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Ethanol critical piece of America's energy strategy

High Plains Journal | Posted on June 4, 2018

The conflict over the Renewable Fuel Standard between the EPA, Congress and special interest groups have left hardworking people throughout rural America with a growing sense of uncertainty about their futures. An honest discussion about this program is long overdue. In order to do that, it’s necessary to understand where the RFS began, how it evolved and the role it plays in ensuring American prosperity and security. For decades, refiners have used octane enhancers. Lead was the most common but was replaced in the late 1970s by an organic compound called Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE). Twenty years later, Congress passed the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, which required the use of oxygenated gasoline in areas with high levels of air pollution. The law increased MTBE’s popularity because it helped reduced tailpipe emissions. However, when MTBE was exposed as a public health risk, its use sharply declined, leaving refiners searching for an alternative. That alternative was ethanol. In 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, which removed the oxygenate requirement for reformulated gasoline. It also instituted the RFS. Refiners eliminated MTBE from blending operations and switched entirely to ethanol. In 2007, the Energy Independence and Security Act passed, expanding the RFS by extending yearly volume requirements and increasing long-term blending goals. The tax credit, what many called the “ethanol subsidy,” given to oil companies to incentivize blending, was then allowed to expire.


Canada to buy major pipeline to ensure it gets built

The Spokesman-Review | Posted on May 31, 2018

Canada’s federal government said Tuesday it is buying a controversial pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific Coast to ensure it gets built. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government plans to spend $3.4 billion to purchase Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. The pipeline expansion would triple the capacity of an existing line to ship oil extracted from the oil sands in Alberta across the snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies. It would end at a terminal outside Vancouver, resulting in a seven-fold increase in the number of tankers in the shared waters between Canada and Washington state. Facing stiff environmental opposition from British Columbia’s provincial government and activists, Houston-based Kinder Morgan earlier halted essential spending on the project and said it would cancel it altogether if the national and provincial governments could not guarantee it.“It must be built and it will be built,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau said.


Natural gas could soon surpass coal as U.S. electricity generator

Tribune Live | Posted on May 31, 2018

By the end of 2018, natural gas could surpass coal to become the most prevalent technology for generating electricity in the United States, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration .  The agency said fossil fuel consumption in the electric power sector declined in 2017 to its the lowest level since 1994. “The declining trend in fossil fuel consumption by the power sector has been driven by a decrease in the use of coal and petroleum, with a slightly offsetting increase in the use of natural gas,” the EIA said. In 2017, coal consumption by the electric power sector reached its lowest level since 1982, and petroleum consumption was the lowest on record, based on data since 1949, the EIA said. Recent natural gas consumption in the power sector has generally been increasing.


Electric power sector consumption of fossil fuels at lowest level since 1994

EIA | Posted on May 31, 2018

Fossil fuel consumption in the electric power sector declined to 22.5 quadrillion British thermal units (quads) in 2017, the lowest level since 1994. The declining trend in fossil fuel consumption by the power sector has been driven by a decrease in the use of coal and petroleum with a slightly offsetting increase in the use of natural gas. Changes in the fuel mix and improvements in electricity generating technology have also led the power sector to produce electricity while consuming fewer fossil fuels. In 2017, coal consumption by the electric power sector reached its lowest level since 1982, and petroleum consumption in the power sector was the lowest on record, based on data since 1949. Recent natural gas consumption in the power sector has generally been increasing, but 2017 consumption was slightly lower than the record-high 2016 level.In energy-equivalent terms, more coal was consumed in the power sector than natural gas in 2017, at 12.7 quads and 9.5 quads, respectively. However, in terms of electricity generation, natural gas-fired power plants in the electric power sector produced more electricity than coal-fired plants, at 31% and 30% of the U.S. total, respectively, in 2017. Natural gas-fired units tend to be more energy efficient, requiring less energy content to produce a unit of electricity.


Ethanol, farm groups sue EPA over refineries' biofuels exemptions

Reuters | Posted on May 30, 2018

A coalition of ethanol and farm groups sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday, challenging its decision to free three refineries, including one owned by billionaire investor Carl Icahn, from annual biofuels requirements. The groups, including the Renewable Fuels Association and the National Corn Growers Association, filed the challenge in a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver, according to a statement from the coalition. The lawsuit targets three waivers doled out to refineries owned by CVR Energy Inc, in which Icahn hold a majority stake, and HollyFrontier Corp.Refiners are required by the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard to blend increasing volumes of biofuels like ethanol each year, but the EPA can offer exemptions for facilities under 75,000 barrels per day, if they experience “disproportionate economic hardship.” The number of waivers has soared, amplifying controversy over a program that has been a battleground for entrenched farm and oil interests in Washington for years. Oil refiners say the requirements cause undue financial strain, while corn and biofuels supporters say the waivers reduce demand for their products.In addition to challenging the waivers themselves, the group criticized the EPA for its lack of transparency. The EPA has refused to share details of which companies have asked for and received the waivers, citing confidential business information.

 


10 massive corporations going big on solar power

CNBC | Posted on May 30, 2018

American businesses are investing record amounts in solar, with the top corporate users adding 325 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity last year, according to the "Solar Means Business 2017" report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The impact of corporate solar is significant: the solar installations analyzed in the SEIA report produce enough electricity to power 402,000 U.S. homes and offset 2.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.Here, CNBC's Sustainable Energy looks at the top 10 corporations in the U.S. by their installed capacity of solar power. 10. Amazon.com — 33.6 MW, 9. Macy's — 38.9 MW, 8. IKEA — 44.9 MW, 7. General Growth Properties — 50.2 MW, 6. Costco Wholesale — 50.8 MW, 5. Kohl's — 51.5 MW, 4. Apple — 79.4 MW, 3. Prologis — 120.7 MW, 2. Walmart — 149.4 MW, 1. Target — 203.5 MW.


Pruitt spent $3.5 million on security during first year as EPA head

The Hill | Posted on May 30, 2018

Scott Pruitt spent nearly $3.5 million on security during his first year as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to an agency breakdown. Pruitt's round the clock security detail racked up the high costs through both travel and payroll expenses — costing taxpayers more than $760,000 in travel and more than $2.7 million in pay during the administrator's first year.


The 60-Year Downfall of Nuclear Power in the U.S. Has Left a Huge Mess

The Atlantic | Posted on May 30, 2018

The demand for atomic energy is in decline. But before the country can abandon its plants, there's six decades of waste to deal with. It was just another day in the life of the defunct Hanford nuclear site, a remote part of Washington State that made most of the plutonium in America’s Cold War arsenal. On the morning of May 9, 2017, alarms sounded. Around 2,000 site workers were told to take cover indoors, and aircraft were banned from flying over the site for several hours. The roof of a tunnel had collapsed, exposing railcars that had been loaded with radioactive waste from plutonium production and then shunted underground and sealed in decades before.  There was other stuff down there too. Nobody quite knew what. Record keeping was poor, but the contents of the tunnels certainly included carcasses from animal radiation experiments, including a reported 18 alligators. The emergency lasted only a few hours. The integrity of the waste was restored. But it was a chilling reminder of the site’s perilous radioactive legacy.Sprawling across 600 square miles of sagebrush semidesert, Hanford is a $100 billion cleanup burden, full of accidents waiting to happen. It is the biggest headache, but very far from being the only one, emerging in what increasingly look like the final years of America's nuclear age.  Hanford has not produced plutonium for three decades. Nobody is making new material for bombs anymore. President Trump’s plans for more weapons can be met by recycling existing plutonium stocks. And even the civil nuclear industry, which still generates a fifth of America’s electricity, is in what looks like terminal decline. With cheap natural gas and renewable solar and wind energy increasingly available, the numbers no longer add up. Nuclear power plants across the nation are being closed with years of licensed operation unused.


Ex-Perry adviser lobbies for energy firm bailout

AP | Posted on May 30, 2018

At a West Virginia rally on tax cuts, President Donald Trump veered off on a subject that likely puzzled most of his audience. “Nine of your people just came up to me outside. ’Could you talk about 202?’” he said. “We’ll be looking at that 202. You know what a 202 is? We’re trying.”One person who undoubtedly knew what Trump was talking about last month was Jeff Miller, an energy lobbyist with whom the president had dined the night before. Miller had been hired by FirstEnergy Solutions, a bankrupt power company that relies on coal and nuclear energy to produce electricity. His assignment: push the Trump administration to use a so-called 202 order — named for a provision of the Federal Power Act — to secure a bailout worth billions of dollars. Although Trump didn’t agree to the plan — he still hasn’t — for Miller, a president’s public declaration of interest amounted to a job well done.How a single lobbyist helped carry a long-shot idea from obscurity to the presidential stage is a twisty journey through the new swamp of Trump’s Washington. Rather than clearing out the lobbyists and campaign donors that spend big money to sway politicians, Trump and his advisers paved the way for a new cast of powerbrokers who have quickly embraced familiar ways to wield influence.Miller is among them. A well-connected GOP fundraiser, he has served as an adviser to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, also a close friend. He ran Perry’s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2016. And when Trump tapped Perry to lead the Energy Department, Miller shepherded his friend through confirmation, sitting behind him, next to the nominee’s wife, at the Senate hearing.


Emails Show Collaboration Among EPA, Climate-Change Deniers

NBC | Posted on May 30, 2018

Newly released emails show senior Environmental Protection Agency officials collaborating with a conservative group that dismisses climate change to rally like-minded people for public hearings on science and global warming, counter negative news coverage and tout Administrator Scott Pruitt's stewardship of the agency. John Konkus, EPA's deputy associate administrator for public affairs, repeatedly reached out to senior staffers at the Heartland Institute, according to the emails."If you send a list, we will make sure an invitation is sent," Konkus wrote to then-Heartland president Joseph Bast in May 2017, seeking suggestions on scientists and economists the EPA could invite to an annual EPA public hearing on the agency's science standards.Follow-up emails show Konkus and the Heartland Institute mustering scores of potential invitees known for rejecting scientific warnings of man-made climate-change, including from groups like Plants Need CO2, The Right Climate Stuff, and Junk Science.


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