Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

April 20, 2015

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Energy Policy.  The European Union plans to file a formal antitrust charge against Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom after a formal investigation suggested that the company abused its dominant position in eastern and southern European natural-gas supply markets.  Russian government and company officials have denounced the charges — which could result in multibillion euro fines — as politically motivated and a ploy to force the company to reduce prices.  WSJ

Climate Change.  A group of global businesses is moving towards an agreement to support a higher carbon price, more green technology in cities, and increased use of renewables.  The business leaders will convene at a “Business & Climate Summit” this May to solidify the terms of the agreement, and hope to produce a set of key policy recommendations ahead of the international climate conference in Paris this December.  FT

Energy Policy.  In an effort to increase safety standards for trains carrying crude oil, the Transportation Department issued a series of emergency orders — including a 40-mile-per-hour speed limit for oil-carrying trains in urban areas and a requirement for railroads to provide detailed shipment information within 90 minutes of a derailment. Official regulations are currently under review by the Office of Management and Budget and are expected to be made public by May 12th.  NY Times

Energy Outlook.  The EIA reports that U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions increased for the second year in a row in 2014.  However, the agency notes that while CO2 emissions grew at a smaller rate than overall GDP growth in 2014, economy-wide improvements in energy and carbon intensity appear to have slowed relative to trends of the last ten years.  EIA

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

April 17, 2015

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Nuclear.  Operators of nuclear power plants in New York, Ohio, and Illinois are seeking utility rate increases and additional financial support to keep the plants online.  The utility companies point to the importance of the facilities to local economies and electrical bid stability in order to justify the need for additional funds — but consumer advocates counter that the deregulated markets in which these utilities reside were designed to reduce power costs by weeding out the least–competitive power plants.  WSJ

Climate Change.  Today a group of twenty-five major oil companies, oil-producing nations, and development institutions reached an agreement to end the practice of routine flaring of natural gas — a method to “burn off” natural gas that is released when producing oil —  by 2030.  The initiative was announced as a way to build support for the upcoming Paris Climate Conference and build momentum toward a global agreement to cut carbon emissions.  WSJ

Energy Outlook.  While many consider battery electric vehicles to be the long-term solution for reducing fossil fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, automakers have recently begun to reconsider hydrogen cars as well.  Specifically, hydrogen cars are becoming more attractive amid a significant decline in the cost of hydrogen fuel cells, a tiny yet budding network of public fueling stations compatible with these models, and the ability for the cars to travel roughly 300 miles on a tank of fuel.  NY Times

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

April 16, 2015

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Energy Policy.  A panel of federal judges heard the first legal challenge today to the EPA’s forthcoming Clean Power Plan rule, designed to curb pollution from coal-fired power plants.  Two of three judges on the panel appear inclined to dismiss the case altogether, noting that there is no legal precedent to stop a regulation before it has even been finalized.  NY Times

Oil.  In its monthly oil market report, OPEC joined other major energy forecasters in predicting that U.S. oil supplies will level off and begin to decline in the second half of 2015.  The report stated that low prices were “beginning to punish U.S. producers”, as evidenced by the decline  in the number U.S. rigs and drilling permits, as well as reductions in the capital spending budgets of major U.S. oil companies.  WSJ

Nuclear.  China’s top government body approved construction for the first China-built nuclear reactor yesterday, opening up international competition among nuclear technology providers.   Industry analysts note that if the new Chinese reactor succeeds, it will likely mark a turning point in the global nuclear industry — particularly because China boasts the largest nuclear growth market in the world.  WSJ

Energy Outlook.  Scientists and hobbyists are increasingly experimenting with personal air pollution monitors — a technology that is new and often unreliable, but nevertheless cheaper and more portable than monitors currently used by the government.  Because pollution levels vary considerably within areas of cities, researchers hope to ultimately use these devices to feed streams of information to interactive maps, helping the general public determine what streets or neighborhoods are especially polluted.  NY Times

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

April 15, 2015

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Energy Outlook.  According to the EIA’s 2015 Annual Energy Outlook, U.S. energy imports and exports are likely to become balanced between 2020 and 2030 for the first time since the mid-1950s.  This updated projection reflects changes in both U.S. energy supply — particularly booming natural gas production and continued growth in oil production — and in U.S. energy demand — most notably improvements in efficiency.  EIA

Energy Policy.  Key senators forged a bipartisan compromise yesterday to establish an expedited framework for Congress to review and potentially vote on a final nuclear agreement with Iran.   Recent presidential administrations have implemented foreign policy largely without congressional approval; this legislation, if enacted, represents a rare assertion of congressional power over a foreign-policy matter that the White House would have preferred to handle alone.  WSJ

Energy Outlook.  The International Energy Agency reported that there is still a great deal of uncertainty regarding the “settling point” for global oil prices.  In its monthly oil market report, the agency noted that competing forces — such as higher than anticipated demand from China, India, and Europe, lethargic economic growth, and policy uncertainty among oil producers in the Middle East — are still playing out in the broader market, rendering the future direction of price swings unclear.  NY Times

Oil.  Energy companies have announced plans to lay off more than 100,000 workers around the world since crude prices began to decline last year — mostly among “roughneck” oil-field workers.  In the U.S., oil field jobs offer high-salary positions requiring mostly specialized skills that can be learned on the job; industry analysts note that while many of these workers can find work in fields like construction, such positions will likely pay half of the typical salary of an oil-field worker.  WSJ

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

April 13, 2015

Top Stories

Energy Outlook.  According to the International Energy Agency, it could take three to five years for increased production of Iranian oil to significantly increase world supplies and have an impact on prices.   While Iranian officials claim that they could quickly add as much as one million barrels a day to the world’s supply once sanctions are lifted, IEA officials counter that the nation will require Western technology, additional funding, and time to ramp up production.  WSJ

Energy Policy. The Obama administration will soon propose a new rule to tighten standards for drilling from deep-water oil and gas rigs.  The rules — which largely stem from the 2010 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico — will impose tougher standards for blowout preventers, which are built to shut down wells during emergencies.  WSJ

Energy Outlook.  Nick Butler of the Financial Times writes that the EU is gaining momentum toward an “internal energy market” that creates a “new level of policymaking” above independent nations.   While some see no harm in national differentiation of energy policy, Butler counters that it may undermine the state’s ability to price-in externalities — particularly related to the impact of carbon emissions — and mostly ignores key trade links with other parts of the world. FT

Oil.  Peter Waldman of Bloomberg Business discusses Saudi Arabia’s strategy to defend market share and, more importantly, stimulate demand for its oil by opting not to cut production last fall.  Waldman notes that while the U.S. has long been concerned about “security of supply”, Saudi Arabia has been concerned about “security of demand” — particularly in light of recent energy efficiency developments, an international movement toward a climate accord, world urbanization, and the country’s substantial reliance on revenues from oil exports.   Bloomberg