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Whatever Icahn Wants, Continued

DTN | Posted on May 10, 2018

Yet there's enough happening here for farmers to worry about the future level of demand for their products from China and ethanol. I will write about China in a future post. Today, a few words about ethanol. Let's start with the court case that the small refiners cite in their defense of the EPA's exemptions, Sinclair v. EPA. In it, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit said the EPA had misinterpreted the law in denying exemptions to the Renewable Fuels Standard to two small refineries in Wyoming. The court overturned the denials and instructed the EPA to reconsider Sinclair's petition using the court's interpretation of the law.  Ethanol interests say the EPA has been granting exemptions at double the pace of previous years. Is the agency doing this relying on the Tenth Circuit ruling in the Sinclair case? If so, there are several things about that case that need saying. First, two other U.S. Appeals Courts -- the Eighth Circuit and the D.C. Circuit -- have reached a different conclusion about the validity of the EPA's statutory interpretation. The Tenth Circuit ruling attempts to distinguish those cases as different from Sinclair, but its attempts aren't terribly convincing. The public doesn't know where all the newly exempted refineries are located, but for any not in states under the Tenth Circuit's sway, the ruling wouldn't bind the EPA. Even in considering petitions from Tenth Circuit refineries, the EPA would not be required by the Sinclair case to grant every petition. The statute requires a showing of "disproportionate economic hardship." The court said the EPA had read this to mean the refinery must demonstrate "an existential threat" --compliance costs at a level threatening its long-term viability. The EPA denied doing that, and the dissenting Tenth Circuit judge agreed, saying the agency uses "a more nuanced analysis," as required by the statute. If that's really the case, the EPA could deny similar petitions explaining more clearly the nuanced way it reached its conclusions.  Another is the EPA's exemption for small refineries owned by a big company -- Andeavor -- making a billion and a half dollars in profits.. This may comply with the letter of the law, which focuses on individual refineries and not companies, but it seems abusively far removed from the law's spirit. Most troubling is the exemption granted a refinery owned by Carl Icahn's CVR Energy. Before naming Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, then President-elect Donald Trump sent him to see Carl Icahn. In effect, then, Icahn helped Pruitt get his job, and now Pruitt's EPA is rewarding Icahn with regulatory relief to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.


The stunningly lopsided growth of wind power in the US, in 4 maps

Vox | Posted on May 10, 2018

Wind turbines have cropped up like dandelions across large areas of the United States, and thousands more are coming. The US Department of Energy projects that we’ll have 404 gigawatts of wind energy capacity across the country by 2050, up from 89 GW today. Since overall electricity demand is expected to hold steady, that would fulfill more than one-third of the country’s needs. Texas alone, with 22.6 gigawatts installed, would rank sixth in the world today in total wind capacity if it were its own country.But wind power isn’t exploding everywhere across this great land of ours. Vast swaths of the country have been left out of the wind energy revolution, as you can see in this map of installed wind capacity by state


Trump’s Solar Tariffs Cause a Scramble in the Industry

The New York Times | Posted on May 10, 2018

SunPower is the nation’s No. 2 commercial solar-power company, employing thousands of workers directly and indirectly. But it makes most of its solar panels abroad, and with the tariffs recently imposed by President Trump costing it as much as $2 million a week, SunPower is fighting for an exemption. One of its rivals, SolarWorld Americas, produces panels domestically. Buffeted by foreign competition, it was behind the original push for the tariffs.Now the two American companies are merging.It’s all part of the disruption, distortion and uncertainty from an escalating trade offensive aimed primarily at China. In barely three months, the tariffs — the first shot fired by Mr. Trump in that campaign — are fundamentally reshaping the solar industry and its prospects.A Chinese player announced plans to open a factory in Florida as early as this fall. With its SolarWorld acquisition, SunPower moved to prevent further loss to its business by locating a bigger share of its production in the United States. Both companies are being hit with tariffs on high-efficiency panels they produce in Malaysia.


Trump finally reaches ethanol deal, but questions linger

Washington Examiner | Posted on May 10, 2018

President Trump emerged from Tuesday’s talks about the nation’s Renewable Fuel Standard with a deal that would satisfy both ethanol producers and oil refiners. Trump plans to increase the market for ethanol year-round. That will be done by allowing 15-percent ethanol fuels, or E15, to be sold all year and not subject to summer restrictions under Environmental Protection Agency rules. He also would boost ethanol exports, which have been harmed by Chinese retaliation to Trump’s tariffs, in a way that would increase ethanol credits for the refiners. The supply of credits would be increased, which would reduce the cost. In the past, exports would lose their renewable identification number credits when shipped overseas.Trump appeared to nix Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s plan for placing a cap on the price of ethanol credits.


California Will Require Solar Power for New Homes

The New York Times | Posted on May 10, 2018

Long a leader and trendsetter in its clean-energy goals, California took a giant step, becoming the first state to require all new homes to have solar power. The new requirement, to take effect in two years, brings solar power into the mainstream in a way it has never been until now. It will add thousands of dollars to the cost of home when a shortage of affordable housing is one of California’s most pressing issues. That made the relative ease of its approval — in a unanimous vote by the five-member California Energy Commission before a standing-room crowd, with little debate — all the more remarkable. State officials and clean-energy advocates say the extra cost to home buyers will be more than made up in lower energy bills. That prospect has won over even the construction industry, which has embraced solar capability as a selling point.


Landowners fight pipeline in case headed to US appeals court

San Luis Obispo Tribune | Posted on May 10, 2018

The natural gas pipeline is routed to run through the southwest Virginia farm his family has owned for seven generations. The 88-year-old Navy veteran never considered signing an easement agreement with the developers, because he thought the whole thing seemed an affront to his property rights. But state law meant he couldn't even keep surveyors out. As work chugs along toward having the pipeline in service by the end of the year, Jones and a coalition of more than a dozen other like-minded Virginia and West Virginia landowners have taken their fight to court. They sued project developers and the federal regulators who approved the pipeline, arguing that taking their property through eminent domain is an unconstitutional land grab. They say regulators have "run wild," granting developers of the approximately 300-mile-long (480-kilometer-long) project land acquisition powers, which are usually reserved for government entities. A hearing Thursday before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond comes as other legal challenges against the project proliferate and protests escalate, with some opponents camped out in trees along the pipeline's path in an attempt to prevent construction work.


Solar farms set to sprout across Illinois

Chicago Tribune | Posted on May 4, 2018

A new crop is ready to sprout on Illinois farms, with gleaming solar panels supplanting rows of corn and soybeans. Drawn by new state requirements and incentives, renewable energy developers are staking out turf on the rural fringes of the Chicago area and beyond, looking to build dozens of solar farms to feed the electric grids of Commonwealth Edison and other utilities. It’s a potential sea change in the Illinois energy landscape that proponents say is long overdue and will provide customers with a green power alternative. But the rise of solar power also has generated opposition from some residents over everything from changing landscapes to toxicity concerns.The fledgling solar energy boom is driven by the Future Energy Jobs Act, which took effect last year and requires Illinois utilities to get 25 percent of their retail power from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2025.


Ted Cruz ups pressure on Trump to overhaul ethanol mandate

Washington Examiner | Posted on May 4, 2018

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and House lawmakers upped the pressure on President Trump to make a decision soon on a way to save oil refineries from the costs of meeting the Environmental Protection Agency's ethanol mandate. “The president can solve this with the stroke of a pen,” the Texas Republican said Thursday afternoon, joined by refinery workers and the steelworkers union. “It is the EPA that can do it,” but Trump must direct it to do so, he added.Cruz's "win-win" solution would place a cap on the cost of renewable identification number credits that independent refiners must buy to comply with the Renewable Fuel Standard's ethanol mandate.


The stunningly lopsided growth of wind power in the US, in 4 maps

Vox | Posted on May 3, 2018

Wind turbines have cropped up like dandelions across large areas of the United States, and thousands more are coming. The US Department of Energy projects that we’ll have 404 gigawatts of wind energy capacity across the country by 2050, up from 89 GW today. Since overall electricity demand is expected to hold steady, that would fulfill more than one-third of the country’s needs. Texas alone, with 22.6 gigawatts installed, would rank sixth in the world today in total wind capacity if it were its own country.But wind power isn’t exploding everywhere across this great land of ours. Vast swaths of the country have been left out of the wind energy revolution, as you can see in this map of installed wind capacity by state:


Trump proposes easing oil, gas leasing restrictions in West

KRQE | Posted on May 3, 2018

The Trump administration wants to ease restrictions on oil and gas leasing and other activities across a huge swath of the American West that were put in place to protect an imperiled bird. The move involves conservation plans for greater sage grouse approved in 2015 under former President Barack Obama. President Donald Trump has vowed to increase U.S. energy production and open more lands to drilling.Conservation groups critical of Trump's energy policies warned the proposal could unravel a years-long effort to shore up the bird's struggling population.Interior Department officials said the revisions to the Obama-era plans were aimed at increasing flexibility on public lands where the birds reside - not undoing protections outright. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, was among elected officials in the region who voiced support for the move, saying it allowed for a "Colorado-specific approach."


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