Energy in the News: Friday, April 6
Stronger fuel standards make sense, even when gas prices are low
The Conversation, by John DeCicco
It’s official: The Trump administration is reversing steps its predecessor had taken to curb gasoline and diesel consumption through stricter car pollution and fuel economy standards.
Rather than heed growing concerns about climate change, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has formally moved to nix the Obama administration’s carefully written rules. In 2012, the EPA set standards that aimed to halve the global warming pollution from new cars and light trucks by 2025. It made those tailpipe limits in coordination with the Department of Transportation’s separate fuel-economy standards, which targeted a near doubling of new vehicle miles-per-gallon over the same time frame.
Zinke says the Interior isn’t censoring science. The evidence begs to differ.
Grist, feat. Jonathan Overpeck
National Park Service officials have deleted every mention of humans’ role in causing climate change in drafts of a long-awaited report on sea-level rise and storm surge, contradicting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s vow to Congress that his department is not censoring science.
The research for the first time projects the risks from rising seas and flooding at 118 coastal national park sites, including the National Mall, the original Jamestown settlement, and the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Originally drafted in the summer of 2016, yet still not released to the public, the National Park Service report is intended to inform officials and the public about how to protect park resources and visitors from climate change.
I’m suing Scott Pruitt’s broken EPA - here’s how to fix it
Popular Science, by Joe Arvai
In 2017, just a few days after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, a freshman GOP lawmaker with only a few days on the job of his own, proposed House Resolution 861. Its language was ominous: “The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”
I was in my sixth year on the EPA’s Science Advisory Board when H.R.861 was introduced. When I called senior EPA colleagues to assess the threat, I was assured that it would never happen; the nation’s environmental laws, and the agency that makes and enforces them, could not be killed in two years by a 10-word resolution written by a rookie congressman.
Then along came Scott Pruitt.
BlackRock sticking with proposed Alaska copper, gold mine
Bloomberg BNA, feat. Andrew Hoffman
The world’s largest investment manager is holding onto its stake in a company that’s propping up a proposed copper and gold mine in Alaska, despite pressure to divest.
An environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, says BlackRock Inc.'s $600 million of First Quantum Minerals stock runs afoul of a recent letter by BlackRock Chairman and CEO Laurence Fink, who wrote that CEOs must “understand the societal impact” of their businesses and the ways that trends, including climate change, affect potential for growth.
First Quantum threw the Pebble Mine a lifeline last December when it agreed to invest $150 million over four years.
Trump’s challenge to fuel-efficient car standards: an uphill battle
The Christian Science Monitor, feat. Bruce Belzowski
The Trump administration’s latest move on environmental policy may sound like a familiar tussle: Green activists want to retain ambitious standards to reduce tailpipe emissions, while free-market advocates say automakers are saddled with onerous and unnecessary regulations.
Both those elements are there in the story line. The Trump administration is moving to ease up on automotive fuel-economy regulations, after the auto industry requested a rethink.
But look deeper, and this isn’t the same old regulatory clash from yesteryear.
Quietly, Trump officials and California seek a deal on car emissions
The New York Times, feat. Barry Rabe
Officials from the Trump administration and the State of California, who have been negotiating behind the scenes on car emissions standards, are expected to reopen talks that could preserve rules targeted by the Environmental Protection Agency for elimination, according to people briefed on the talks.
Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, announced this week that his agency would start the process of rolling back the federal standards, which are aimed at cutting tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming. He also demanded that California, which has vowed to stick to its own stricter standards, fall in line and follow Washington’s lead.
Fracks and facts
Petroleum Economist, feat. Daniel Raimi
Daniel Raimi's book sifts through the bluster and rhetoric. The result will please and annoy both sides.
Shale oil and gas have changed the world, but hydraulic fracturing, the technique that frees the molecules from otherwise-impermeable rock, is still controversial. Several European countries have banned it. Activists still picket UK drilling sites. Hillary Clinton, who in government sought to export American shale technology, came out against fracking in her doomed presidential bid. Industry boosters and anti-fracking campaigners duke it out daily online, always talking past one another.
Living With Uncertainty: An Inside Energy Podcast Special
Inside Energy News, feat. Daniel Raimi
Across the county, in areas like north Texas, western Pennsylvania and in the suburbs and towns north of Denver, communities are becoming industrialized, dotted with oil and gas wells, laced with pipelines. People in these communities are living with the potential risks that comes from living close to oil and gas development.
Residents fear all sorts of health impacts, complaining about trouble breathing, headaches, nausea and about stressors like bright lights and noise. At the same time there is a growing body of research on low birth weights, childhood cancers, and asthma in proximity to oil and gas wells. However, these studies haven’t shown that development actually caused health problems.
DTE proposes $1.7 bln plan to double renewable energy capacity in Michigan
DTE Energy ( DTE ) has submitted its 2018 Renewable Energy Plan to the Michigan Public Service Commission or MPSC proposing approximately 1,000 additional megawatts of carbon-free electricity from new wind and solar projects in Michigan scheduled to be completed by 2022. If approved, these new renewable energy projects would drive investment of more than $1.7 billion in Michigan and double DTE's renewable energy capacity from 1,000 megawatts to 2,000 megawatts - enough clean energy to power over 800,000 homes.
'The easy water's gone': Oil drillers' thirst spawns a hunt
About six years ago, the managers of the sprawling Fasken Oil and Ranch Ltd. made a decision.
They were beginning to explore hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil on the 165,000-acre ranch on the outskirts of Midland. The ranch had produced oil since the 1940s, but its managers wanted to tap into the layers of shale that lay farther beneath the dusty scrubland. It would take tens of thousands of barrels of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, to break up the oil-bearing rock in each well.
Unlike a lot of the Permian Basin, the Fasken ranch has plenty of water. It sits over the Ogallala Aquifer, a buried lake of crystal-clear water that stretches from Texas to the Dakotas. But something happened when crews started tapping the aquifer to supply the ranch's fracking operation.
America’s love for flying is negating the benefits of phasing out coal
The numbers are in, and it’s not all good news.
In 2017, despite president Donald Trump’s best efforts, the US burned less coal than the year before. As a result, the country avoided producing 23.3 million metric tons of carbon emissions that it would have put into the atmosphere had it burned the same amount of coal as in 2016, according to a new analysis by the consultancy Rhodium Group.
The bad news, however, is the benefits of phasing out coal were partly counteracted by America’s growing love for flying. The country’s emissions from burning jet fuel increased 9.2 million metric tons from 2016 to 2017, offsetting about 40% of the gains from the decline of coal.
Renewables or nuclear? A new front in the academic war over decarbonization
The debate over the fastest way to decarbonize the grid is intensifying, as experts debate a paper from last December claiming modular renewables could beat nuclear power.
The paper, from a Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) team led by the institute’s chief scientist and co-founder Amory Lovins, criticized the work of more than a dozen authors who asserted that wind and solar could not scale up as quickly as nuclear in the race to cut carbon emissions.
But now the Lovins paper is facing criticism from experts who say the RMI analysis contains significant errors, including a factor-of-10 mistake in some results.