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TRUMP CELEBRATES END OF 'WAR ON AMERICAN ENERGY:’ Trump Tuesday night celebrated his administration’s success in implementing his “energy dominance” agenda.
“We have ended the war on American energy, and we have ended the war on beautiful clean coal,” Trump declared during his first State of the Union address. “We are now proudly an exporter of energy to the world.”
The energy picture: The U.S. is now a net producer of natural gas because of the shale oil and natural gas boom that began during the Obama administration and has transformed the country into the world's leading fossil fuel producer.
In addition, the U.S. is expected to experience "explosive growth" in oil production in 2018 and will surpass Saudi Arabia's output for the first time, the International Energy Agency reported this month.
Crude’s a different story: The U.S. remains a net importer of crude oil. Overall, the U.S. still imports more energy than it exports, according to the Energy Information Administration.
And the coal story: Coal has seen its prospects improve modestly during Trump’s first year. Driven by exports, U.S. coal production increased by 6 percent last year.
Coal mining jobs saw a 1 percent increase to more than 50,000, a response to increased demand from Asia, mostly China, for metallurgical coal used in steelmaking, experts say.
But despite the growth in exports, U.S. coal consumption dropped 2.4 percent in 2017, falling to its lowest level since 1982.
TRUMP BUSY ON ENERGY EXPORTS: The Cabinet was working on Trump’s 2018 agenda on energy exports almost up to the moment when the president said “beautiful clean coal” in the State of the Union.
Some of the new investment in exporting more U.S. energy is coming from would-be energy rivals in the Middle East, who see the opportunity in the states as too good to pass up.
"We had the Qataris in today and they're in the process of opening and starting [liquefied natural gas] facilities that they are going to be the majority owner of down on the Texas-Louisiana border," Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Fox News just hours before the president's address.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson led talks with Perry and other members of the Trump Cabinet on Tuesday to discuss energy and counterterrorism strategy at the inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Qatar strategic dialogue.
Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of natural gas and sees a golden opportunity to extend that leadership into the United States, which has just become a net natural gas exporter and the muscle-bound new kid on the block. The U.S. has a lot of natural gas due to the shale energy boom, but it is still working to build up its infrastructure to begin shipping more of it on the global market.
Missing opportunities on fossil fuels: At the same time, Trump’s foreign policy could be squashing energy opportunities in the U.S.’s own backyard.
The U.S. might have had a shot at creating energy inroads with Cuba, but the president’s hard stance has forced the island nation to seek assistance from OPEC.
Cuba can no longer rely on OPEC member Venezuela, which is in a state of instability and major economic upheaval. So, North African energy giant Algeria, also an OPEC member, is filling that gap by providing Cuba with refined fuels and oil.
Meanwhile, U.S. refiners are breaking records selling gasoline and diesel abroad, while the U.S. is looking for new markets for shale oil.
What does he mean by ‘clean coal?’ Trump played up coal in his State of the Union, as credit rating firm Moody’s and others say more spending is needed to develop cleaner ways of burning the fossil fuel if it is to remain a source of electricity generation.
Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget looked to reduce spending on key clean energy technologies, and he has not clearly defined what he means by “clean coal.”
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TRUMP MISSED OPPORTUNITIES IN SPEECH, ENERGY EXPERT SAYS: Trump missed opportunities to talk about renewable energy in his speech, however. He declared the end of a war on American energy that is far from over, according to Tom Pyle, the president’s former energy transition team chief.
"While much has been accomplished, we still have more to do to free our energy markets and empower consumers and businesses to make their own energy choices,” Pyle said. He is the president of the group American Energy Alliance, which opposes wind subsidies and supports free-market principles.
Stop wind subsidies: Pyle wants the administration to start “reviewing and re-writing” the Internal Revenue Service’s guidance for wind subsidies, which the Obama administration allowed the wind industry to “exploit” even after the credits are phased out.
The war is far from over: "The [wind production tax credit] is but one way in which the war on American energy is far from vanquished,” Pyle said. “Year one of the Trump presidency has been a success, but we cannot rest until there is a level playing field for all energy sources."
And then there’s Gore: On the climate activist side, people such as former Vice President Al Gore thought the president’s idea of a war on American energy was a farce.
Gore was busy trolling President Trump on Twitter during the State of the Union address. "There is no war on American energy," Gore tweeted shortly after Trump announced the end of the war on American energy and the war on "clean, beautiful coal."
Gore thought the president should have added solar energy jobs as a priority.
TRUMP SUED OVER ‘CLEAN, BEAUTIFUL COAL’ BEFORE ADDRESS: An environmental group sued the Trump administration for delaying regulations on coal power plant pollution just ahead of the State of the Union, during which he played up his deregulation push.
Trump’s Jurassic Park: "To the dinosaurs running Trump’s EPA, subsidizing dirty coal is more important than clean water,” said Hannah Connor, senior attorney with the group Center for Biological Diversity. “Delaying these common-sense measures to reduce water pollution will lead to more birth defects and cancers and lower IQs.”
Greens love to sue: The group has filed numerous suits against the Trump administration, at a rate of about three per month, and it was the first group to sue Trump over his proposed border wall for violations of the endangered species protections.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal district court in Arizona was in response to the Environmental Protection Agency's "unlawful delay" of the 2015 Clean Water Act effluent-limitation rule, which the group says will allow coal plants to continue discharging toxic pollutants such as arsenic, mercury, and lead known into rivers and streams.
TOP REPUBLICANS LAUD TRUMP’S CALL FOR PERMIT REFORM: Top Republicans on Tuesday night applauded Trump for proposing reforms to the federal permitting process as a pillar of his $1.5 trillion infrastructure investment plan.
Trump in his State of the Union said a potential infrastructure bill “must also streamline the permitting and approval process, getting it down to no more than two years, and perhaps even one."
Fast lane: “We need a robust, fiscally responsible infrastructure bill that makes it easier to start and finish projects more quickly,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, in response to Trump’s proposal.
Wolf in sheep’s clothing? But Democrats fear Trump’s push for permitting reform signifies his interest in rolling back environmental laws.
A draft White House document leaked Friday called for changes in how the government conducts environmental reviews, including significant streamlining of the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirements, and potential reforms to the Clean Water and Clean Air acts.
The White House has denied it plans to “gut” environmental laws.
‘Targeted streamlining:’ Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said Tuesday night he supports changes to environmental laws as part of an infrastructure plan.
“President Trump understands that we must modernize onerous and duplicative federal permitting requirements for any infrastructure package to succeed,” Bishop said. “I look forward to working with his administration on targeted streamlining of the NEPA process to get infrastructure projects off the ground quickly in a less costly manner.”
DEMOCRATS DON’T MENTION CLIMATE CHANGE IN REBUTTAL: In a mild surprise, Democrats did not mention climate change Tuesday night in the party’s rebuttal to Trump’s first State of the Union address.
In his rebuttal speech, Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass. omitted mentioning climate change, the Huffington Post noted.
Whose war, anyway? He did criticize Trump’s “all-out war on environmental protection” and lauded Americans who “wade through floodwaters, battle hurricanes, and brave wildfires and mudslides to save a stranger.”
The climate warrior: By contrast, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., attacked Trump for not referring to climate change in his speech.
“How can a president of the United States give a State of the Union speech and not mention climate change?” Sanders said. “No, Mr. Trump, climate change is not a ‘hoax.’ “It is a reality which is causing devastating harm all over our country and all over the world, and you are dead wrong when you appoint administrators at the EPA and other agencies who are trying to decimate environmental protection rules and slow down the transition to sustainable energy.”
Sanders is participating in a “Climate State of the Union” Wednesday night hosted by the environmental group 350.org.
VW SUSPENDS TOP LOBBYIST AMID FUROR OVER MONKEY EXPERIMENTS: Volkswagen suspended its chief lobbyist on Tuesday for his role in the company’s financing of research that used monkeys to test the health effects of diesel exhaust.
The suspended lobbyist, Thomas Steg, is Volkswagen’s head of external relations and sustainability.
Monkey business: Volkswagen, with fellow German carmakers Daimler and BMW, paid for an experiment using monkeys in rigged studies meant to produce lower pollution levels.
As part of the lab experiments, carried out in 2014, monkeys were forced to squat inside the cars and watch cartoons as they inhaled diesel exhaust for hours.
The Volkswagen Beetle used in the tests contained software causing it to produce less pollution than the car would exhaust on the road.
DEMOCRAT PRODS PRUITT OVER VISIT TO ‘SHITHOLE’ MOROCCO: Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth asked Trump's EPA chief on Tuesday if he found Morocco to be a "shithole" after he visited the North African country last year to promote the use of American natural gas.
"Can I assume, like all decent Americans, you did not find Morocco, a North African nation, to be a shithole when you visited?" Duckworth asked.
Duckworth was referring to reports that Trump referred to African nations as "shithole countries" during a meeting with Democrats on immigration policy this month.
Pruitt ignored the question, which was used to wrap up the senator's preceding questions about EPA's authorization to promote natural gas when it is the Energy Department's role to do so.
ENERGY, INTERIOR NOMINEES ADVANCE TO FULL SENATE: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday advanced four nominations to top positions at the Interior and Energy departments.
Who’s who: The nominees approved were: Melissa Burnison as the Energy Department’s assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental affairs, Susan Combs for the Interior Department's assistant secretary for policy, management and budget, Ryan Nelson to be Interior's solicitor and Anne White for the Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for environmental management.
The nominations now head to the Senate floor.
Hold up: Despite the committee approval, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., a key lawmaker on energy issues, continues to have a “hold” on White’s nomination unless she commits to ending the Energy Department's practice of selling excess uranium on the open market. White would be in charge of nuclear waste cleanup in her new role.
Combs and Nelson are also subject to a hold by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who wants assurances from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that Florida's waters are removed from the Trump administration's offshore drilling plan.
The holds mean that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would need to schedule 30 hours of debate for each of the nominees before the chamber can vote on their nominations.
ATTORNEYS GENERAL OPPOSE TRUMP’S ROLLBACK OF OFFSHORE SAFETY RULES: A coalition of Democratic attorneys general filed public comments opposing the Interior Department’s proposed weakening of offshore drilling safety rules imposed after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill.
Attorneys general from Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina and Virginia said Tuesday they oppose the changes.
Safety risk: "Rolling back safety protections less than two years after implementation is wrong and jeopardizes human and environmental safety,” said Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, who led the filing.
The Interior Department late last year proposed changes to the safety rules created by the Obama administration.
Sea change: Among the proposed safety changes, the Interior Department would eliminate a provision requiring third-party inspectors of certain safety equipment, such as a blowout preventer device, be certified by its safety bureau.
The blowout preventer broke at the bottom of the sea in the Deepwater Horizon incident, spewing almost 4 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Reuters A modern land run? Trump move opens Utah to mining claims under 1872 law
Wall Street Journal Big Oil returns to drilling, but on a budget
Houston Chronicle Chevron, Total announce new Gulf of Mexico discovery
New York Times Dangerously low on water, Cape Town now faces ‘day zero’
Post and Courier South Carolina utility customers may get reprieve from paying for failed nuke plant, at least temporarily
Wall Street Journal Volkswagen supplier to face criminal case in emissions fraud
Bloomberg Rick Perry’s home state doesn’t want him taking over their electric grid
Washington Post Anxious about climate change? There’s a cow-farting-methane emoji for that
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 31
8:45 a.m.-3:30 p.m., 5000 Seminary Road, Alexandria, Va. The Institute for Defense and Government Advancement holds the 11th Operational Energy Summit on "Shaping the Future of Operational Energy Strategies."
Noon, 562 Dirksen Senate Office Building. STEM4US holds a briefing on encouraging Congress to hire more African American, Latino and women energy, tech and finance policy advisers.
3 p.m., 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds a discussion on "India's Energy Transitions: Difficult Choices."
6 p.m., 1990 K St. NW. The Goethe-Institut Washington holds a discussion on "Creating the Paris Path on Climate Change: From Paris through Marrakech to Fiji and Bonn and Beyond."
8 p.m., 730 21st St. NW. Our Revolution holds the "Fossil Free Fast: The Climate Resistance" event to fight back against the Trump administration and "corrupt fossil fuel corporations."
THURSDAY, FEB. 1
6 p.m., La Maison Francaise at the French Embassy, 4101 Reservoir Road NW. The French Embassy holds a discussion on "Climate and Jobs: A Winning Equation."
TUESDAY, FEB. 6
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.