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COULD SAUDI TENSIONS MEAN OUT-OF-CONTROL OIL PRICES FOR US? Oil prices could spike even higher than they already have this week as tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran increased Friday, prompting analysts to brace for havoc in the oil markets.
A growing number of analysts, including some who support President Trump, are predicting higher oil prices in the coming year. The international benchmark for oil prices rose to its highest level in months this week after a Saudi-led purge of its own government officials and major businessmen drove speculation of supply problems from the country with the largest oil reserves in the world.
Trouble in Lebanon, with its prime minister resigning suddenly and seeking refuge in the oil kingdom, increased uncertainty in the region because of Lebanon’s role as a safe haven for Iranian-backed Hezbollah. And the Saudis blamed Iran for a missile fired from Yemen to Saudi Arabia.
That led to saber rattling between Saudi and Iran on Friday, and speculation began to increase about the possibility of war and what that could mean for oil prices if Saudi crude were suddenly cut off completely.
“One out of nine barrels in the world is produced out of Saudi Arabia, so whatever happens in Saudi Arabia is really a revolution or turmoil for the world of oil,” Paolo Scaroni, former CEO of Italian oil giant Eni and vice-chairman of NM Rothschild and Sons, told Bloomberg Television Friday.
At the same time, Saudi Arabia is engaged in a protracted plan to push up oil prices in response to the over-supplied market that forced prices to plummet and slashed the budgets of many OPEC countries.
Saudi Arabia is leading OPEC and non-OPEC countries in a push to curtail production so that price rise.
“Stripping away the nonsense in Saudi, I think supply and demand are legitimately crossing and we’re headed for higher prices,” said oil executive and Trump supporter Dan Eberhart in an interview with the Washington Examiner. “I think the Saudi purge has thrown a bucket of gas on top of an already raging fire. I think the price is going to move upward.”
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MILLIONS MORE PUERTO RICANS IN DARK AS POWER LINE FIXED BY WHITEFISH FAILS: Millions of Puerto Ricans are without power again following the failure of a high-voltage transmission line that had been fixed by Whitefish Energy, a Montana company that is under FBI investigation.
It wasn’t me: Whitefish says its repaires were not to blame for the failure. "None of the issues reported today with the outage have anything to do with the repairs Whitefish Energy performed," a representative for Whitefish told Buzzfeed.
Pulling the plug: Power generation across Puerto Rico dropped from 40 percent to 18 percent Thursday, according to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), Vox reported.
About that fish: Whitefish Energy signed a $300 million, no-bid contract with PREPA last month to help restore power. It has since been canceled.
What was the problem?: Instead of activating "mutual aid" arrangements with other utilities, PREPA decided to hire Whitefish — even though such agreements in Florida, Texas and many other states have helped U.S. utilities rebuild following natural disasters.
Canceled deal: The deal was canceled after growing outrage from U.S. lawmakers over concerns about the contract and Whitefish Energy, including the fact that the small company was from the same small hometown as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
SENATE BEGINS ROUND TWO OF PUERTO RICO OVERSIGHT: Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Maria Cantwell, the GOP chairwoman and top Democrat, respectively, on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, likely will drill down on Whitefish at Tuesday’s hurricane response hearing.
The hearing follows last week’s first round of hearings in both the House and Senate on the federal government’s hurricane response, where Whitefish was a top issue in lawmakers’ questioning.
Murkowski led a congressional delegation to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to see the challenges for herself. Energy Department officials joined the delegation Thursday.
SENATE KEEPS WIND CREDIT PHASEOUT AS HOUSE SEEKS TO KILL IT OFF EARLY: The Senate tax bill issued late Thursday night would keep the 2015 deal to phase out tax credits for wind energy over five years, instead of the accelerated timeline that is in the House version of the legislation.
“The Senate tax reform bill keeps a promise to America’s more than 100,000 wind energy workers and restores the confidence of businesses pouring billions of dollars into rural America,” said Tom Kiernan, the head of the American Wind Energy Association, representing the wind industry.
Uphill climb for wind: On Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee passed its version of tax legislation that would retroactively curtail the five-year phaseout to end in 2019, instead of 2020.
The tax-writing panel rejected a bipartisan attempt led by Reps. David Young, R-Iowa, and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., to include an amendment that honors the original terms of the 2015 deal.
‘Unsettling’ development for industry: “It is unsettling that the House Ways and Means Republicans would break their commitment to the wind industry and American workers, killing 60,000 jobs, putting $50 billion in jeopardy – hurting one industry and creating uncertainty for all,” Kiernan said.
VETERANS MAKE UP A HIGH PERCENTAGE OF CORN ETHANOL WORKERS: One of the reasons President Trump is a supporter of ethanol may be that the industry employs a large number of military veterans, renewable fuel proponents are pointing out ahead of Veterans Day on Saturday.
Veterans Day surprise: “Millions of Americans will pay their respects to those who have served our country in uniform and defended our freedom,” the Renewable Fuels Association said. “What most Americans may not know, however, is that thousands of veterans have continued to make our nation stronger and more secure by choosing careers in the ethanol industry after leaving military service.”
What the Energy Department says: But don’t take the ethanol industry trade group’s word for it. The Department of Energy detailed the fact in a report it released earlier this year.
The report showed that 18.9 percent of corn ethanol workers are veterans. That’s one in five.
“By comparison, vets account for 10 percent of the oil and gas industry workforce, and just 7 percent of the entire U.S. labor force across all sectors of the economy,” according to the industry group.
ZINKE KICKS OFF VETERANS DAY WITH WALL WASHING: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a retired Navy SEAL commander, will participate in several events to honor veterans Saturday morning in Washington, starting with washing the wall at the Vietnam War memorial.
Here’s his packed schedule: 6:30 a.m., Zinke joins veterans in washing the wall; 8:45 a.m., he participates in a Veterans Day observance at the World War II Memorial; 10:30 a.m., Zinke participates in the 64th annual Veterans Day National Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery; 1 p.m., he addresses the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; 3:30 p.m., he gives remarks at the Korean War Veterans Memorial Veterans Day Observance.
FERC CHAIRMAN PROPOSES ‘INTERIM’ PLAN TO SAVE COAL AND NUCLEAR PLANTS: The chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Thursday he is pushing for an “interim step” to subsidize struggling coal and nuclear plants.
Neil Chatterjee's plan would give the commission more time to evaluate Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal for the commission to create new rules compensating coal and nuclear plants for the “reliability and resiliency” they offer the electric grid.
‘Keep them afloat’: "What I don’t want to have is plants shut down while we’re doing this longer-term analysis, so we need an interim step to keep them afloat,” Chatterjee said at an S&P Global Platts Energy Podium event in Washington.
‘Lifeboat’ can’t save all: Chatterjee, a former staffer of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the commission plans to respond to Perry’s proposal by Dec. 11, as the energy secretary asked.
But he said in the meantime, the commission’s staff is working on a legal rationale of saving some coal and nuclear plants.
"I don’t know that we can get everybody in the lifeboat," Chatterjee said.
Reality check: Chatterjee acknowledged that his short-term plan would have to be approved by a majority of FERC’s five members, which is no sure thing.
Energy groups rip plan: At least one renewable energy group suggested Chatterjee's new plan would be illegal.
“There is neither legal authority nor commission support for such a brazen intervention to favor politically preferred sources in the electricity marketplace,” said Greg Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy, in a statement to the Washington Examiner.
The American Petroleum Institute, the oil and natural gas industry group that belongs to the coalition, criticized the Chatterjee short-term plan, as did the Solar Energy Industries Association.
CHATTERJEE MEETS WITH MAJOR UTILITY TO DISCUSS PLAN: Chatterjee said he met recently with FirstEnergy, an investor-owned utility that supports Perry’s proposal.
FirstEnergy has put forth its own plan for coal and nuclear plants. The plan calls for plants designated as "resilient" to receive a monthly payment from grid operators that offsets operation costs and includes a "fair return on equity."
Politico reported this week that Perry’s narrowly written proposal would mostly affect power plants in parts of the Midwest and Northeast where coal giant Murray Energy is the predominant supplier.
Bob Murray, the outspoken CEO of Murray Energy and ally of President Trump, has been a leading proponent of Perry’s proposal.
GREENS IRATE OVER EXPORT-IMPORT BANK’S SUPPORT FOR VIETNAM COAL PLANT: Environmental groups are raising alarm over the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s plan to consider financing a coal power plant in Vietnam as Trump visits the nation for a major gathering of Asian-Pacific powers.
The group Friends of the Earth said it would mark the first overseas power plant deal undersigned by the bank since 2011.
“Precisely as the world is focused on addressing climate devastation at the United Nations Conference of Parties in Germany, Trump is fomenting climate disaster in Vietnam,” the group said. “Ex-Im financing for Long Phu-1 will worsen climate change, pollute local communities, and violate precedent-setting international restrictions on coal financing,” said Doug Norlen, director of the Economic Policy Program at Friends of the Earth. “We are exposing the smoke and mirrors that project proponents are using in an attempt to violate policies and grab public funding.”
DEMOCRATS REALIZE ‘DECK IS STACKED’ AGAINST THEM ON ANWR DRILLING: Senate Democrats on Thursday criticized legislation introduced by their Republican counterparts that would open a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and natural gas drilling, but acknowledged there is little they can do to stop it.
Hit me with your best shot: Democrats have long been successful in blocking Republican efforts to allow energy exploration in a 1.5 million-acre section of the 19.6-million-acre Alaskan refuge in ANWR, known as the “1002 area,” where billions of barrels of crude oil lie beneath the coastal plain.
But this year, GOP control of Congress means the bill is being considered under budget reconciliation, meaning it is not subject to a Senate filibuster and can pass with a simple majority.
‘Buried in a crazy tax bill’: “We don't think this has been a fair and open process,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, the top Democrat of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, in a press conference Thursday. “In this process, we know the deck is stacked as it is. The notion we can be this close to losing something so unique, such an unbelievable treasure, because it gets buried... in a crazy tax bill is one of our biggest challenges.”
State of play: The Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday will mark up Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s bill opening the 1002 area of the wildlife refuge to oil and gas drilling, with the expectation that energy development there will raise about $1 billion over 10 years.
The bill fulfills the terms of a budget resolution passed by the GOP-controlled House and Senate that directed the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Murkowski, R-Alaska, leads, to create legislation to raise $1 billion over a decade to help pay for tax reform.
POLICE CRUISERS GO ‘GREEN,’ TOO: Green Car Journal gave Ford’s Police Responder Hybrid its 2018 Commercial Green Car of the Year award on Thursday.
The police force is becoming more environmentally and energy conscious, and Ford is catering to that with the first hybrid-electric police model sedan.
Ford has dominated the police cruiser market for decades.
The big and powerful, but fuel-guzzling, Ford Crown Victoria had been the reigning champ for years. But that appears to be changing.
First in pursuit: Ford has high hopes for the hybrid police car, which it touts as the “first pursuit-rated hybrid,” which is built to chase down the bad guys while reducing fuel and maintenance costs, with “reduced CO2 emissions.”
Commercial cars get their environmental due: "Highlighting environmental achievement by commercial vehicles, trucks, and performance cars – vehicles that have rarely been 'green' by nature — is increasingly important and we're pleased to be honoring these at the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show," said Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal and GreenCarJournal.com.
“An expanding focus on workhorses like pickups and light commercial vehicles, and now even performance cars, means buyers in these segments also have an opportunity to drive 'green'."
Wall Street Journal McKinsey & Co., consulting on energy policy in Saudi Arabia, has hired Saudi government officials’ children
Bloomberg Utilities push for electric car tax credit while Ford stays neutral
Washington Post EPA proposes reversing stricter pollution rules for heavy-duty trucks with older engines
Reuters In Puerto Rico, a sinkhole of rebuilding struggles, made tougher by power loss
Bloomberg German energy giant plots Norway-to-Italy electric car charging network
NPR As China moves to other energy sources, its coal region struggles to adapt
The Guardian At Bonn talks, Fiji told it must spend billions to adapt to climate change
FRIDAY, NOV. 10
Federal government closed for Veterans Day.
TUESDAY, NOV. 14
9:30 a.m., 366 Dirksen. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing to provide oversight of hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 15
9 a.m., 366 Dirksen. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a business meeting to consider budget reconciliation legislation to authorize the Interior secretary to establish and administer a competitive oil and gas program in the non-wilderness portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, known as the “1002 Area” or Coastal Plain.
All day, Electric grid. The utility industry begins a multi-sector wargame to simulate an attack on the U.S. power system called GridEx IV, Nov. 15-16. More than 5,000 stakeholders from across North America are expected to take part in the exercise.