Clean Energy Initiative

World Crude Oil Prices Determine Price of Gasoline, Senator Bingaman Unveils Clean Energy Standard

The Washington Post had a brillant editorial on exactly why gasoline prices are going up.  What editorial writer Charles Lane says is that world crude oil prices determine 76% of per-gallon price of gasoline - a  vast majority - according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.   Those prices have been trending upward for more than a decade, largely because of surging demand in China and other reemerging markets. Gas prices have followed suit.  The Keystone pipeline has absolutely none - no effect on rising gas prices.  Obama made a pitch that a $14 million federal grant to help make fuel from algae. As Lane said, "that particular miracle’s been just around the corner for decades now".

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) unveiled his clean energy standard (CES) toward the end of the week. The CES would require power companies to supply increasing amounts of the nation’s electricity from carbon-free (or at least lower-carbon) sources such as renewables, nuclear and natural gas over time.  In his last two State of the Union speeches, President Obama has advocated for a CES. Senators Wyden, Al Franken and Chris Coons are among the co-sponsors.  Although this is unlikely to pass, it is a good campaign platform to counter Republican plans. 


Energy Price Stand Off, Possible Path for Keystone in New Transportation Bill, Cong Upton faces Election Challenge

You can't miss the jousting over who is to blame for this years jump in gas prices.  Each side has their ideas of what policies the country should be pursuing.  The Republican's blaming of President Obama prompted a high-profile speech saying there are "no silver bullets" to stop price spikes, and dismissing the GOP's favored drill-more approach as a "bumper sticker" rather than a solution. CQ's Geof Koss reports how Both sides are working the message war with hopes of helping swing the presidential election. Some Democratic lawmakers are already urging Obama to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to tamp down prices, while GOP officials are decrying the "Obama premium" in fuel costs and getting public support for approving the Keystone XL pipeline to deliver more Canadian oil.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) will have a stiff primary race on his hands.   He is challenged by Michigan state legislator  Jack Hoogendyk who earned 43% of the vote in the 2010 primary with support of conservative groups including Club for Growth which is already running ads against Upton for being too liberal.  With  $1,709,245 cash on hand and a record of blasting the Administration's energy agenda, Upton will no doubt give him a good race.

Congress may have gotten closer to putting together a short-term highway bill, now that House leaders agreed to drop key parts of the costly five-year plan they were trying to pass. That could be a vehicle for another Keystone measure. The latest idea, still taking shape, is for the House to prep a less-costly, shorter-term transportation bill that moves closer to the two-year, $109 billion plan moving through the Senate. The full House already passed an energy measure that was one part of its highway bill package that includes language to speed a Keystone decision and to allow energy drilling in an Alaskan wildlife refuge and offshore areas now considered off limits. While the Senate is expected to block the drilling provisions, bipartisan support for Keystone has already been shown.

Obama Delivers Major Energy Speech in Miami, Renewable Groups Unite for Grid Design, Gingrich Releases 29 Min Energy Commercial

There is no "silver bullet" to stopping the rise in gasoline prices, President Obama said even as he listed ways his administration is boosting domestic oil output and fostering efficiency and alternative fuel programs.  His speech, at the University of Miami in Florida, is at a time when fast-rising pump prices for gasoline and diesel are ratcheting up household expenses a lot like last year. 

President Obama said this year's oil price spike is largely driven by concerns over Iran, which at times has threatened to close the Persian Gulf to oil tanker traffic and is in a tense standoff with industrial nations over their sanctions of its oil sales and its suspected nuclear weapons program. Longer-term, he said fuel prices will keep rising as China, India and Brazil continue their fast growth in autos and fuel use.

At the same time, Obama said with rising gas prices "we’re experiencing yet another painful reminder of why developing new energy is so critical to our future," and cited administration efforts to sharply boost vehicle fuel efficiency and develop algae-based fuels. The White House posted two fact sheets on energy issues in connection with this speech.

The first in a series of forums to outline a viable business model for U.S. renewable electricity in the 21st century took place yesterday. The California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF), which creates innovative financial products for the clean energy economy, the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) are lead organizers of the event.

"This is the first time top leaders from the utility and renewables industries have met to hammer out an executable plan to boost renewable energy integration nationwide," said Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, president of ACORE. "Everyone in the forum wants more renewables, but we may not all be aligned on how to get to that shared goal. This year's forums aim to reach that alignment so utilities and renewable energy companies can strike forward most effectively."

Republican Presidential hopeful, Newt Gingrich has released a full 29 minute energy commercial on his views on how to craft a better energy policy.  “I know that we can do better,” Gingrich says. “And I know that if we open up American energy, think about the things that happen simultaneously. We get a lot more jobs, that is, people that come off of unemployment … And they go to work taking care of their family and paying taxes. So government revenue goes up, government expenses go down.”


Top Democrats Weigh in on Rising Gas Prices, Senate Energy Committee to Hold Hearing on DOE Loan Guarantee Program

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said unscrupulous Wall Street investors have artificially inflated prices at the pump, which are climbing toward $4 per gallon.  Pelosi states that that "wall street profiteering, not oil shortages, is the cause of the price spike" and called on Congress to take "strong action" to rein in the allegedly excessive speculation.

President Obama will address this very issue today at a high-stakes address at the University of Miami.  The speech will tout his Administration's efforts to expand oil and gas production while also speaking to the need for fuel-efficiency and investments in alternative energy. President will  also concede that there's little to nothing he can do right now to stem the current rise. 

NDN President Simon Rosenberg has an interesting take on the rising gas prices by linking this to the larger issue of middle eastern policy and the economy.  

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold an oversight hearing on the Energy Department's Loan Guarantee Program. Republican Lisa Murkowsk stated  "I believe there is a role for the federal government in developing new energy technologies, but I've come to believe that there are clearly implementation flaws in the loan program that must be addressed." The hearing is scheduled for March 13.

Boehner Politicizes Rising Gas Prices, Gridwise Releases Report on Grid, Obama Heads to Florida to Tout Energy Plan

Republicans are using the rising gas prices and their threat to economic momentum to hound President Obama for his energy policies and to build support for their proposals to force open more areas to oil and gas development. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, flagged the issue Tuesday on Twitter.  "Economists warn rising gas prices threaten economy; Senate Dems must act on House-passed #americanenergy bills," he said in t reference to the energy piece (HR 3408) of the House highway bill (HR 7) that the chamber passed last week. The House energy provisions would open more offshore areas and part of an Alaskan wildlife refuge to drilling, and speed up approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The GridWise® Alliance, released a report detailing the current state of the nation's power grid and quantifying the benefits of a modernized electric system. The report is designed to provide federal and state regulators with concrete examples of demonstrated benefits of grid modernization projects as they contemplate their own optimization initiatives. "Realizing the Value of an Optimized Electric Grid", is written by Quanta Technology identifies direct benefits to grid operations in five separate categories including:  Grid Reliability and Security;   Customer Energy Management Opportunity;  Asset and Resource Optimization;  Health, Safety, and Environment; and   Productivity and Economic Growth.

President Obama heads to Florida on Thursday to tout his energy plan, building off his State of the Union message to push the elimination of oil and gas subsidies, the adoption of a federal clean energy standard and an "all of the above" approach to energy development.

Majority Leader Reid pushes Administration for Recess Appts, Energy Budget Dissected in CQ, Apples Plans Huge Solar Facility

With Senate Republicans bottling up scores of President Obama's nominees for federal office, including some in the Energy Department, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., says he may ask the president to simply use his recess power to appoint all of them. The DOE slots are held up in a dispute between Rand Paul, R-Ky., and the Energy Department over enriching uranium at a Paducah, Ky., facility that he says is in danger of losing 1,200 jobs. Reid wants the Senate to move the nominees soon. 

Geof Koss in CQ Weekly looks at how President Obama's 2013 budget request aims for bigger investments in energy conservation and efficiency programs, to try to get the country saving more and wasting less of the coal, nuclear, natural gas and alternative-power sources it already taps. Energy Secretary Steven Chu says this is "in the sweet spot of how we can help the U.S. economy create jobs and make us much more competitive," without always trying to just build more power plants and power lines. While much of the budget saw cuts or small gains, Obama proposed a 3.2 percent overall hike for the DOE. 

Apple plans to build to America's largest privately owned solar facility, according to the company's 2012 facilities report.  Improvements to the massive data center in Maiden, N.C., which was commissioned by Apple in 2011, will include the 100 acre solar farm, green building design and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

House Approves Energy Bill, Groups Oppose NRC Approval of Nuke Plant, AWEA Continues Push for PTC


On a party line vote of 237 - 187, the Republican controlled House voted Thursday to pass an energy bill that seeks to encourage oil shale development, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and offshore drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as force approval of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and other groups that oppose nuclear power are asking a federal court to overturn the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s recent decision to approve utility giant Southern Co.’s plan to build two new reactors at a nuclear plant in Georgia.  Activists, in the challenges filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, are also asking the court to review the NRC’s approval of the design for the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor that will be used in the project.  Opponents of the project say the NRC issued a license to build and operate the new reactors — the first time the NRC has approved construction of a new reactor since 1978 — without considering lessons learned from the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.

The wind industry was disappointed that the production tax credit didn't land an extension in the payroll package. The payroll compromise is a good sign that the PTC could find reprieve soon, American Wind Energy Association CEO Denise Bode said. "The broad base of support for wind energy positions us well to get the PTC extended at the next possible opportunity," she said. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) added that "not having the extenders in here means we have another must-pass" bill.

Happy Birthday to the Energy and Commerce's Solyndra Investigation which is one year old today.  


Transportation Bill Vote Postponed, Business Coalition wants GHG Standards, Secy Chu to tout Nuclear Power

Speaker Boehner postponed a vote on the Transportation bill, which has also become a semi energy bill. Sensing that the bill would have a tough road ahead - the House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned lawmakers in a closed-door meeting that the highway bill has less GOP support than last summer's debt-limit package - the Speaker said "it is more important that we do it right".

A coalition of business groups wants the Obama Administration to get moving on greenhouse gas standards for new power plants. "Derailing or delaying such standards leads to increased uncertainty and undermines the potential for capital investment and economic growth, weakening the opportunity presented to U.S. businesses by the growing $243 billion global clean energy market," the American Sustainable Business Council, Ceres, Main Street Alliance, environmental Entrepreuners and Small Business Alliance stated in a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget. 

Energy Secretary Steven Chu will tout the Obama administration’s support for nuclear energy Wednesday at a Georgia power plant whose owner recently won approval to build the first new U.S. reactors in more than 30 years.  Chu will tour the Vogtle nuclear power plant near Waynesboro, Ga., and “highlight steps the Obama Administration is taking to restart America’s nuclear energy industry,” according to the Energy Department. The visit comes a week after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a license allowing for the construction and conditional operation of two new nuclear reactors at the site. It’s the first time the commission greenlighted construction for a new reactor since 1978.  Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Southern Co won conditional approval in 2010 for an $8.3 billion Energy Department loan guarantee to help build the new reactors. Chu signaled Monday that he expects the department to soon finalize the loan guarantee.

Administration Boosts Renewable Spending, Defense Dept Invests in Energy Conservation, BLM Asks Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracking

The Obama Administration  wants to boost spending sharply for renewable and clean energy programs, which are tagged for a 29 percent hike in an overall Energy Department budget increase of 3.2 percent. A $527 million increase for energy efficiency and renewables is second only to a $536 million proposed hike in DOE's nuclear weapons management. On the tax side, Obama wants to strip away $4 billion a year in oil, gas and coal subsidies — opponents say that's a tax hike that consumers will feel — while restoring clean energy and conservation credits.

Perhaps the single-largest new investment in an energy program would come from the Defense Department. Deep in its weapons and force structure documents Defense says it wants to boost energy conservation spending to $1 billion next year from $400 million this year.  That $600 million boost could help build more solar, wind and geothermal facilities on bases to cut dependence on area electrical power, and increase research on how to power deployed units so they don't rely as much on fuel truck resupply convoys. It could aid the current testing of biodiesel fuels to displace some oil fuels used by military ships and planes. 

The Houston Chronicle obtained a Leaked Draft of BLM Proposal to Require Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids Used on Federal Lands.  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is responsible for administering Federal lands spanning approximately one-eighth of the country’s land area, is preparing a proposed rule that would establish certain disclosure and well testing requirements for hydraulic fracturing operations taking place on BLM lands.  Among other things, the current draft of the proposed rule would require operators of hydraulically fractured wells to disclose all chemical constituents of drilling fluid used for hydraulic fracturing; perform mechanical integrity tests of all well casings; and submit plans for handling and disposing of drilling fluids recovered from wells.   

President's Budget Dominates the Week, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping will visit the U.S. this week

The President's Budget dominates the news this week.  President Obama is not going to  back off his green energy agenda despite constant Republican attacks. DOE's total resources would grow by about $1.4 billion, a 5.6 percent increase.  This increase  reflects a $522 million, or 29 percent, increase for renewable energy sources and an additional $174 million for a revamped industrial technology-advanced manufacturing program.  This includes research areas of hydraulic fracturing safety in conjunction with the EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey.  Interior stays the same as last year, but last year Interior saw significant increases for its new organization and permit processing that was supported by both parties.  Both EPA and USDA farm subsidies will see significant cuts.  EPA gets hit by 1.2% dropping to $8.3B with once again seeing most of the cut in the state water revolving fund.  Hearings begin on Wednesday and will continue for two months. 

Interior at House Resources - Secretary Salazar Wednesday at 10am

DOE at Senate Energy – Secretary  Chu, Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

Interior at House Approps panel on Interior and Environment - Secretary Salazar ,Thursday at 1:30

OSTP at House Science – White House OSTP Director John Holdren, Friday at 9:30 a.m.

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping will visit the U.S. this week.  The timing of this visit is somewhat volatile as the two countries sit on the verge of a clean-tech trade war. Officials say the visit is intended to help Xi build relationships - not conduct business on behalf of China - The Department of Commerce's decision on imposing tariffs on Chinese solar panels could be an elephant in the room.

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