Energy News for May 29, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on May 29, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 5/29/2015

By DARIUS DIXON, with help from Alex Guillén and Darren Goode

THIS MORNING — RFS PROPOSAL GIVES CORN ETHANOL 2016 BOOST: EPA is expected to propose this morning that it will raise the 2016 mandate for corn ethanol back to the level Congress prescribed, sources closely following the issue told POLITICO. EPA is expected to issue its proposed mandates under the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2014 through 2016, putting the volume of corn ethanol blended into the gasoline pool at 15 billion gallons for 2016, according to the sources. That figure is the maximum allowed for corn ethanol annually under the law.
At the same time, EPA is expected to propose an overall biofuels volume mandate that falls short of the statutory levels Congress prescribed for all three years. Corn ethanol makes up by far the biggest share of the U.S. biofuels mandates, although the program was designed to include ever higher levels of advanced biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol. By putting the corn ethanol mandate for 2016 at 15 billion gallons or even close to that figure, EPA would be handing a victory to the corn ethanol industry that has been in limbo since an initial EPA proposal for 2014 that fell short of what producers had expected under the law. And it would appear to be a tacit recognition by EPA that cellulosic ethanol is far from reaching the levels that lawmakers had plotted for it years ago. In giving the boost to corn ethanol, EPA is expected to take into account higher projected gasoline consumption and expanded infrastructure for biofuels.

Good timing: Also this morning, the Agriculture Department is expected to announce $100 million in new federal assistance for blender pumps, which the industry has said would help expand the market for corn ethanol.

IT’S ALMOST LIKE HILLARY CAN SEE INTO THE FUTURE: Hillary Clinton decided to weigh in on the RFS yesterday in a Cedar Rapids Gazette op-ed where she said the program is a “powerful tool.” But, she added, “we also can’t ignore significant changes to the energy landscape since the RFS was expanded in 2007. We have to get the RFS back on track in a way that provides investors with the certainty they need, protects consumers, improves access to E15, E85, and biodiesel blends, and effectively drives the development of cellulosic and other advanced biofuels.” As a senator, Clinton voted against creating the RFS in 2005, but she voted in favor of an expansion in 2007. Clinton ended up placing third in the 2008 Iowa caucuses. Read:

Not mentioned in Clinton’s piece: Ethanol.

Duckworth to McCarthy: Strong RFS helps the troops: Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth, who is running for Illinois’s Senate seat, wins the Eleventh Hour Award for her Thursday RFS letter to EPA chief Gina McCarthy. Duckworth wrote that while serving in Iraq, “I saw firsthand the painful price our country pays because of our dependence on foreign oil. My fellow troops risked life and limb for this precious battlefield resource. … I am concerned that weakened Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) under the RFS will leave America less secure and more dependent on foreign oil imports.” Read:

HAPPY FRIDAY! I’m Darius Dixon and many of you know that your host is a huge fan of the Periodic Table of Elements. Some of you have seen my PT tie, but we also have a PT shower curtain and mini-ME has PT building blocks. It’s the Enigma machine to the universe! But for all my heartthrob I’ve never been able to pick a single element as my favorite. I feel like my nerd-esteem is at stake. Send your energy tips to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

** A message from Fuels America: The EPA has a choice: Oil industry profits, or rural economies and American innovation? Congress designed the Renewable Fuel Standard to offer certainty to investors and employers. If the EPA caves to oil lobbyists, billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs will be threatened: **

THE GREEN MOVEMENT IS IN SEARCH OF MORE BROWN: The Sierra Club, the nation’s biggest environmental group, is out to prove that the green movement isn’t just for well-off white people, Pro’s Andrew Restuccia reports. Its board condemned racial profiling in Ferguson. Environmental justice has become one of its core campaigns. And the 123-year-old organization recently elected Aaron Mair to be its first black president. That’s a major shift for a political and social movement long viewed as the domain of affluent white activists, and it’s been decades in the making. Critics say the green movement still has a lot to prove, especially after years of focusing on broad, national campaigns, rather than local pollution and health issues facing lower-income minority communities.

This brought up some old — and not-so-old — memories of New York City life: “If a waste incinerator or sewage treatment plant isn’t good in a wealthy area, then we must agree that it’s not good in any area,” Mair said.

Ex-POLITICO Talia Buford took a crack at this issue many moons ago as well:

McCARTHY: THIS IS OUR PLANET’S ‘BOSTON HARBOR’ MOMENT: EPA chief Gina McCarthy is giving the keynote address to roughly 4,000 graduates at the University of Massachusetts Boston commencement today, and you know she never misses an opportunity to talk about climate change. After telling graduates about having a commitment to public service and urging them to be ready for life’s curveballs, she plans to call for being politically and socially active on issues like climate change: “The beautiful thing about EPA — is that we are the proud result of democracy in action,” McCarthy plans to say, according excerpts of her prepared remarks. “We were born from popular pressure — we were an answer to millions of voices calling for landmark laws to secure our right to a healthy environment. And we need your voices today more than ever — because nothing threatens our health, our economy, our safety, and our national security more than the challenge of climate change. We need you to speak up for the science — to shout out the inevitability of a low carbon future, and to embrace the products, technologies, and jobs that will get us there. That’s how we will we bend the challenge of climate change into opportunity for all.”

She adds: “When it comes to combatting climate change — class of 2015 — this is our planet’s ‘Boston harbor’ moment. This is our time to commit to transforming our lives for the better, in ways we can’t yet fathom.”

McCarthy, a UMass Boston alum (’76), will also receive the university’s Chancellor’s Medal. Former Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick will be on hand as well and is receiving an honorary law degree. The ceremony runs from about 9:30 a.m. to roughly 1:30 p.m.

PUTTING ON HIS NEGOTIATOR HAT BACK ON: Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is dashing off to Geneva, Switzerland, again tomorrow to join meetings with Iranian officials aimed curbing that nation’s nuclear weapons program. Secretary of State John Kerry and Wendy Sherman, the undersecretary of State for political affairs, are leading the talks. Moniz will return to D.C. on Sunday and he’s testifying about Obama administration’s Quadrennial Energy Review on Tuesday. The deadline to reach a final deal with Iran or sink the whole ship is June 30. For her part, Sherman plans to leave after that point, according to The New York Times:

IT’S NOT SUPER-ENERGY-RELATED but how often do you see this sort of headline: Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert indicted on federal charges, including lying to FBI. More:

BUT IN THE ‘PREDICTABLE NEWS’ CATEGORY: Wisconsin Governor and likely GOP presidential candidate Scott Walker wrote President Barack Obama recently to detail why he thinks EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas rule for existing power plants is “unworkable” for his state. The rule is “riddled with inaccuracies, questionable assumptions and deficiencies that make the development of a responsible state plan unworkable for Wisconsin,” Walker wrote Obama. Walker said the rule would impose “staggering costs” and that state officials have uncovered several legal concerns. Wisconsin has already joined 13 other states in suing EPA over the proposal, which is expected to go final by August. The letter:

What does EPA think?: “EPA’s Clean Power Plan is built on a time-tested state-federal partnership in the Clean Air Act for EPA to establish public health goals while providing states important flexibility to design plans to meet their individual and unique needs,” agency spokeswoman Liz Purchia said in an email. “EPA is taking into account the unprecedented input we received on the proposed plan, including the 4.3 million comments that were submitted to the agency during the 6-month public comment period.”

MOVING, SHAKING: Kelly Speakes-Backman will join the Alliance to Save Energy as the group’s senior VP of policy and research. Today is her last as a Gov. Martin O’Malley-appointed commissioner to the Maryland Public Service Commission, where she served as the chair of the Board of Directors of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and recently backed the Exelon Corp.-Pepco Holdings Inc. merger proposal. Prior to the PSC, Speakes-Backman served as the clean energy director for the Maryland Energy Administration. She starts with ASE on Monday.

WATCHDOG DINGS DOE ON SPARE PARTS MANAGEMENT: The Energy Department’s inspector general says the agency and its various national labs fall short when it comes to managing spare parts. “Spare parts often were not managed or tracked, and many organizations did not maintain accurate inventory records,” the IG concludes in a new report. Lawrence Livermore National Lab, for example, didn’t have a catalogue of spare parts, while the managing company at the Savannah River Site had a $26 million inventory of spare parts “which had not been used in more than 5 years.” DOE has taken action to correct the situation. The IG report:

This may be one of the most bureaucratic sentences of all time. “Although the Department does not specifically define a spare part, industry defines a spare part as an interchangeable part that is kept in an inventory and used for the repair or replacement of failed components,” the report states.

REALITY VS. EIA: Admit it, we all have a love-hate relationship with the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration. Analysts, journalists and policy wonks all come regularly come knocking on the EIA’s door for their great wealth of data (I’m a regular customer for their state-level power plant records, personally) yet it’s widely known that you have to take their sophisticated projections with a grain of salt. After all, like Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” US News and World Report decided to fire a few rounds at EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook: “EIA outlooks reverberate across the economy and around the globe. And while there’s no way to know just how many millions of dollars have been invested by companies based on the agency’s outlooks, smaller firms looking to make waves in the energy sector may particularly be led astray.”

BROWNBACK SIGNS BILL WATERING DOWN STATE RPS: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill Thursday converting the mandates of the state’s renewable portfolio standard into a “voluntary goal.” But renewable advocates point out that the new law won’t affect clean energy in the state since Kansas has already surpassed its 20 percent renewable electricity by 2020 target, years ahead of schedule. The law takes effect July 1. The bill:

EURO EDITION OF MORNING ENERGY LAUNCHES MONDAY: Our European cousins are launching their morning must-read tipsheet for European energy policy on Monday, which is penned by POLITICO EU’s Kalina Oroschakoff and Sara Stefanini. Every edition of Euro ME is worth 1.09 US ME, so it’s a great deal. Sign up to receive a complimentary trial of the newsletter, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning after 1 a.m. (which is 7 a.m. Brussels time):


— Section of Pipe in California Oil Spill Removed. The Wall Street Journal:

— Senators call Santa Barbara oil spill response ‘insufficient’. The Los Angeles Times:

— Will Homeowners Shell Out Thousands for Super Batteries? The Wall Street Journal:

— Illinois AG accuses Dynegy of electricity market manipulation. St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

— China faces sharp slowdown in natural gas demand. The Globe and Mail:

— Massive statewide solar plan gets Minnesota PUC approval. Pioneer Press:

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