By Emily Holden (@emilyhholden)
Today’s Washington Brief:
- The Senate confirmed Cheryl LaFleur and Norman Bay to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. LaFleur will remain acting chairman for nine more months before Bay is elevated as part of a deal assuage concerns over Bay's experience. Washington Examiner's Zack Colman reports.
- House Energy Chairman Fred Upton says a ban on crude oil exports won't be lifted this year, Bloomberg's Lynn Doan reports.
Today’s Business Brief:
- Smart grid technology could make utilities more vulnerable to hacking, Reuters reports.
- Shell announced an offshore discovery in the Gulf of Mexico it believes contains 100 million barrels of oil equivalent, Houston Chronicle's Ryan Holeywell reports.
- Google is teaming up with environmentalists to spotlight natural gas leaking from pipes buried under city streets in Boston, Indianapolis and Staten Island, Houston Chronicle's Jennifer A. Dlouhy reports.
- Wall Street Journal's Rebecca Smith looks into how NRG Energy's newly announced project will use carbon captured from a coal plant for enhanced oil recovery. An oil expert also touted the potential for using carbon for enhanced oil recovery in shale formations, Dlouhy reports. In case you missed it, Morning Consult wrote about the potential for growth in that practice earlier this week.
Today's Chart Review:
What states have the most and least proposed power plant capacity?
Mark Your Calendars (All Times Eastern):
Wednesday: Atlantic Council discussion on Petrocaribe, Central America, Caribbean @ 8:30 am
Wednesday: NARUC Summer Committee Meetings in Dallas @ 9:30 am
Wednesday: House Transportation markup on coal jobs @ 10 am
Wednesday: CSIS talk on IEA medium-term oil market report @ 10 am
Wednesday: ACORE webinar on carbon reduction @ Noon
Wednesday: House Science hearing on EPA Integrated Risk Information System @ 2 pm
Wednesday: Environmental and Energy Study Institute briefing on Midwest climate impacts @ 2:30 pm
Thursday: AFCEA symposium on energy technology @ 7:30 am
Thursday: ICF International breakfast on ESPS regualtions at Press Club @ 8 am
Thursday: Monthly Federal Energy Regulatory Commission meeting @ 10 am
Thursday: Women's Council on Energy and Environment talk on SCOTUS decisions on air rules at @ Noon
Thursday: Leaders in energy happy hour at the Bier Baron Tavern with CASSE @ 6 pm
15: Natural Gas
16-17: Utilities and Infrastructure
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
22: Washington Times
24: The Hill
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
25: Energy Information Administration
1) Senate confirms two members, including new chair, to electric grid regulator
from Washington Examiner by Zack Colman
The Senate confirmed a pair of nominees to join the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Tuesday in a move that will see one serve out a nine-month term as chairman before transferring power to the other.
Cheryl LaFleur, who has served as acting chair for the nation's electric grid regulator since November, will remain on the job for another nine months under a deal brokered by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Mary Landrieu, D-La.; Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; and the White House. Norman Bay, President Obama's pick to run the independent commission, will take over thereafter. The arrangement assuages concerns among Republicans and some Democrats that Bay, who led the FERC's enforcement office but has never been a commissioner, lacked experience to head the body. Getting Reid, who objected to LaFleur running the commission for a full term, on board helped seal the deal.
2) Steyer speaks out after bad press with a little help from green friends
from E&E by Elana Schor
...As Steyer gears up to spend upward of $50 million defending climate-friendly candidates ahead of Election Day, his personal narrative of conversion from Wall Street wizard to global warming gadfly is only intensifying conservatives' desire to dig into his past. The 57-year-old Californian may never move from unofficial short lists of future political candidates to run for office himself, but Steyer's ties to the White House and his prominent role in Democrats' midterm election effort are likely to inspire further coverage in the vein of the Times piece, which largely drew on previous reporting about Farallon coal projects.
3) Though Scorned by Colleagues, a Climate-Change Skeptic Is Unbowed
from New York Times by Michael Wines
Dr. Christy is an outlier on what the vast majority of his colleagues consider to be a matter of consensus: that global warming is both settled science and a dire threat. He regards it as neither. Not that the earth is not heating up. It is, he says, and carbon dioxide spewed from power plants, automobiles and other sources is at least partly responsible. But in speeches, congressional testimony and peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals, he argues that predictions of future warming have been greatly overstated and that humans have weathered warmer stretches without perishing.
4) EPA's McCarthy pushes states to adopt carbon-cutting 'investment strategy'
from E&E by Edward Klump
Gina McCarthy, the administrator of U.S. EPA, appeared at a meeting of state regulators to provide what she called a "signal." "Our energy world is changing, and really the key opportunity here is to embrace a direction that's good and available and reliable and responsible and affordable for each state," McCarthy said, "and to figure out how you can achieve these carbon pollution reductions in a way that's moving in that same direction." Her comments yesterday before the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, or NARUC, were brief -- less than 30 minutes, including questions.
5) Coming soon to a country near you: The US frac phenomenon
from Houston Chronicle by Jennifer A. Dlouhy
The United States’ monopoly on pulling oil and gas out of ultra-dense rock formations is ending, as companies aim to replicate the success in other countries, energy analysts said Tuesday. For several years, the United States has been a laboratory for figuring out how to exploit unconventional tight oil resources on a large scale, but “this is not just a U.S. play,” said Jamie Webster, senior director of the IHS energy research group. By the end of the decade, 10 percent of the world’s tight oil production will come from outside North America, Webster predicted at an Energy Information Administration summit. American companies are increasingly looking to take the tight oil development techniques pioneered in the United States to other nations, just as foreigners have purchased North American assets to learn the tricks of the trade.
6) North Texas City Rejects Partial Fracking Ban
from AP by Emily Schmall
The council governing a North Texas city that sits atop a large natural gas reserve rejected a bid early Wednesday that would have made it the first city in the state to ban further permitting of hydraulic fracturing in the community. Denton City Council members voted down the petition 5-2 after eight hours of public testimony, sending the proposal to a public ballot in November.
7) China lures companies into carbon footprint labeling
from E&E by Coco Liu
First, it was energy efficiency labeling. Then it was carbon emissions trading. Now, China is finding another way to limit climate impacts of its domestic production. A group of Chinese companies recently earned a certification from their government for producing goods with a significantly smaller carbon footprint than the market average, marking the start of a carbon labeling system in the country that is the world's largest greenhouse gas polluter. Although the idea of tracking carbon dioxide emissions is not completely new for Chinese businesses -- companies regulated in seven Chinese regionwide carbon trading pilots have been doing it for years -- it is the first time China has looked into carbon footprints of specific products.
8) U.S. Stock-Index Futures Rise as Apple, IBM Rally on Deal
9) Shell announces new Gulf of Mexico discovery
from Houston Chronicle by Ryan Holeywell
Shell Oil Co. on Tuesday announced an offshore discovery in the Gulf of Mexico it believes contains 100 million barrels of oil equivalent. The discovery was made about 75 miles offshore in the eastern portion of the Gulf in water that’s nearly 7,500 feet deep. The find marks the third major discovery for Shell in an area known as the Norphlet play, where the company has been exploring for more than a decade. The discovery was made at an exploration well called Rydberg.
10) Ban on Oil Exports Won’t Be Lifted This Year, Upton Says
11) Pump prices are on the move–and you’ll like the direction
from Houston Chronicle by Ryan Holeywell
Gasoline prices could fall an average of 10 to 20 cents per gallon in the coming weeks in response to declining crude oil prices, analysts with GasBuddy said Tuesday. Nationwide, average retail gasoline prices have fallen below $3.60 per gallon of regular for the first time since April 10 and have declined for 18 days in a row, said the company, which tracks and forecasts gasoline prices.
12) CO2 Project: Electricity Firm to Tap Greenhouse Gas for Oil Drilling
from Wall Street Journal by Rebecca Smith
Carbon dioxide isn't just a greenhouse gas that federal officials want to curb: It is also highly prized by the energy industry, which injects it into aging oil fields to increase their output. Coal-fired power plants vent carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, while oil drillers generally have gotten their CO2 from underground caverns or industrial plants. But electricity producer NRG Energy Inc. is trying to change that. With a new Japanese partner it disclosed Tuesday, NRG is planning to capture some of the carbon dioxide produced by one of its coal-burning power plants outside Houston and then pipe the gas to an oil field about 80 miles away.
13) Enhanced oil recovery techniques limited in shale
from Houston Chronicle by Jennifer A. Dlouhy
Energy companies currently leave about 95 percent of the crude in the ground at today’s unconventional oil wells, but they face major technological challenges in boosting recovery rates, a Schlumberger scientist said Tuesday. Robert Kleinberg, a fellow with the oilfield services firm, bemoaned the current 5 percent recovery factor at tight oil wells, where crude is pulled from the pores of extremely dense rock formations. Geologists and engineers are actively looking for ways to boost the figure, but traditional methods applied at more conventional oil wells — such as pumping steam underground and flooding the formations with water — don’t really apply to tight plays, Kleinberg said.
14) Groups seek ban of oil in older railroad tank cars
from Houston Chronicle (AP)
Environmental groups asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to immediately ban shipments of volatile crude oil in older railroad tank cars, citing oil train wrecks and explosions and the agency’s own findings that accidents pose an imminent hazard. The petition filed Tuesday by the Sierra Club and ForestEthics seeks an emergency order within 30 days to prohibit crude oil from the Bakken region of the Northern Plains and elsewhere from being carried in the older tank cars, known as DOT-111s. Accident investigators have reported that the cars rupture or puncture during wrecks, even at slow speeds.
15) Google project spotlights pipeline leaks under city streets
from Houston Chronicle by Jennifer A. Dlouhy
Environmentalists have teamed up with Google to shine a spotlight on natural gas leaking from pipes buried under city streets in Boston, Indianapolis and Staten Island. Using sensors and other technology on Google Street View mapping cars, the Environmental Defense Fund and researchers at Colorado State University collected 15 million readings over thousands of miles of roadway. The result of the venture is a new website and interactive maps that allow people to pinpoint the natural gas leaks, which generally pose no immediate safety threat but send more of the powerful greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere.
Utilities and Infrastructure
16) "Smart" technology could make utilities more vulnerable to hackers
from Reuters by Christoph Steitz and Harro Ten Wolde
...Traditionally, energy utilities have kept infrastructure like power plants safe from cyber attack by keeping it separate from the open Internet. But that is rapidly changing as a new generation of "smart" power meters hooks up customers to their utilities through the web, and new forms of solar and wind microgeneration supplement traditional centralised power stations.
17) Life without Demand Response: Higher Prices but No Reliability Crisis, Says Monitor
from RTO Insider
PJM capacity prices would increase sharply but reliability would not be threatened if a recent federal court ruling eliminated demand response from wholesale markets, according to a new report by the Independent Market Monitor. Market Monitor Joe Bowring said the sensitivity analysis released last week is intended to help stakeholders evaluate the impact of the May 23 ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that sharply restricts the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s jurisdiction over demand response compensation.
18) Hungry U.S. Power Plant Turns to Russia for Coal Shipment
19) Japan Readies Atomic Restarts as Regulator Signals Approval
20) Biofuels demand up for aviation, marine industries
from Houston Chronicle by Rhiannon Meyers
Demand for biofuels in the aviation and marine industries has expanded rapidly in recent years, representing one of the fastest-growing segments of the global biofuels market, according to rojections from market research firm Navigant Research. Biofuels will make up 6.1 percent of the aviation and fuel market in the U.S by 2024, the firm estimated. At the same time, global production capacity is expected to reach 3.3 billion gallons, or 1.5 percent of total marine and aviation consumption, the report noted. The growth in biofuels comes as nations look for solutions to combat rising fuel costs and try to comply with emerging emissions regulations.
21) Obama denied Chinese developers due process by blocking project -- appeals court
from E&E by Nick Juliano
Chinese owners seeking to build wind farms near a naval facility in Oregon were denied their due process rights when President Obama blocked the project on national security grounds without providing adequate evidence for his decision, a federal appeals court ruled today. The unanimous decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit remands the case, Ralls Corp. v. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, to the district court and directs the administration to give Ralls an opportunity to respond to unclassified evidence Obama used to justify his decision. Although the court acknowledges it cannot question the national security grounds under which the president justified his decision, it said the question of whether Ralls was afforded adequate due process was reviewable.
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OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
22) Democratic superdonor Tom Steyer’s use of tax shelters draws Romney comparisons
from Washington Times by Kelly Riddell
Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmental activist who is spending $100 million to help elect Democrats this fall, is rallying support for energy taxes that could impact everyday Americans. But when he ran his own hedge fund, Mr. Steyer sought to help wealthy clients legally avoid paying taxes, confidential investor memos show. Mr. Steyer’s strategy included establishing funds in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Mauritius, and are reminiscent of the tactics used by former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during his career at Bain Capital — which was repeatedly savaged by Democrats during the 2012 election.
23) Fix the EU's Carbon-Trading System
from Bloomberg by Edward Davey
President Barack Obama recently said in an interview on climate and energy that if there’s one thing he would like to see, it would be for the U.S. to be able to put a price on carbon emissions. He is right -- an effective market-driven approach to carbon pricing is crucial to tackling climate change and reducing emissions. The U.K. was the first to adopt carbon trading in 2002, and it continues to trade under the European Union’s Emissions Trading System. The EU cap-and-trade system is the world's largest. By putting a price on every metric ton of carbon emitted and allowing companies to trade allowances, the system enables carbon-reduction targets to be met at the least cost. But the market currently has a surplus of about 2 billion emission allowances, equivalent to a year’s supply. As a result, carbon prices are at an unhealthy low. So what has gone wrong, and what can we do about it?
24) Capitol Hill joins business leaders in cybersecurity progress
from The Hill by Javier Ortiz