies don’t shortchange taxpayers on huge volumes of coal extracted from public lands, primarily in the West. The Trump administration put the rule on hold in February after mining companies challenged it in federal court.

California pension fund divests from coal as industry rebounds
Adam Ashton, The Sacramento Bee

Coal stocks are on the rebound, but California’s main public pension fund won’t see investment gains from that industry. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System is almost entirely out of coal, according to a report it released Monday on its compliance with a 2015 law that compelled it and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System to divest from coal by July 1, 2017.

China says willing to pay the price for new North Korea sanctions
Ben Blanchard, Reuters

China will pay the biggest price from the new United Nations sanctions against North Korea because of its close economic relationship with the country, but will always enforce the resolutions, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said. The latest U.N. resolution bans North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood.


Red faces become the norm at nuclear power groups
Andrew Ward, Financial Times

The decision by utilities Santee Cooper and Scana Corporation dealt another blow to Westinghouse, the US nuclear subsidiary of Japan’s Toshiba, five months after it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Instead, the US plants risk becoming an even bigger fiasco than those involving the European Pressurized Reactor at Flamanville in France and Olkiluoto, Finland, which, although years late and billions of euros over budget, at least look likely to be completed in the next couple of years.

South Carolina Seeks Ways to Salvage Nuclear Project
Valerie Bauerlein and Russell Gold, The Wall Street Journal

An energy company’s decision to abandon work on a nuclear project in South Carolina has left the state reeling and the governor seeking one of several solutions to save at least one of the two reactors. Gov. Henry McMaster called the shuttering of the plant “a jarring break of faith,” in a statement. Mr. McMaster, a Republican, is pursuing a number of options to try and ensure that at least one of the two reactors gets up and running, according to a person close to the governor.


Government Report Finds Drastic Impact of Climate Change on U.S.
Lisa Friedman, The New York Times

The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited.

Here’s the Obama energy guy that Pruitt might hire
Robin Bravender, E&E News

In the fall of 2014, Steven Koonin was finishing up an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal. The theme was a contentious one, especially for a former Obama administration energy official: How certain is climate science? Koonin has met with Pruitt and other Trump administration officials to discuss the idea of a “red team,” he told E&E News on Friday.

US federal department is censoring use of term ‘climate change’, emails reveal
Oliver Milman, The Guardian

Staff at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been told to avoid using the term climate change in their work, with the officials instructed to reference “weather extremes” instead.

Hong Kong closes 13 beaches as stinking, congealed palm oil washes ashore
Anne Marie Roantree, Reuters

Hong Kong has closed more than a dozen beaches after a palm oil spill washed foul-smelling, Styrofoam-like clumps ashore, the latest major environmental disaster to blight the territory’s waters. The Hong Kong government said it had collected 50 tonnes of oil so far, most of it congealed, while workers scooped up 110 bags of palm oil waste on one beach alone on the popular Lamma Island.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Can we wean Elon Musk off government support already?
Jenny Beth Martin, The Hill

Tesla’s new Model 3 has finally arrived, and not a moment too soon. The critics seem to love it, and Tesla management says it’s already received deposits for 500,000 of the vehicles. Perhaps now Elon Musk can finally get his hand out of U.S. taxpayers’ wallets?

Don’t trade dead-end coal jobs for public lands
Pam Sohn, The Chattanooga Times Free Press

The Trump administration is making an aggressive push to reinvigorate the struggling American coal industry and exploit commercial opportunities on public lands by encouraging more coal mining on federal property. Not that we need that coal, mind you. Nonetheless, Trump continues to stroke his dwindling base by rolling back environmental and conservation regulations in the name of fake-making America great again.

What next 40 years of the DOE should bring
Michael Webber, The Monitor

It is the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Department of Energy, and reflecting on four decades of the agency’s track record offers guidance about what to expect in the future. And right now, one could say the agency is at crossroads.

Research Reports

After Indian Point: Lights Out for New York City?
Robert Bryce, The Manhattan Institute

The electric grid must be continually tuned so that electricity production and consumption match. Doing so helps assure that voltage on the grid stays at near-constant levels. If New York is to avoid an electricity-related crisis, policymakers need to understand the risk to the grid if Indian Point is closed prematurely.