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PHILADELPHIA WINS SUPER BOWL BUT NOT ETHANOL FIGHT JUST YET: After the Philadelphia Eagles’ upset win Sunday night, the ethanol industry was up early Monday morning issuing a new analysis shattering the claim that the Renewable Fuel Standard is to blame for the bankruptcy of one of the largest refineries on the East Coast — Philadelphia Energy Solutions.
The refinery is a fixture just outside of the City of Brotherly Love, but it was forced to filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month for increased costs that it blames on the nation’s ethanol mandate.
The ethanol industry is placing the spotlight on a series of posts by the University of Pennsylvania’s Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, which is less than 10 miles from the refinery. The analysis “cuts through the oil lobby’s PR spin and sheds light on the real factors that led to PES’ financial woes and bankruptcy,” according to an email from the Renewable Fuels Association.
‘Bad shape:’ The first post explained how the refinery was in “bad “shape” economically before the RFS became a factor.
A second post looks at whether the refinery’s arguments about the RFS make sense, concluding that it changes to oil market hurt the company’s bottom line rather than the ethanol requirements.
The problem with RINs: The refiner argues that having to buy expensive renewable identification credits, or RINs, to comply with the federal mandate to blend ethanol into the gasoline supply had crushed its ability to remain financially solvent.
A third post showed how investors in the company had known for years that the facility was destined for trouble, seeking to put their money instead into energy infrastructure on the Gulf of Mexico.
Final analysis is coming: The policy center is expected to issue a final blog post of analysis that wraps its deep dive into the reasons for Philadelphia Energy’s bankruptcy.
Meanwhile, the refinery’s bankruptcy has become part of the GOP’s push to reform the RFS program and gain a foothold for independent refiners.
Where is Scott Pruitt?: Even Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who oversees the program, was making the rounds on the Fox Business Network last week touting the need for RIN reform in the wake of the refinery’s bankruptcy.
But Pruitt was careful to differentiate between take action to curb the ethanol program and the need for market reforms, saying the RIN situation is out of his hands.
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ZINKE MEETS WITH EAST COAST GOVERNORS TO DISCUSS OFFSHORE DRILLING: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has been meeting with East Coast governors who oppose his plan to allow offshore drilling in federal waters off their state’s shores.
Meet and greet: Zinke met with South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, in their homes states this weekend.
The Interior secretary did not make any immediate decisions on whether to exempt waters off those states’ coasts from drilling, as he did after meeting with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican.
Not on my shore: Under the Interior Department's draft proposal for offshore drilling, spanning 2019 to 2024, more than 90 percent of the total acres on the Outer Continental Shelf would be made available for leasing. Almost all coastal governors oppose drilling off their shores, worried about potential spills and hits to their state’s tourism industries.
ANNUAL ENERGY OUTLOOK TO STOKE A FIGHT: The Energy Information Administration is set to release its annual outlook for 2018 Tuesday morning, which is expected to play up the effects of the oil and natural gas revolution, which in turn helps Trump’s energy dominance agenda.
But that sort of reporting, even though it is factual, does not sit well with climate change groups who want to see renewable energy advances played up by the federal government over fossil fuels.
Ahead of the report’s release, the Post Carbon Institute released a report Monday that looks to poke a hole in the EIA’s “rosy” projections.
The report details how the government’s projections are not feasible out to 2050.
“There is no doubt that the U.S. can produce substantial amounts of shale gas and tight oil over the short- and medium-term,” said David Hughes, the report’s lead author. “Unrealistic long-term forecasts, however, are a disservice to planning a viable long-term energy strategy. The very high to extremely optimistic EIA projections impart an unjustified level of comfort for long-term energy sustainability.”
The EIA outlook will provide projections of U.S. energy supply, demand, and prices. The projections also will include alternative assumptions that take into account changing economic growth rates, domestic energy resources, and other technologies, along with world oil prices.
ANTI-CLIMATE CHANGE HAWKS HAVE A BONE TO PICK WITH TRUMP: Climate change opponents are joining environmentalists in criticizing President Trump for not mentioning climate change in his State of the Union address last week, but for a different reason.
While green groups and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., say the president has his head in the sand, anti-climate change hawks are looking for new steps to help the energy industry, particularly getting rid of a finding that gives the EPA broad authority to regulate greenhouse gases.
Not hearing back from Trump: Some of the most ardent proponents of reversing course on climate change have not heard back from the administration on when to expect follow-up steps to Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement and reverse Obama-era climate rules such as the Clean Power Plan.
That includes addressing EPA's "endangerment finding" on carbon dioxide, which gives the agency its underlying authority to regulate emissions.
What the ‘finding’ says: The finding says carbon dioxide poses a threat to human health and therefore must be regulated as a pollutant. Increased levels of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels is the principal cause of climate change, according to most climate scientists.
As long as the finding is in place, it would be easy for a more climate-friendly administration to reverse all of Trump's actions.
Endangerment finding ‘must also be repealed:’ "To ensure the longevity of these plans, the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas endangerment finding must also be repealed," said Tom Harris, executive director for the International Climate Science Coalition and policy adviser at the free-market and anti-climate change Heartland Institute. "It is only when there is no credible basis to label carbon dioxide a pollutant, that the war on coal will not be easily revived by a future administration.”
GREENS THREATEN TO SUE TILLERSON OVER U.N. CLIMATE REPORT DELAY: The Center for Biological Diversity warned Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Monday morning to expect to go to court if he fails to submit a climate study to the United Nations.
‘Unprecedented:’ The group, in a letter to Tillerson, said not delivering the report, which the administration is obligated to do under the U.N. climate framework, would be “unprecedented,” further eroding the Trump’s administration’s standing on the issue of climate change.
‘Culprit’ in chief: “The U.S. is the chief culprit in the climate crisis, so its refusal to meet even bare minimum reporting requirements is morally reprehensible,” said Jean Su, the group’s associate conservation director. “In light of all the American lives and homes lost to superstorms and wildfires last year, the Trump administration’s inaction is especially disturbing.”
Paris no excuse: Although President Trump announced last year that he is withdrawing from the Paris climate change agreement, the nation is still an member of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which supports the goal of stabilizing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere to prevent “the most dangerous effects of climate change,” according to the group.
Parties in the treaty must submit reports periodically on greenhouse gas emissions inventories and action plans “consistent with this objective,” the group said.
No word on report: But the State Department, which is charged with meeting the reporting requirements, has not submitted a plan to the Federal Register on when to expect the report. The group said the U.S. typically spells out when to expect the report up to eight months before submitting it to the U.N.
But Russia submitted its report: Other nations, including the European Union and Russia, have submitted their reports. The group reminded Tillerson that Trump’s goal of leaving the Paris accord does not mean the U.S. is not legally bound by the broader U.N. climate framework.
Tillerson’s ‘blow off:’ “If Tillerson continues to blow off this bedrock commitment to transparency, we will take him to court,” according to Su.
“Trump’s reckless decision to pull out of the Paris accord already made the U.S. a climate pariah,” he added. “Further eroding the world’s trust could shatter the global, unified front the climate emergency demands.”
TRUMP WEIGHING WHETHER TO SUPPORT OBAMA DEAL ON COOLANT POLLUTANTS: The Trump administration is still weighing the economic impact of an international accord limiting emissions of climate pollutants called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which are refrigerants used in cooling systems from air conditioning to refrigerators, a top White House official said Monday morning.
Economic considerations: David Banks, a White House energy adviser, said the administration “wants to understand in a more concrete way” the economic impact of the Kigali Amendment before supporting it.
Banks, in comments at a forum hosted by the Hudson Institute, said the administration is considering how the amendment would benefit U.S. companies, preserve and create jobs, and how it affects the U.S. trade balance.
The Trump administration last year had announced it supported the international agreement. If it does, the White House must submit the amendment to the Senate for approval, requiring support from two-thirds of the chamber.
Potent pollutant: HFCs are considered more potent than greenhouse gases such as carbon and methane.
Obama’s deal: World nations, led by the U.S. under the Obama administration, agreed in October 2016 to the Kigali amendment of the Montreal Protocol, which would phase out HFC emissions. The deal, negotiated in Kigali, Rwanda, recently reached a key threshold because it is now endorsed by 21 member countries, which will allow it to go into force in early 2019.
TRUMP PULLS NOMINATION OF KATHLEEN HARTNETT WHITE FOR TOP ENVIRONMENTAL POST: Trump withdrew the nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White to be the top environmental official in the White House Saturday after Senate Democrats attacked her climate change views and few Republicans came to her defense.
The White House said Sunday that Hartnett White asked that her name be pulled from consideration.
“I want to thank President Trump for his confidence in me and I will continue to champion his policies and leadership on environmental and energy issues of critical importance to making our nation great, prosperous and secure again,” White said in a statement.
Climate skeptic: Democrats, in opposing her nomination, said White holds views contrary to established science on climate change that make her unfit to lead the Council on Environmental Quality, which coordinates environmental policy at the White House.
Democrats also recently celebrated after another Trump nominee, Michael Dourson, the president’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s chemical safety division, withdrew under pressure.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION CONSIDERING SANCTIONS ON VENEZUELAN OIL: Tillerson said Sunday the U.S. is considering imposing penalties on imports of Venezuelan crude oil and restricting exports of U.S. refined products to the country.
The Trump administration previously weighed oil sanctions against Venezuela to punish President Nicolas Maduro for engineering a vote for a new constituent assembly that took away power from democratically elected lawmakers. The U.S. backed down, fearing that cutting fuel supplies would harm Americans after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Weighing impact on U.S.: "Obviously sanctioning the oil, or in effect prohibiting the oil to be sold in the United States ... is something we continue to consider," Tillerson said at a news conference in Buenos Aires during a trip to South America. “We are looking at options and we are looking at how to mitigate the impacts on U.S. business interest. One of the aspects of considering sanctioning oil is what effect would it have on the Venezuelan people? Is it a step that might bring this to an end more rapidly?”
Less oil, less food: Venezuela is suffering from severe shortages of food and medicine.
Venezuelan oil production has been falling, with the country producing 1.7 million barrels a day in December.
Exports to the U.S. averaged more than 600,000 barrels a day between January and November of last year, he U.S. Energy Information Agency reports.
EXXON, CHEVRON WIN $8 BILLION WINDFALL FROM GOP TAX CUTS: Exxon Mobil and Chevron garnered a combined $8 billion benefit at the end of 2017 from a Republican-led overhaul of the U.S tax code.
The energy companies join an array of S&P 500 stalwarts reporting billions in one-time benefits from the bill, which lowered the top corporate rate to 21 percent from 35 percent and created a territorial tax system that will halt the application of U.S. levies to profits earned and taxed overseas, then brought back to the country.
Better ‘investment climate’: “The reform will make the investment climate more attractive,” Jeffrey Woodbury, Exxon’s vice president of investor relations, said on an earnings call Friday. “It will lead to things like capital inflow, improved profitability, new jobs, ultimately higher returns for savings plans.”
His company reported a $5.9 billion tax-reform benefit on Friday, boosting net income for the three months through December to $8.38 billion, or $1.97 a share, a five-fold increase from a year earlier.
Not alone: Rival Chevron, based in San Ramon, Calif., posted a $2.02 billion quarterly benefit from the tax overhaul, driving net income to $3.12 billion, or $1.64 a share. Revenue climbed 19 percent to $36.4 billion.
EXXON PREDICTS ‘LITTLE RISK’ TO BUSINESS FROM CLIMATE CHANGE: Exxon in a report Friday forecast “little risk” to its oil and natural gas investments from climate change.
Shareholders had demanded the company report on the impact of global policies meant to limit climate change to 2 degrees Celsius, which the Paris climate change accord intends to do.
Fossil fuels ‘critical’: Oil and natural gas will “continue to play a critical role in meeting the world’s energy demand,” Exxon said in its report.
The company predicated less than 5 percent of its fossil fuel reserves would be affected under a scenario in which the rise of global temperatures is limited to 2 degrees Celsius.
Wall Street Journal BP faces down its doubters after Deepwater Horizon spill
Washington Post The Islamic State’s toxic farewell: Environmental sabotage and chronic disease
Reuters Next-wave LNG terminals get smaller to offer flexible supply deals
Bloomberg California gears up for Trump battle on car-emissions rules
BuzzFeed At Tesla’s factory, building the car of the future has painful and permanent consequences for some workers
NPR The forgotten renewable: geothermal energy production heats up
St. Louis Public Radio Some pleased, others dismayed by EPA plan to clean up West Lake Landfill
Bloomberg Tesla tapped by Australia anew in virtual power plant plan
TUESDAY, FEB. 6
10 a.m., 1740 Massachusetts Ave, NW. Energy Information Administration issues its Annual Energy Outlook for 2018.
10 a.m., 1324 Longworth. The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands will hold a legislative hearing on a number of bills regarding national monuments.
10 a.m., 366 Dirksen. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing to receive testimony on the Bikini Resettlement and Relocation Act, and the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act.
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 7
10 a.m., 366 Dirksen. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing to receive testimony on the public lands legislation.
THURSDAY, FEB. 8
Government funding runs out. Deadline for new spending deal.
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 14
2 p.m., 1324 Longworth. The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power & Oceans will hold an oversight hearing titled “The State of the Nation’s Water and Power Infrastructure.”