Texas Sen. Ted Cruz recently took to the Senate floor to object to a unanimous consent agreement that would have allowed a confirmation vote on President Donald Trump’s choice to be USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation, a critical post as Congress begins deliberations on the farm bill’s reauthorization. Cruz objected to the motion, not because he thinks Bill Northey is not qualified for the position; he agrees Northey is a terrific person, but because he wants to use the leverage of holding up Northey to force changes to an energy program completely unrelated to USDA.He wants to see changes to the Renewable Fuels Standard, or RFS, a program requiring refiners to blend an increasing amount of renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel into gasoline that is enforced by EPA, not USDA.
Minnesota bucked the national trend in solar energy employment in 2017, posting the second highest job growth by state. Nationwide, U.S. solar energy industry employment fell by 4 percent or 9,800 jobs, according to a report released Wednesday by The Solar Foundation. It was the first decline since The Solar Foundation began tracking jobs in 2010.Total U.S. solar employment was 250,271 last year, with the majority of those jobs in installation.
The White House is seeking a 72 percent cut to clean energy research. This move falls squarely under the huh? category even if Congress is unlikely to go along with the budget request. Texas is, by any measure, a fossil fuel state. It is a driver of the state’s economy. But even this state has embraced wind and solar energy generation. All of the above (except for coal) is a good strategy, and one this administration should follow. Congress should again reject this cut.
Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) filed for bankruptcy last week, pointing fingers and laying blame squarely on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a federal program that requires refiners to blend increasing amounts of ethanol and other biofuels. That may make for a provocative headline, but the public and PES’ 1,100 employees deserve to know the truth: PES has no one else to blame but itself. PES operates one of the nation’s oldest refineries, which is handicapped by hopelessly antiquated technology. This is not the first time the refinery has found itself in a precarious financial position. In 2012, the Carlyle Group and Sunoco rescued the refinery from bankruptcy, thanks to a taxpayer-funded rescue package. The following year, PES invested in new infrastructure to allow the importation of cheap oil from North Dakota. While PES was able to capitalize on that investment in 2014 and 2015, the collapse in oil prices and the end of the U.S. crude export ban in late 2015 hit the refiner hard and left it hostage to the higher-priced Brent crude index. Since that time, PES has been dealing with a substantial debt burden.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa released a memorandum produced by his energy policy staff who analyzed recent claims made by opponents of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), including Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES), which attributed its recent bankruptcy filing in part to the RFS. The analysis finds that the biofuels blending requirement and the cost of Renewable Identification Number credits (RINs), a compliance mechanism designed for flexibility, have little to do with the success of refineries and were not significant factors in the PES bankruptcy. The Grassley analysis reached similar conclusions as those of multiple recent studies, including multiple by the University of Pennsylvania’s Kleinman Center for Energy Policy
A Canadian company pioneering waste-to-biofuel technology facilities has attracted C$280 million in new investment. Enerkem’s tech innovations are beginning to make a big impact on the global biofuel market. It achieved a first in 2017 when it received approval to sell into the American market. And we reported last month that the Quebec-headquartered biotech is going to facilitate 100 biofuel plants across China, as part of a deal with bioeconomy leader, the Sinobioway Group.
State regulators are ordering Massachusetts utilities to lower their rates to reflect the reduction in the federal corporate tax rate approved by Congress. The Department of Public Utilities on Friday instructed the utilities to account for any revenues associated with the difference between the previous and current federal corporate tax rates.
Five environmental groups sued the federal government Friday, claiming the Interior Department conducted a petroleum lease sale in a part of northern Alaska known for its wildlife without proper environmental review. The Bureau of Land Management on Dec. 14 conducted the largest-ever lease offering within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, putting out for bid 900 tracts covering 16,100 square miles, roughly the size of New Hampshire and Massachusetts combined.Most tracts received no bids. However, BLM retained no authority to prohibit future activities on the leases that were sold and offered them without preparing a site-specific environmental assessment as required by federal law, the groups said.
The window opened Friday for oil, gas, uranium and coal companies to make requests or stake claims to lands that were cut from two sprawling Utah national monuments by President Trump in December — but there doesn’t appear to be a rush to seize the opportunities.For anyone interested in the uranium on the lands stripped from the Bears Ears National Monument, all they need to do is stake a few corner posts in the ground, pay a $212 initial fee and send paperwork to the federal government under a law first created in 1872 that harkens back to the days of the Wild West.They can then keep rights to the hard minerals, including gold and silver, as long as they pay an annual fee of $155.
The Interior Department has apologized after an official incorrectly blamed the Obama administration for blocking approval of two coal mines. Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt wrote a Jan. 28 opinion piece in the Grand Junction, Colo., Daily Sentinel, his hometown paper, lauding the Trump administration’s pro-coal agenda. One accomplishment Bernhardt boasted about was approving expansion applications for the West Elk and King II mines in Colorado. The Obama administration did indeed put a moratorium on new leases for coal mines on federal land in 2016, as part of an effort to review the environmental and climate impact of coal mining and whether to increase costs.One of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s first actions in office was to roll back the coal moratorium.But the West Elk and King II expansions were far enough along in the process that they were excluded from the moratorium from the beginning. They did not get approved until Trump took office — and Trump expedited the King II process — but their applications did move forward under Obama.