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Energy News

The Trump administration wants to kill the popular Energy Star program because it combats climate change

The Washington Post | Posted on March 28, 2017

Under President Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency is on the chopping block. Both the president’s proposed budget and his executive orders on cutting regulations would shrink the EPA. But of the 38 EPA programs that the Trump administration has proposed cutting, at least one is quite surprising: the popular — and voluntary — Energy Star program. It’s not a mandatory regulation, nor a “job killer.” We can only assume that it’s on the list because its strong connection with climate change mitigation. Let us explain. Launched in 1992, Energy Star sets energy efficiency standards for appliances, electronics, and houses and buildings. But it’s not exactly a regulation. Businesses decide on their own whether to design products that comply with these standards. The EPA claims that Energy Star has lowered consumers’ electricity bills by $430 billion (contrast this with the annual administrative cost of the program of about $57 million). This lower energy consumption has prevented 2.7 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.


U.S. biodiesel industry calls out illegal trading by Argentina and Indonesia

Biodiesel | Posted on March 28, 2017

Today the National Biodiesel Board filed an antidumping and countervailing duty petition, making the case that Argentine and Indonesian companies are violating trade laws by flooding the U.S. market with dumped and subsidized biodiesel. The petition was filed with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission on behalf of the National Biodiesel Board Fair Trade Coalition, which is made up of the National Biodiesel Board and U.S. biodiesel producers.  “The National Biodiesel Board and U.S. biodiesel industry is committed to fair trade, and we support the right of producers and workers to compete on a level playing field,” said Donnell Rehagen, National Biodiesel Board CEO. “This is a simple case where companies in Argentina and Indonesia are getting advantages that cheat U.S. trade laws and are counter to fair competition.  NBB is involved because U.S. biodiesel production, which currently support more than 50,000 American jobs, is being put at risk by unfair market practices.”  Because of illegal trade activities, biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia surged by 464 percent from 2014 to 2016. That growth has taken 18.3 percentage points of market share from U.S. manufacturers. “The resulting imbalance caused by unfair trade practices is suffocating U.S. biodiesel producers,” Rehagen explained. “Our goal is to create a level playing field to give markets, consumers and retailers access to the benefits of true and fair competition.”Based on NBB’s review, Argentine and Indonesian producers are dumping their biodiesel in the United States by selling at prices that are substantially below their costs of production.  This is reflected in the petition’s alleged dumping margins of 23.3percent for Argentina and 34.0 percent for Indonesia.  The petition also alleges illegal subsidies based on numerous government programs in those countries.This is not the first time that Argentine and Indonesian biodiesel producers have been charged with violating international trade laws.  In 2013, the EU imposed 41.9 to 49.2 percent duties on Argentina and 8.8 to 23.3 percent duties on Indonesia.  Just last year, Peru imposed both antidumping and countervailing duties on Argentine biodiesel.


Multiple state, federal bills introduced to stop the spread of E15

Hemmings Daily | Posted on March 28, 2017

Despite the ongoing rollout of E15 fuel nationwide, a handful of bills introduced in legislatures in D.C. and elsewhere aim to put a halt to sale of the fuel blamed for causing damage to older vehicles. The most extreme of those bills, H.R. 1314, which Virginia Representative Robert Goodlatte introduced, calls for the elimination of the Renewable Fuel Standard, the portion of the Clean Air Act enacted in 2005 that provides for minimum volumes of renewable fuels to be blended into the country’s fuel supply. At the same time, Goodlatte introduced H.R. 1315, the RFS Reform Act of 2017, which would keep ethanol blending amounts at current levels and ban the the production and sale of any fuel with a blend of more than 10 percent ethanol. The bill essentially resurrects two similar bills that Goodlatte introduced in prior sessions of Congress and that died in committee. Similarly, H.R. 119, the Leave Ethanol Volumes at Existing Levels Act, which Texas Representative Michael Burgess introduced, would cap ethanol fuel blends at 10 percent. measures to restrict ethanol-blended fuel sales in the state. The first, S.B. 115, calls for the prohibition of all ethanol-blended fuels while the second, Senate Resolution 205, asks the U.S. Congress to eliminate all requirements for the use of ethanol as a fuel.


As Trump targets energy rules, oil companies downplay their impact

Reuters | Posted on March 28, 2017

President Donald Trump’s White House has said his plans to slash environmental regulations will trigger a new energy boom and help the United States drill its way to independence from foreign oil. But the top U.S. oil and gas companies have been telling their shareholders that regulations have little impact on their business, according to a Reuters review of U.S. securities filings from the top producers.In annual reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 13 of the 15 biggest U.S. oil and gas producers said that compliance with current regulations is not impacting their operations or their financial condition.The other two made no comment about whether their businesses were materially affected by regulation, but reported spending on compliance with environmental regulations at less than 3 percent of revenue.The dissonance raises questions about whether Trump’s war on regulation can increase domestic oil and gas output, as he has promised, or boost profits and share prices of oil and gas companies, as some investors have hoped.


On the Value of Ethanol in the Gasoline Blend

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on March 21, 2017

There has been much debate and much written about the likely costs and benefits of including ethanol in the domestic gasoline supply. Costs and benefits fall into two major categories--environmental and economic (e.g., Stock, 2015). One economic consideration is the potential impact on domestic gasoline prices from augmenting the gasoline supply with biofuels. A second economic consideration, and one that has received the most attention, is the cost of ethanol relative to petroleum-based fuel. What has been missing from the analysis of the value of ethanol in the gasoline blend is an estimate of the net value of ethanol based on: i) an energy penalty relative to gasoline; and ii) an octane premium based on the lower price of ethanol relative to petroleum sources of octane. This article provides an analysis of that net value since January 2007.


Operator lowers pressure, slows gas leak in Alaska pipeline

News Advance | Posted on March 16, 2017

The owner of an underwater pipeline spewing processed natural gas into Alaska's Cook Inlet has lowered pressure in the line to reduce the leak. Repairs will continue to wait for ice in the inlet to clear because it's too dangerous to immediately start work, according to Hilcorp Alaska, LLC.The 8-inch leaking pipe sends natural gas from shore to four petroleum platforms in the inlet, home to a population of endangered beluga whales.


Interior Department to withdraw Obama-era fracking rule

The Washington Post | Posted on March 16, 2017

The Trump administration plans to withdraw and rewrite a 2015 rule aimed at limiting hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” on public lands, the Interior Department indicated in court filings.  The move to rescind the 2015 regulation, which has been stayed in federal court, represents the latest effort by the new administration to ease restraints on oil and gas production in the United States. Interior’s Bureau of Land Management issued the rule in an effort to minimize the risk of water contamination through the practice, which involves injecting a mix of chemicals and water at high pressure into underground rock formations to force out oil and gas.


Southwestern utilities back down from rooftop solar fight

High Country News | Posted on March 15, 2017

Not long ago, major electric utilities in much of the Southwest seemed bent on chasing rooftop solar companies out of the region. They saw the booming industry as a threat to their profits and sought rate changes that would make solar panels less financially attractive to homeowners. The electric companies advocated slashing the compensation those customers get for sending their excess power to the grid and adding new fees to their electric bills.Because the electric companies are monopolies, state regulators have to approve such changes. In late 2015, the Public Utility Commission of Nevada set new rates that were so unfavorable to solar customers that they nearly snuffed out the residential solar business in the state. The number of households applying to connect solar panels to the grid dropped from a peak of nearly 3,000 in August 2015 to just 14 in July the next year. The biggest solar installation companies left the state, laying off thousands of workers. But that’s not the end of the story. The public was outraged, and its objections resulted in a surprising shift: gradual rollback of the commission’s anti-solar decision. In November, voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to do away with utility monopolies. The public utility commission restored higher compensation rates for existing solar customers statewide and future customers in northern Nevada. It’s considering doing the same in the southern part of the state.


Oklahoma House Votes to Roll Back Tax Credit for Wind Energy

U.S. News & World Report | Posted on March 15, 2017

The Oklahoma House has approved legislation to roll back a state tax credit for the wind energy industry.The House passed the bill Thursday by a vote of 74-24 and sent it to the Senate for consideration.The bill modifies the tax credit for electricity generated by zero-emission facilities like wind turbines. It says facilities must be in operation by July 1 in order to qualify for the credit, instead of the current deadline of Jan. 1, 2021.Gov. Mary Fallin proposed eliminating the wind tax credit to increase revenue amid a projected $868 million budget shortfall next year. The tax credit will cost $40 million this year and will average $60 million a year over the next 15 years.


Scant demand for California cap-and-trade pollution permits

Capital Press | Posted on March 15, 2017

California saw another three months of weak demand for pollution permits amid persistent uncertainty about the future of the state’s cap on carbon emissions, according to state data.  California will take in only about $8 million from an auction that could have generated $592 million or more if all permits were sold. The program is a prime funding source for projects including high-speed rail and transit construction.  For years, each quarterly auction consistently generated hundreds of millions of dollars. Fewer than one in five permits were distributed at an auction last month, according to the data from the California Air Resources Board. The vast majority were sold by utilities, which get them for free from the state, while some were sold to polluters in Quebec, the Canadian province that sells permits at the same auction.But revenue has plummeted in three of the last four auctions amid a series of pressures that have depressed demand.A glut of permits on the market means companies don’t need to buy them at auction to authorize their emissions in the near future. A state appeals court is considering a case that challenges the authority for the state to sell pollution permits. And the Legislature is considering whether to give the program clear authority to continue past 2020.


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