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9 Northeast States Agree to Further Power Plant Carbon Cuts

US News and World Report | Posted on August 29, 2017

Nine Mid-Atlantic and New England states have agreed to cut power plant greenhouse gas emissions across the region by 65 percent by 2030 through the nation's first cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon contributing to global climate change.New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative have agreed to reduce the cap on power plant carbon emissions an additional 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030. The Democrat said the new cap will be 65 percent below the program's 2009 starting level.The initiative caps carbon dioxide emissions and trades the excess in auctions, which have generated $2.7 billion in proceeds used by the states for clean energy programs."The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has been an incredible success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change in New York and the Northeast, while supporting thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investments in sustainable development projects," said Basil Seggos, New York's environmental commissioner.

Editorial: Energy Department surprises Rick Perry with a reassuring study of power grid. Oops

St Louis Post Dispatch | Posted on August 29, 2017

Back in April, Energy Secretary Rick Perry ordered up a study of the reliability of the nation’s electrical power grid. The coal and nuclear power industries had been arguing that the system faced challenges that required special breaks for their energy sectors. President Donald Trump keeps looking for reasons to pump taxpayer resources into reviving the coal industry. This study undermines his case. The study was released Thursday, and it found the energy grid is in pretty good shape. There’s room for modest investment in coal-fired plants, but little need for an all-out effort. Wind and solar power are playing an important role on the grid. Cheap natural gas, not government regulation, is primarily responsible for the closing of coal-fired plants. A few breaks on coal and nuclear regulations might be in order, but nothing dramatic. The study addressed the so-called baseload power supply, electricity produced 24 hours a day by nuclear stations and gas- and coal-fired generators. Bulk power reliability “is adequate today despite the retirement of 11 percent of the generating capacity available in 2002,” the study found. It added that “overall, at the end of 2016, the system had more dispatchable capacity capable of operating at high utilization rates than it did in 2002.”

DOE report blames natural gas for closures

Energy Wire | Posted on August 24, 2017

A long-awaited Energy Department staff report on electricity markets and reliability singles out natural gas — not renewables or environmental regulations — as the leading driver of coal plant closures in this decade, challenging the Trump administration's case for saving coal. "The biggest contributor to coal and nuclear plant retirements has been the advantaged economics of natural gas-fired generation" fueled by the shale revolution, the report says.The 187-page report, which DOE released tonight, was ordered by Energy Secretary Rick Perry in April to review the closure of "baseload" coal and nuclear plants and "market-distorting effects of federal subsidies that boost one form of energy at the expense of others."But the staff report assembled a more comprehensive review of challenges facing the U.S. power grid, from cheap natural gas to fast-moving new generating technologies. While electricity networks are performing reliably now, future resilience cannot be taken for granted, DOE said.

Trump administration dismisses climate change advisory panel

CNN | Posted on August 24, 2017

The Trump administration has fired another shot at the scientific community, this time dismantling a federal advisory committee on climate change.Members on the 15-person committee tell CNN they learned the news by email Friday. CNN has obtained a copy of the email sent from acting National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration head Benjamin Friedman."On behalf of the Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), I am writing to inform you that per the terms of the charter the Federal Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment (Committee) will expire on August 20, 2017," the email read. "The Department of Commerce and NOAA appreciate the efforts of the Committee and offer sincere thanks to each of the Committee members for their service."The advisory committee's big work was coming once a congressionally mandated climate report was released; the federal report, required every four years, provides a comprehensive statement from the scientific community on where the nation stands in relation to climate change. The advisory committee would then make recommendations to government agencies based on those findings.The Trump administration's dismissal of the advisory committee on climate change, first reported by The Washington Post, will not affect the completion of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, according to NOAA, which says the report remains a key priority.The White House did not explain the decision to do away with the panel, but told CNN in an email that "the Federal Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment was chartered in 2015 to provide advice on sustained assessment activities and products. Per the terms of the charter, the committee expired on August 20, 2017. The National Climate Assessment 4, which is coming out next year, is not affected by this change."The experts who sat on the now-defunct committee warn that without their advice and guidance, the release of the federal climate report could be the equivalent of a large scientific data dump absent of useful context for a public that lacks scientific expertise."The job of this advisory committee was to help federal agencies, state and local governments and the private sector understand all the science and data behind climate change," said Riley Dunlap, a sociology professor at Oklahoma State University who was one of the experts on the committee.

Brazil approves quota, 20 percent tax on ethanol imports

Reuters | Posted on August 24, 2017

Brazil's government approved taxing ethanol imports for the first time in a move to protect local producers from growing shipments coming from the United States.Brazil's Agriculture Ministry said the country's foreign trade chamber, known as Camex, approved a 20-percent tax on ethanol imports, which would be levied only after a tax-free quota of 600 million liters per year is surpassed.Brazilian ethanol imports reached 1.29 billion liters in the first half of the year alone, a 330 percent increase compared to the same period a year earlier.The move ends an agreement between the world's two largest ethanol producers, Brazil and the United States, to keep global ethanol trade free of taxes to boost the industry.

Sierra Club sues Energy Department over grid study

Washington Examiner | Posted on August 24, 2017

The Sierra Club sued the Energy Department on Monday to release the names of groups and experts that the department consulted while developing a yet-to-be-released study on electric grid reliability. "We want to make sure that when this study is finally released, that the public and policy makers fully understand how it went about doing it, who they were influenced by, and whose views they did not take into consideration," said Casey Roberts, a lawyer with the environmental group. The Sierra Club sued the Energy Department on Monday to release the names of groups and experts that the department consulted while developing a yet-to-be-released study on electric grid reliability."We want to make sure that when this study is finally released, that the public and policy makers fully understand how it went about doing it, who they were influenced by, and whose views they did not take into consideration," said Casey Roberts, a lawyer with the environmental group.

Fracking debate ramps up again in Illinois with first permit application under new rules

Midwest Energy News | Posted on August 21, 2017

Four years ago, the Illinois legislature passed a law to regulate high volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, after months of contentious negotiations between oil industry interests, environmental watchdogs and community groups. Leading up to the law’s passage, companies had secured hundreds of leases to potentially frack in Southern Illinois.But then oil prices dropped, and the eagerness to tap the state’s New Albany Shale faded.This summer, the filing for the first permit under the new rules has reignited debate over fracking in Illinois and concerns over the law’s ability to protect citizens and the environment. Environmental and citizen groups say that this permit will be a test case as to how rigorously the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) will seek to enforce the law.In the spring, the Kansas-based, family-owned company Woolsey Energy filed for a permit to frack in White County in southeastern Illinois. Advocates criticized that permit as incomplete and inconsistent, and the department sent Woolsey back to the drawing board.Woolsey submitted a revised permit application this summer, with the public comment period closing this month. Environmental advocates say the revised permit is still sorely lacking required information, and they are urging the IDNR to reject it.

Missouri regulators deal Grain Belt Express another setback

Midwest Energy News | Posted on August 21, 2017

Even though four of its five members stated unequivocally that a proposed wind energy transmission line would be in the public interest, the Missouri Public Service Commission on Wednesday said it could not grant Clean Line Energy Partners a permit for development of the Grain Belt Express. The commission said it was constrained by a recent state appeals court ruling in a different transmission case.  A lawyer representing clean-energy interests said that another appeal is a near-certainty. Mark Lawlor, Clean Line’s vice president for development, wasn’t quite as definite.“I think it’s sort of placed the burden on Clean Line to go ask the courts to sort this out,” he said. “Because of this legal quagmire, the project can’t move forward. It’s a broken system. It’s a problem for Missouri.”

States Move to Encourage Community Solar

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on August 21, 2017

The number of U.S. homeowners who have their own solar panels has been growing steadily since 2000. But as that market slows, the industry’s focus is shifting to the huge swath of customers who can’t put panels on their own roofs. Among them are renters, people who live in places where installation isn’t allowed or isn’t feasible, and those who simply cannot afford their own panels. For these would-be solar customers, the only option is to draw the power from panels set up elsewhere.Traditional utility companies have until now driven much of the growth in these community solar, or shared solar, efforts. But while states have little control over whether utilities set up shared solar projects, many have been moving to open up the market to enable private companies, nonprofits, homeowners associations and others to develop and run community solar projects.The thorniest question states face, perhaps, is how to value the excess energy that is sold back to utilities — an issue dogging efforts to encourage the use of solar power and incorporate it into the power grid.Fourteen states and Washington, D.C., have laws enabling third-party community solar. And some 90 percent of the explosive growth in the sector in the next five years will take place in five of them that have taken early steps to encourage the industry: Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York, according to GTM Research, which studies solar power and other renewable energy.

Biomass-Based Biodiesel Prices--How Much Does Policy Matter?

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on August 17, 2017

Our analysis suggests that the imposition of an antidumping duty that restricts biomass-based diesel (BBD) imports from Argentina and Indonesia would add about $0.15 per gallon to the average price of BBD in 2018. In addition, an EPA remedy to the court ruling invalidating the interpretation of "inadequate domestic supply" that increased BBD demand by 500 million gallons in 2018 would also add $0.15 to the equilibrium price of BBD. The price impact of each of these policy alternatives is relatively small at about four percent, with a combined impact of about 8.5 percent. While the estimated price impact is modest, it is not economically trivial when applied to 3.5 billion gallons of total BBD consumption. There are two fundamental reasons why the BBD price impacts are rather modest. The first is the flatness of the total supply curve. More technically, the total supply curve is extremely price elastic. With an estimated elasticity of four, only a one percent increase in price is required to increase BBD quantity by four percent. The second reason is that the shift in the total supply curve due to the import restrictions considered here is relatively small.It is important to recognize that our identification and estimation of the supply curves depends entirely on data only from 2016. In addition, results of our analysis would differ if supply curves are non-linear beyond the largest observed annualized values we used in estimating the curves. Our estimates of the price impacts of alternative BBD policies should be considered in light of these potential limitations. Upcoming farmdoc daily articles will examine the potential impact on D4 biodiesel and D6 ethanol RINs prices of restricting BBD imports and increasing RFS requirements. The RINs price implication of converting the blender tax credit to a producer tax credit will also be examined.