Energy News for February 27, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on February 27, 2015

POLICICO Morning Energy for 2/27/2015

By Darius Dixon, with help from Erica Martinson and Alex Guillén

DEMS’ CLIMATE PROBE BRINGS ‘WITCH HUNT’ TURNABOUT: Now conservatives are the ones complaining about being the victims in a politically motivated “war on science.” In a turnabout from years of debate about intrusion into scientific research, Democratic lawmakers launched investigations this week into the funding sources of several scientists whose work is popular with skeptics of manmade climate change. And that’s bringing a furious counterattack from right-wing pundits – including some who cheered on a past probe by former Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli into a leading scientist whose research pointed to man-made causes of climate change.

Democrats are undeterred, saying the two cases are in no way comparable. They note that a strong majority of climate scientists say climate change is real, is primarily driven by human-caused greenhouse gas pollution and poses a threat to civilization. Unlike Cuccinelli, who sought the documents under Virginia’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, Rep. Raúl Grijalva and the other Democratic lawmakers don’t have subpoena power to back up their requests. But the Democrats are citing a motivation similar to what Cuccinelli had offered: protecting taxpayers from policy influenced by bad science. Alex Guillén tells you where things stand:

You didn’t ask ME but I just have to know. How many of you had actually heard of Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon before the stories about his fossil fuel funding last weekend? It seems like he’s reached celebrity status pretty quick.

MANN-SPLAINING THE GLOBAL WARMING SLOWDOWN: A trio of climate scientists has pointed to the Pacific Ocean as a major culprit behind the slowing rate of average global temperature increases over the past decade. Climate skeptics have seized on slowdown as proof that there is a big disconnect between human activity and global warming. But a paper in Science co-authored by Penn State University climate scientist Michael Mann found that while decades-long and mismatched heating and cooling cycles of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans have often canceled each other out, Pacific Ocean cooling has been greater than that of Atlantic Ocean warming. Mann and his colleagues said that Pacific Ocean temperatures have “likely offset anthropogenic warming over the past decade.” But using more than 100 years of ocean temperature data, the paper concludes that given “the pattern of past historical variation, this trend will likely reverse…adding to anthropogenic warming in the coming decades.” In effect, if the two ocean cycles add to one another, the combination could stack on top of future human-driven warming trends.

It’s important to emphasize this: Average global temperatures have not declined. Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that not only have nine of the 10 warmest years on record occurred in the 21st century but that 2014 was the warmest since record-keeping began in the 19th century. What has dipped over the last decade is just how fast temperatures are increasing. Okay. Got it? Science (those without subscriptions can only read the abstract):

SEN. INHOFE AND HIS LITTLE WINTRY FRIEND: Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe caused a ruckus yesterday when he chucked a snowball at a page on the Senate floor. The snowball, he said, demonstrated that it was really cold outside, underscoring his claim that global warming is a hoax. POLITICO’s Manu Raju posted a one-minute clip of the C-SPAN feed: Well, as expected, social media went nuts.

The Pro Energy team’s Elana Schor (who wrote a quick story: and editor Bob King conspired to make a meme that married Inhofe’s snowball with the nation’s new favorite four-legged friends:

And Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann tweeted:“Interesting insight into @jiminhofe thinking process today: winter -> snow -> snowballs therefore, snowballs -> GLOBE CANNOT BE WARMING!!!”

AWWW YEAH, IT’S FRIDAY! I’m Darius Dixon, and unlike 85 percent of people in the D.C. area, I will not be binge-watching the new season of “House of Cards” this weekend. I know, sacrilege! While I love the gritty sausage-making politics of the show – not a surprise for a POLITICO reporter – the sour taste of how the Zoe Barnes’ character portrayed women reporters just won’t stop assaulting my taste buds. Season 2 satisfied an important milestone but my momentum waned by then and I stalled out halfway through. I’ll get around to it at some point.

Send your energy commentary, news, scoops and tips, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

FOR THE LOCALS: Metro board says no fare increases or major service cuts next fiscal year:

** A message from the National Biodiesel Board: America’s first commercially produced advanced biofuel, biodiesel, is here, now – growing and diversifying our transportation energy portfolio. In fact, biodiesel producers have delivered more than a billion gallons of advanced biofuel three years running. Learn more today **

WARREN’S NEXT TARGET: TRADE DEALS: Elizabeth Warren is gearing up for another big fight with the Obama administration, this time over trade, reports Morning Money’s Ben White. The Massachusetts senator is stepping up her criticism of the administration’s proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, a centerpiece of the president’s second term agenda, saying it could allow multinational corporations to gut U.S. regulations and win big settlements funded by U.S. taxpayers but decided by an international tribunal.

“This deal would give protections to international corporations that are not available to United States environmental and labor groups,” Warren said in an interview with POLITICO. “Multinational corporations are increasingly realizing this is an opportunity to gut U.S. regulations they don’t like.”

Ilana Solomon, director for The Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program: “If you are on the side of helping the environment and working families and taking a stand against corporate power, you have to be against fast-track and TPP as well.” Ben has more:

HEY BUDDY, MITTS OFF THE MOUNTAIN: The three top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee got wind that officials from the Energy Department and the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency visited Yucca Mountain and they’re demanding answers about the trip. According to E&C Chairman Fred Upton and Reps. John Shimkus and Tim Murphy, the two agencies “have discussed the possibility of conducting activities at or near” the now-defunct nuclear waste collection project. The lawmakers are concerned about anything that might create new hurdles for the site, if they’re ever able to pull it out from underneath the foot of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and face down President Barack Obama over its funding. While the letter might look like an overreaction by the GOP, Yucca’s supporters have also had to fight to insert “do no harm” language into appropriations bills for years to protect what little is left there. Lawmakers want Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to supply details on any activities “proposed, planned, conducted, or facilitated” near Yucca Mountain by March 11 (h/t Greenwire’s Hanna Northey). The letter:

The award for Most Unequivocal Statement goes to DTRA spokesman Dan Gaffney, who wrote ME: “DTRA has not and will not be doing any testing at the Yucca Mountain site. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) has never used the Yucca Mountain site for any testing activity and we have no plans to do so in the future.” DOE wouldn’t comment.

READER HOMEWORK: Dear Reader, I know you all live interesting lives – which, no doubt, starts with reading ME every weekday! – so I’d like to know what under-covered energy issue is roiling your state legislature or being kicked around by your governor. Thanks!

ILLINOIS MAKES CRITICAL MOVE: Legislation designed to protect three money-losing nuclear power plants owned by Exelon Corp. in Illinois were introduced into the state legislature yesterday, the Quad-City Business Journal reports. Critics say the measure, which would require utilities use low-carbon sources like nuclear, solar, wind and clean coal for 70 percent of their power, could cost consumers up to $300 million a year. For its part, Exelon says the ultimate cost to individuals would be about two dollars per month. . Of any state that would take action to protect its nuclear plants, Illinois should be the least surprising. It’s the leading state in nuclear-generated electricity and last year Exelon chief Chris Crane said that his company would wait until this summer to decide whether it would steer the economically troubled plants towards shutdown unless “we can see progress.” Exelon recently made a surcharge deal with Rochester Gas & Electric in upstate New York, throwing a financial lifeline to its Ginna nuclear plant in the area.

NEW CONGRESS, SAME OL’ NOMS: Obama resubmitted his nomination for Suzette Kimball to lead the U.S. Geological Survey last night. She’s been acting director for more than two years when Marcia McNutt, who is now editor-in-chief of Science, resigned.

NEXT WEEK’S SERVE: Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will be back on Capitol Hill at least twice next week – the Senate Appropriations Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee. EPA chief Gina McCarthy will go head to head with Inhofe’s Environment and Public Works Committee. And, interestingly, the four sitting commission members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will sit before Senate Appropriations for the first time that I can remember.

CONSUMER PRICES DROP ON GASOLINE: The Wall Street Journal: “The U.S. in January saw its first dip in overall consumer prices in more than five years. But the economy is far from the precipice of debilitating Japanese-style deflation. Driven by a tumble in oil prices since mid-2014, the consumer-price index fell 0.1% in January from a year earlier, the Labor Department said.” It was the first year-over-year decrease since October 2009. Prices fell 0.7 percent from December. “In the U.S., falling consumer prices can be pinpointed to a single sector: energy. Energy costs fell almost 20% over the past year, and gasoline prices alone fell by more than a third.”


Senate bill would look to install crude oil pipeline across Washington state. Bellingham Herald:

– Federal workers caught stealing gas with taxpayer money. The Washington Post:

– Out of the limelight, CPAC panels work the details of stopping Obama’s EPA. McClatchy:

– Biofuels leaders respond to attack on renewable fuels. Letter to Obama:

– EPA: Methane Emissions from Natural Gas Production Fell 35% Since 2007. Industry blog, Energy in Depth:

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