Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

February 2, 2016

Top Stories

Solar.   In a big win for the solar industry, California regulators voted to retain a system that compensates residents with rooftop solar panels for excess power generated from their units.  Because California is closely watched as a “leading” market of solar energy, the decision may create momentum toward similar policies elsewhere moving forward as states across the country re-examine policies that determine how to value electricity flowing from customers to utilities.  NY Times

Oil.  Facing poor returns for drilling and severe challenges to long-term growth, many big energy firms are expected to turn to merger deals in 2016.  While bankers and analysts have been expecting a wave of acquisitions since crude prices began to fall from $100 a barrel, many U.S. oil producers avoided such sales in 2015; oil-patch deals now look more attractive given that prices are now unlikely to rebound and are less volatile.  WSJ

Energy Policy.  Margo Oge argues in the New York Times that a performance-based approach to the federal renewable fuel standard would be much more effective and efficient than the volume-based approach applied under the current mandate.  Oge notes that while volume-based approaches stifle innovation and distort markets, performance-based approaches allow the market to select the best technology available while providing maximum flexibility to the industries that develop them — which will be essential moving forward if we are to meet our 2050 carbon reductions goals.  NY Times

Energy Outlook. Iran is moving quickly to compensate for a decade of international isolation and years of crippling sanctions that stifled its economy.   The largest country to re-enter international markets since the fall of the Soviet Union, Iran has officially started opening again to international business in key sectors such as oil and gas — increasing its oil production by about 500,000 barrels a day, rebuilding ageing infrastructure, and offering oil at discounted prices since the sanctions were lifted. FT

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

January 29, 2016

Top Stories

Solar.   In a big win for the solar industry, California regulators voted to retain a system that compensates residents with rooftop solar panels for excess power generated from their units.  Because California is closely watched as a “leading” market of solar energy, the decision may create momentum toward similar policies elsewhere moving forward as states across the country re-examine policies that determine how to value electricity flowing from customers to utilities.  NY Times

Oil.  Facing poor returns for drilling and severe challenges to long-term growth, many big energy firms are expected to turn to merger deals in 2016.  While bankers and analysts have been expecting a wave of acquisitions since crude prices began to fall from $100 a barrel, many U.S. oil producers avoided such sales in 2015; oil-patch deals now look more attractive given that prices are now unlikely to rebound and are less volatile.  WSJ

Energy Policy.  Margo Oge argues in the New York Times that a performance-based approach to the federal renewable fuel standard would be much more effective and efficient than the volume-based approach applied under the current mandate.  Oge notes that while volume-based approaches stifle innovation and distort markets, performance-based approaches allow the market to select the best technology available while providing maximum flexibility to the industries that develop them — which will be essential moving forward if we are to meet our 2050 carbon reductions goals.  NY Times

Energy Outlook. Iran is moving quickly to compensate for a decade of international isolation and years of crippling sanctions that stifled its economy.   The largest country to re-enter international markets since the fall of the Soviet Union, Iran has officially started opening again to international business in key sectors such as oil and gas — increasing its oil production by about 500,000 barrels a day, rebuilding ageing infrastructure, and offering oil at discounted prices since the sanctions were lifted. FT

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

January 28, 2016

Top Stories

Oil.  Saudi Arabia continues to pump oil at virtually full capacity, despite plunging oil prices resulting due to a growing international glut and slowing global economy.  The strategy has proved risky, already straining Saudi finances and threatening its leaders’ ability to keep providing generous social programs — like subsidized housing and cheap energy — to “buy” domestic tranquility. NY Times

Clean Energy.  According to the United Nations, the world is investing in far less low-carbon energy than is necessary to achieve the international objectives agreed upon at the Paris climate talks last month.  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told an audience of investors at a conference this week that although energy from “clean” sources like solar and wind is increasing rapidly, growth is not sufficient and investors must double their commitments by 2020.   FT

Energy Outlook.  Ed Morse of the Financial Times dismisses claims that traditional oil producers can impact markets on their own and that OPEC’s members can simply collude to put a floor under prices.   Morse argues that an “unconventional oil revolution” has rendered such commentary obsolete, and that we must come to grips with the new energy world order — one in which the United States is on par with Saudi Arabia in terms of oil production, and OPEC is irrelevant, crippled by disruptions and sanctions.  FT

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

January 27, 2016

Top Stories

Energy Policy.  Today the Senate began debating a major piece of energy legislation that would update U.S. power grid and oil and gas transportation systems as part of a larger effort to modernize energy infrastructure.  The bipartisan bill has the support of both the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and the Senate minority leader, Harry Reid (D-NV), and Washington insiders have hinted that the bill has a fair chance of producing “substantive debate” and a “meaningful new energy law.” NY Times

Oil.  Oil futures spiked today on news that Russia might cooperate with OPEC and cut a deal to lower production levels and reduce oversupply.  Industry analysts are skeptical that such a deal will come to fruition, however, as most oil producers remain more concerned with maintaining their own levels of output and revenues than re-balancing the market.  Reuters

Energy Policy.  After passing sweeping energy reforms in late 2013, Mexico opened its first competitive power market today.  The historic move is expected to accelerate the country’s switch to renewable energy sources and boost its natural gas demand relative to oil, which will likely increase the nation’s natural gas imports from the U.S.  Bloomberg

Energy Outlook. The Energy Information Administration forecasts that natural gas prices will rise over the next two years, averaging $2.65 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in 2016 and $3.22 MMBtu in 2017.  In the agency’s closely watched Short-Term Energy Outlook, it notes that the expected price increases are largely due to increases in consumption — mostly from the industrial sector — that have outpaced growth in production capacity.  EIA

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

January 25, 2016

Top Stories

Energy Policy.  The Supreme Court upheld the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s authority to incentivize large energy consumers (e.g., industrial businesses, schools) to reduce power usage during peak demand in a 6-2 ruling today.  The decision is seen as a loss for power generators and utilities, which accused FERC of executive overreach, distorting energy markets, and suppressing demand for electricity.  WSJ

Energy Outlook.  The Wall Street Journal reports that global oil prices are moving in “lockstep” with stock markets, which highlights growing fears about faltering global economic growth.  The unusually strong correlation between the two markets marks a notable shift in the dynamics of the oil price downturn, and suggests that traders are now worrying not only about oversupply, but also weakening demand.  WSJ

Energy Policy.  The Interior Department proposed a new rule on Friday that aims to curb emissions of methane from all oil and gas drilling that occurs on publicly owned lands.  The rule would force companies to use equipment to capture leaked gas, and would also make it more expensive for oil, gas, and coal companies to mine and drill on public land.  NY Times

Climate Change.  The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) — Wall Street’s “Top Regulator” —  is reviewing what it requires companies to disclose about the risks that climate change poses to their investments and operations.  In 2010, the SEC asked that companies report on legislation and regulations related to climate change, international treaties on the issue, and the physical impacts of climate change in their regular securities filings; several comptrollers and investment groups have since criticized the agency, calling for greater scrutiny of climate-related disclosers moving forward.  NY Times

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