Energy and Environmental News

Energy and Environmental News

April 2, 2015

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Energy Outlook.  A new study in the journal “Energy Policy” finds that while jobs tied to the coal industry declined by nearly 50,000 from 2008 to 2012, jobs tied to natural gas, wind, and solar energy increased by more than 174,000 over the same period.  The authors identify several factors behind the shift in energy-related employment including new environmental regulations, dramatic technology advances (e.g., the fracking boom for the natural gas industry), lingering effects of the Great Recession, and changes in price across various types of fuel.  WP

Energy Outlook.  Jeffrey Ball of the Wall Street Journal notes that although interest in alternative energy options has historically moved with the price of oil, recent momentum toward these sources is unlikely to be lost due the recent oil price slump.  Specifically, he argues that (1) the technological advances made in sources such as solar, nuclear, and wind power make these alternatives more economically competitive than before, and (2) these alternatives are largely used to generate electricity, which is not in direct competition with oil.  WSJ

Energy Policy.  According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, a prominent environmental group, data regarding oil and gas company violations of safety and pollution rules are hidden from citizens in 33 of the 36 U.S. states that develop these resources — which effectively shields these companies from heightened public scrutiny.  The group warns that this lack of disclosure of public information such as oil spills, drinking water contamination, air pollution, and the strength of well casings will leave citizens vulnerable as the shale broom brings production closer to residential areas.  FT

Energy Policy.  As long as both houses of Congress are controlled by Republican majorities, the Obama administration’s ability to deliver on its promise to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 28% by 2025 remains uncertain.  The pledge was made on Tuesday as a prelude to a possible global climate agreement to be negotiated in Paris later this year, and delighted environmental groups and the international community; however, Republican leaders have vowed to stymie the President’s efforts, deeming it both “job-killing and likely illegal.”  Forbes

Energy & Environment News

Energy & Environment News

April 1, 2015

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Energy Outlook.  The Wall Street Journal reports that many oil market analysts are divided over the timing and strength of the oil price recovery. While bears argue that high U.S. oil inventories and rising production will keep prices low for some time, bulls point to signs of strengthening demand and contest that seasonal maintenance at refineries is largely responsible for high inventory volumes.  WSJ

Coal.  James Crabtree of the Financial Times discusses India’s strategy to increase coal production in light of the country’s rapidly rising energy demand.  He points out that recurring issues tied to India’s coal industry such as government scandals,  finance issues, and geographical hurdles — coupled with recent alarm over air-quality problems — undermine the long-term sustainability of domestic coal as India’s primary fuel source.  FT

Oil.  Recent projections by the largest oil refiner in China suggest that the nation will reach its peak fuel demand much sooner than many Western analysts have forecasted.  While many international oil companies and the International Energy Agency predict that China’s oil demand will increase through the year 2040, factors such as declining demand for diesel, waning growth in crude oil consumption, and new economic policies that aim to shift the Chinese economy toward services and consumption suggest that an “energy slowdown” may already be underway.  Bloomberg

Energy Policy.  Iran and six world powers failed to meet today’s self-imposed deadline to finalize a nuclear deal that would constrain Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons in exchange for the lifting of tight international sanctions.  This setback — due to disagreement within the group over when the sanctions would be lifted — represents the third time in less than a year that this group missed a deadline related to the deal.  WSJ

Water.  In response to a historic drought, the Governor of California ordered unprecedented mandatory water reductions of 25% across the state today.  The governor took immediate action after accompanying state surveyors into the Sierra Nevada mountains to verify electronic readings that show an average snow water equivalent of 1.4 inches — the lowest amount ever recorded on April 1st and a record low of 5% of normal for this time of year.  WSJ

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

March 31, 2015

Top Stories

Oil.  According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. drivers consumed the most petrol during the month of January than any month for the past seven years — a total of 8.7 million barrels a day.  Many analysts view this as only a temporary response to cheaper fuel and a strengthening jobs outlook, however, and predict that long term petrol demand in the US will remain stagnant due to tightening fuel efficiency mandates and more densely populated cities which attract younger residents who are less dependent on cars.  FT

Climate Policy.  President Obama formally submitted a climate policy plan to the UN today in attempts to build momentum toward a global climate pact in Paris this December. The president’s strategy — which relies mostly on a set of forthcoming regulations requiring deep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants — has been mostly applauded by international climate policy strategists, but faces a great deal of opposition from Republicans in both houses of Congress.  Bloomberg

Oil.  The price of Brent crude fell today amid negotiations between Iran and six global powers to finalize a nuclear deal before the self-imposed deadline this week.  The deal aims to restrict Iran’s capacity to develop a nuclear bomb in exchange for eased international sanctions on Iran’s economy — a trade off that is likely to increase Iranian oil production.  FT

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

March 30, 2015

Top Stories

Climate Change.  Although China has embraced the concept of climate change and is allowing its officials to openly discuss associated risks, many critics remain skeptical of the potential for energy policy reform so long as economic growth remains the government’s primary objective.  In an op-ed in the Financial Times, Nick Butler points out that the country is in the middle of shifting its energy mix, has imposed tighter regulations on emissions, and is beginning to relocate coal-fired power plants — all of which suggest that the country is capable of enacting energy policy reform in the current economic and political environment.  FT

Energy Policy.  Diplomats are scrambling to meet tomorrow’s deadline to conclude negotiations in Lausanne, Switzerland regarding Iran’s nuclear program — a difficult feat given the contrasting interests and political sensitivities within the group that limit the number of viable solutions.  Over the weekend, the U.S. and its European partners labored to win Russian support for a mechanism that would allow suspended UN Security Council sanctions against Iran to snap rapidly back into effect if Tehran is caught cheating on the final deal.  WSJ

Oil.  The Energy Information Administration reports that U.S. production of crude oil marked a 16.2% increase in 2014 — the highest growth rate since 1940 despite a price collapse of nearly 50% in the second half of the year.  U.S. production is expected to increase further in 2015 and 2016, but at a slower rate of 8.1% and 1.5%, respectively.  EIA

Energy Policy.  Mexican officials announced ambitious emissions reductions targets on Friday, including a pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 22 percent by 2030 and to make 2026 the country’s peak emissions year.  This goal is the first to be submitted by an emerging country leading up to the global climate conference in Paris later this year. WP

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

March 27, 2015

Top Stories

Nuclear.  Diplomats from several world powers are meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland this weekend to negotiate the final text of a nuclear deal with Iran.  A “substantial and comprehensive” announcement is scheduled for early next week, despite the fact that the final two-thirds of the text is still being debated.  While the prospect of a nuclear détente with the Islamic regime has become one of the Obama Administration’s key foreign policy objectives, it has also invited fierce criticism, as it alienates regional allies of the west in Israel and the Gulf region.  FT

Oil.  Amid falling prices, several global oil companies have slashed exploration investments in China in an attempt to prioritize high-return projects over expensive and risky ones.  Shale exploration has been particularly costly in China due to complicated geology and lack of data related to China’s shale reserves — while profits are also curtailed by factors like high population density and a government-set pricing system.  WSJ

Climate Change. 
In an op-ed in the New York Times, Yale University Professor Robert J. Shiller asserts that solving the challenging problem of climate change will rely on both a sense of idealism that creates an atmosphere for change, as well as a realistic structure that puts clear penalties on bad behavior by both individuals and countries.  He defends this argument using two theories: the “Copenhagen Theory of Change” — which states that governments, like Denmark’s, can solve the free rider problem by creating social support and pressure to join a pro-environment movement — and the “Climate Club Theory” — which holds that global warming could be solved if a group of countries could agree to create incentives for people to reduce carbon emissions, while also erecting tariff barriers on imports from countries that are not members of the “club”.  NY Times

Oil. 
U.S. shale oil producers are beginning to experiment with new technologies that leverage “big data” in an attempt to increase the efficiency of existing wells amid the low price environment.  The technology solutions aim to reduce costs by both reducing the number of wells that need to be drilled and better managing existing wells.  Reuters

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