Energy in the News: Friday, March 24

Friday, March 24, 2017

The ‘job-killing’ fiction behind Trump’s retreat on fuel economy standards

Yale Environment 360, by John DeCicco

When President Trump traveled to Michigan last week to announce that his administration will reevaluate (and almost certainly weaken) a key environmental achievement of the past decade — new fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for cars and light trucks — he alleged that “industry-killing regulations” had contributed to a loss of jobs in the U.S. automobile sector. The truth is, however, that there is no factual basis for the claim that stricter standards have killed jobs. There is, however, abundant evidence that these regulations have saved Americans billions of dollars at the pump, bolstered U.S. energy independence, fostered automotive innovation, and led to major reductions in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

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Trump’s budget plan hurts Michigan, Great Lakes cleanup

The Detroit News, feat. Barry Rabe, Brad Cardinale and Jim Diana

President Donald Trump revealed his first budget blueprint on Thursday, proposing to eliminate a cleanup program for the Great Lakes Basin, legal aid for the poor, low-income heating assistance and other federal funds that would affect Michigan.

Trump’s budget plan would slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by nearly a third, including reductions for the agency’s enforcement and compliance office and ending the $300 million-a-year Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, among other regional efforts. The president's budget director argued the proposal fulfills Trump's promises to shrink the role of government, trim waste and root out redundant functions.

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Energy storage is America’s industry to lose

E&E EnergyWire, feat. Mark Barteau

Julie Blunden is a former solar executive who now focuses her analytical ability on energy storage. When she sits down with an iced tea to run the numbers, they fill her with a sense of urgency.

She sees a market that is strapping on its boots for a steep and inexorable climb. Blunden and a growing number of experts believe that energy storage will be worth tens of billions of dollars in revenue within a decade, regardless of what the Trump administration does to harm or help. Batteries will start showing up everywhere, sending shock waves through the auto industry, the electric grid, the petroleum industry and the broader power sector, adding tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs to the economy.

The question that Blunden keeps asking herself is whether that money and those jobs will go to Michigan and North Carolina, or flee to Shanghai or Seoul, South Korea.

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Trump wants deep cuts in environmental monitoring

Scientific American, feat. Barry Rabe

Even EPA staff who are not directly involved in monitoring help run grant programs for outside groups that track the environment, and they review those groups’ monitoring data—and a number of those positions could get cut as well. “It’s very draconian in the EPA’s case,” says Barry Rabe, professor of environmental policy at the University of Michigan. “It really doesn’t spare anything—almost every area is targeted.”

In addition to the general cuts, the Trump administration’s proposal hits specific EPA programs that conduct environmental monitoring.  It reduces the Superfund budget—a program for cleaning up some of the nation’s most polluted sites and which includes monitoring efforts—by $330 million, dropping it by almost a third from the previous year.

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Ignore politicians: lower fuel-economy rules don’t create jobs, analyst says

Green Car Reports, feat. John DeCicco

A common refrain among critics of current and future fuel-economy standards is that the need to comply with them produces job cuts in the auto industry.

It's a theme picked up by President Donald Trump during a much-publicized visit to Detroit last week.

In the hometown of the Big Three U.S. automakers, Trump discussed plans to end what he termed the government "assault" on the auto industry.

He painted regulations as a major cause of job losses in the auto industry, along with what he views as automakers' over-eagerness to build cars for sale in the U.S. outside the country.

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Scientists made a detailed “roadmap” for meeting the Paris climate goals. It’s eye-opening.

Vox

In 2015, the world’s governments met in Paris and agreed to keep global warming below 2°C, to avoid the very worst risks of a hotter planet. See here for background on why, but that’s the goal. For context, the planet’s warmed ~1°C since the 19th century.

One problem with framing the goal this way, though, is that it’s maddeningly abstract. What does staying below 2°C entail? Papers on this topic usually drone on about a “carbon budget” — the total amount of CO2 humans can emit this century before we likely bust past 2°C — and then debate how to divvy up that budget among nations. There’s a lot of math involved. It’s eye-glazing, and hard to translate into actual policy. It’s also a long-term goal, a distant target, easy for policymakers to shrug off.

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Does ‘green energy’ have hidden health and environmental costs?

The Conversation

There are a number of available low-carbon technologies to generate electricity. But are they really better than fossil fuels and nuclear power?

To answer that question, one needs to compare not just the emissions of different power sources but also the health benefits and the threats to ecosystems of green energy.

Production of electricity is responsible for about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, and demand is poised to rise as underserved populations connect to the grid, and electronics and electric vehicles proliferate. So stopping global warming will require a transformation of electricity production.

But it is important to avoid various environmental pitfalls in this transition, such as disrupting ecosystems and wildlife or causing air pollution.

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Auto industry backs commitment to fuel economy amid doubts

Associated Press

Just because President Trump may weaken U.S. fuel economy requirements, don't expect gas guzzlers like the giant 13 mpg Hummer H1 to make a comeback.

Executives from automakers and suppliers gathered at a conference outside of Detroit Thursday said looser fuel economy standards might allow for sales of more trucks in areas where they're popular. But otherwise, the pursuit of fuel-efficiency technologies will proceed unabated.

Trump came to the Detroit area earlier this week to announce that his Environmental Protection Agency will re-examine gas mileage requirements that were affirmed in the Obama administration's last days.

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As Trump targets energy rules, oil companies downplay their impact

Reuters

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.

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Big oil replaces rigs with wind turbines

Bloomberg Markets

Big oil is starting to challenge the biggest utilities in the race to erect wind turbines at sea.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Statoil ASA and Eni SpA are moving into multi-billion-dollar offshore wind farms in the North Sea and beyond. They’re starting to score victories against leading power suppliers including Dong Energy A/S and Vattenfall AB in competitive auctions for power purchase contracts, which have developed a specialty in anchoring massive turbines on the seabed.

The oil companies have many reasons to move into the industry. They’ve spent decades building oil projects offshore, and that business is winding down in some areas where older fields have drained. Returns from wind farms are predictable and underpinned by government-regulated electricity prices. And fossil fuel executives want to get a piece of the clean-energy business as forecasts emerge that renewables will eat into their market.

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Beijing shuts down its last coal-fired power plant as part of bid to clear air

South China Morning Post

The last coal-fired power plant in Beijing stopped operating on Saturday with the shutdown of its last remaining generators, Xinhua reported.

The historic moment was recorded by cameras as an operator in a blue uniform pressed a red stop button for the fourth steam-turbine array.

With that, Beijing became the first city in China to rely entirely on cleaner energy sources such as natural gas and wind farms for its electricity generation, according to the state news agency.

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Strange bedfellows in Senate advance nuclear bill

Morning Consult

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a bill aimed at developing nuclear reactors on Wednesday, garnering an unusual amount of bipartisan support.

The committee voted 18-3 to advance the bill, sponsored by Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), which was an updated version of legislation that stalled in the Senate last year.

The two main proponents of the bill last year were then-Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), perhaps the two most vocal senators on the issue of climate change, but for different reasons.

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