Sunday, February 12, 2017
Trump's election and the impact on New England's energy industry
President Trump promises to bring big changes to how and where we get our energy, driven in part by his fossil fuel fandom and a self-professed skepticism about man-made climate change.
But figuring out the long-term impact on New England's energy industries is complicated, especially with Trump's team still being assembled. He has picked leaders for several key agencies. Most notably, former Exxon Mobil chief executive Rex Tillerson is now secretary of state, and former Texas governor Rick Perry has been chosen to run the Department of Energy. But the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, down to two of five members as of last Friday, lacks a quorum. That means it can't make major decisions until Trump appoints at least one new commissioner.
Regardless of what happens in Washington, Massachusetts and nearby states will be able to keep advancing several significant energy policies unimpeded. The region already has aggressive greenhouse gas controls that will be in place even after the Clean Power Plan - an Obama administration creation aimed at curbing power plant emissions - goes away as expected under Trump's Environmental Protection Agency. Also, Massachusetts' plans to tap into huge amounts of hydropower in Canada and offshore wind power south of Martha's Vineyard are moving ahead.
But even with those programs in place, there's plenty of uncertainty about the impact the change in administration will have on the energy sector here.
Research and startups
Experts say the greatest local impact could be felt among the Boston area's universities and early-stage clean-tech firms. The millions of dollars that the federal government spends annually on research grants could be a prime Trump target. At particular risk is the ARPA-E grant program, which funds high-tech energy research and is administered by the Department of Energy. Massachusetts has been the second largest recipient of ARPA-E funds after California, with more than $150 million flowing to the state since the program's inception in 2009.
Trump is fond of coal. New England power generators, not so much. Only about 1 percent of the regions's electricity still comes from coal. Brayton Point, Massachusetts' last coal-fired power plant, is closing in June. Trump's election isn't going to change that. Connecticut's final coal plant is scheduled to be converted to natural gas, and Eversource is selling two coal-run plants in New Hampshire that face an uncertain future. Environmental rules have played a role in coal's demise, but the competition from cheap natural gas is the primary reason it's no longer in demand here.
A proliferation of natural gas power plants in New England helped keep a damper on energy prices, but the plants also created a new set of issues. Most notably, the region's constrained pipeline system is creeping closer to its cold-weather capacity. That's why pipeline operator Spectra Energy teamed up with utilities Eversource and National Grid for a massive - and controversial - expansion project known as Access Northeast. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has shown a willingness to approve large pipeline projects in the face of local opposition; witness last month's approval of another Spectra project that included a much-maligned Weymouth compressor facility that will help regulate the flow of gas in the area. Jim Grasso, a government relations consultant who works with energy-industry clients, says Access Northeast is more likely to materialize under a Trump presidency than it would have been if Hillary Clinton had won the election.
But the biggest hurdle Access Northeast faces isn't getting permits - it's the project's $3 billion-plus price tag. And it's not clear if Trump can help with financing. Efforts to pass on the costs to electricity ratepayers last year met resistance from the state Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled against the idea, and later from regulators in other New England states.
State officials are moving ahead with a bidding process for "clean energy" contracts aimed at prompting at least one major new power line to be built that will bring Canadian hydropower into southern New England.
Eversource spokeswoman Caroline Pretyman says the Department of Energy is weighing its request for a permit for the company's Northern Pass project in New Hampshire that would allow the power line to cross the border into Canada. The federal agency will make a recommendation, she said, but ultimately, the decision would be Trump's. (New Hampshire officials also will have a say.) Energy experts predict Trump would be predisposed to approve such a project, despite the fact the power would come from a foreign source. A similar transmission line, one that would connect Canadian hydropower to the New York City area, was included on a recent list of infrastructure priorities reportedly circulated by the Trump transition team.
Congress in late 2015 extended the life of a federal tax credit program that many solar developers use to finance projects, but it's scheduled to be phased out over the next several years.
Some clean-energy experts fear the tax credit could get jettisoned amid the wholesale restructuring of the government's tax codes envisioned under Trump's leadership and the Republican-controlled Congress. Others say they would be surprised if Congress revisited energy tax credits so soon after extending them.
Meanwhile, state officials control two other types of incentives for solar developers, and those are likely to be slowly pared. At the same time, however, the state's legal requirements for utilities to purchase certain amounts of renewable power will continue to grow each year, regardless of who is in the White House.
As with solar projects, wind farm developers often bank on a set of federal tax credits that Congress extended in late 2015. It's possible these incentives could come under scrutiny as part of a Trump tax overhaul. He's been critical of the wind power industry's subsidies. But like solar developers, wind farm developers will continue to benefit from the state's steadily increasing requirements for renewable energy purchases. The state has a law on the books that allows for up to 1,600 megawatts in long-term contracts with future offshore wind farms - that's roughly enough power for more than 600,000 homes.
Those wind farms would be built in federal waters, and three developers - including one with ties to investment bank Goldman Sachs, and another owned by private equity giant Blackstone Group - already have secured lease rights. It's possible that the Trump administration could slow the progress of any projects because they come under federal jurisdiction. But that would also irritate the Wall Street types that have invested in these projects.
Dakota Access Pipeline Easement Marks a New Day for US Energy
The final easement granted on Wednesday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete the Dakota Access pipeline project sent a clear signal to our nation: Infrastructure development is once again a priority.
Last November, America chose a president who campaigned on rebuilding America's infrastructure, encouraging energy development, and championing job creation. Now, only weeks into his administration, President Donald Trump's actions have matched his campaign promises.
Four days after his inauguration, the president signed an executive order for expedited approval of the Dakota Access pipeline easement. Two weeks later, the easement has been granted.
This stands in stark contrast to the actions of President Barack Obama, whose disregard for the rule of law last fall halted the completion of the legally permitted Dakota Access pipeline.
This sent a chilling message to the private industries that finance, develop, and complete all required regulatory reviews to build roads, bridges, transmission lines, pipelines, wind farms, and water lines.
The message was that when top government officials and lawless mobs decide to obstruct a legally permitted pipeline project that is more than 90 percent complete, no infrastructure project is safe.
Few people outside North Dakota can comprehend the chaos this conflict brought to my state. It became a cause c‚lŠbre, bringing thousands of political activists, anti-oil extremists, and movie stars to an area south of Bismarck where they illegally camped on federal land.
These protestors damaged bridges and construction equipment, burned tires, threatened law enforcement and area residents, and blocked progress on the pipeline's construction.
Except for a few hundred still in the area, these protesters are mostly gone.
Yet today, the nearby Standing Rock Sioux members and state and county crews are feverishly cleaning up the mess of personal belongings, trash, and human waste they left behind-an estimated 250 truckloads that must be hauled to the Bismarck landfill.
They are hoping to beat next month's spring thaw on the floodplain where they camped, so that the trash left behind by these "water protectors" doesn't pollute the Missouri River.
There is a poignant and absurd irony about this situation. Those claiming to be the true protectors of land and water turned out to be the only threat to the environment.
With the easement to finish the Dakota Access pipeline now granted, it's time to get to work and finish this $3.7 billion private project that will deliver as many as 570,000 barrels of oil a day from northwestern North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to connect to existing pipelines in Illinois.
This important piece of energy infrastructure will enhance America's energy security and put Americans back to work.
I am grateful for the president's commitment to projects like this that are so vital to our nation.
It sends a strong signal of a new era of cooperation between the federal government and private businesses that are committed to moving our nation forward with new critical infrastructure creating greater job opportunities for Americans.
Being anti-energy is being anti-humanity
The IPCC wants the world to stop using coal, oil and natural gas -- and a dramatically lower world population
Everything you need to know about how perverse and dangerous the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is, is summed up in its latest report. Released on November 2, it issued the same tired, old and untrue claims of "severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems."
The IPCC wants the world to stop using coal, oil and natural gas, saying that they must be "phased out almost entirely" by the end of the century. The report reeks of their contempt for humanity.
Losing electricity, no matter where you live, is losing every technology that enhances and preserves your life. You lose the ability to cool or warm your home, apartment, or workplace. You lose the ability to keep food safe in your refrigerator and freezer. You most certainly lose the lighting. You lose the ability to turn on your computer or television. Indeed, to use everything you take for granted.
Since the discovery and generation of energy with coal, oil, and natural gas, generations have lived lives not only different from all who preceded them, but better in so many ways, not the least of which is extended life expectancy. Nations with energy are places where people live longer, healthier lives. They are also wealthier nations where the energy translates into industry, jobs, transportation, and all the other attributes of modern life.
Although we usually don't associate energy with morality, Alex Epstein has. His book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels ($27.95, Portfolio, an imprint of the Penguin Cover - Moral Case for Fossil FuelsGroup), is the finest case for the role coal, oil and natural gas has played in our lives and the positive, emancipating impact they have had on humanity. Everyone should read it.
"I hold human life as the standard of value," says Epstein. "I think that our fossil fuel use so far has been a moral choice because it has enabled billions of people to live longer and more fulfilling lives, and I think the cuts proposed by the environmentalists in the 1970s were wrong because of all the death and suffering they would have inflicted on human beings."
"Eighty-seven percent of the energy mankind uses every second comes from burning one of the fossil fuels: coal, oil or natural gas." That has not stopped environmentalists from denouncing coal and oil as "dirty" or because their use generates carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. What they never tell you is how small those emissions are and that they play an infinitesimal role to influence the Earth's weather or climate. They never tell you that the Earth has centuries more of untapped reserves. The modern world could not exist without them.
"In the last 80 years, as CO2 emissions have most rapidly escalated, the annual rate of climate-related deaths worldwide fell by an incredible rate of 98%. That means the incidence of death from climate is 50 times lower than it was 80 years ago."
Epstein points to "the power of fossil-fueled machines to build a durable civilization that is highly resilient to extreme heat, extreme cold, floods, storms, and so on" to demonstrate the foolishness of those who oppose their use. Primary among them is the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. As part of its 40th session, in early November the IPCC adopted the final "synthesis" report of its Fifth Assessment Report. This full-scale update calls for the reduction of energy worldwide. They base this on the claim that "human influence on the climate system is clear."
CFACT NY air banner no global warming 17 years yIt is not clear. Despite the CO2 emissions, the Earth has been in a cooling cycle for the last 19 years, during the same time the IPCC's "climate experts" and others were telling us the Earth was going to become dangerously warm.
Epstein reminds us that, "In 1972, the international think tank, the Club of Rome, released a multimillion-copy-selling book, The Limits of Growth, which declared that its state of the art computer models had demonstrated that we would run out of oil by 1992 and natural gas by 1993 (and, for good measure, gold, mercury, silver, tin, zinc, and lead by 1993 at the latest.)
It is essential to understand that every one of the "global warming" predictions made in the 1980s and the decades since then has been WRONG. Every one of the computer models on which those predictions were based was WRONG.
A younger generation graduating from high school this year has never spent a day when the overall temperature of the Earth was warming. The Earth's natural cooling cycle is based on a natural low cycle of solar radiation. The Sun is generating less heat. Indeed, the Earth is nearing the end of the Holocene cycle, one of warmth for the past ten thousand or more years that has given rise to human civilization.
Epstein's book is more than just philosophical opinion. It is based on documented facts regarding fossil fuel use. At one point he quotes Paul Ehrlich who, in his 1968 Ehrlich book, The Population Bomb, declared that "the battle to feed humanity is over." Epstein notes that in 1968 the world's population was 3.6 billion people. "Since then it has doubled, yet the average person is better fed than he was in 1968. This seeming miracle was due to a combination of the fossil fuel industry and genetic science." Farming today is mechanized and that requires fuel!
The claims that Epstein debunks are accompanied by the fundamental truths about fossil fuel use and science. His book, comprehensible to anyone whether they have any knowledge of science or not, should be on everyone's reading list.
At the heart of environmentalism and its "save the Earth" agenda is the reduction, if not the elimination, of humans from planet Earth.
Poland To Take EU To Court Over Global Warming Rules
Poland threatened to sue the European Union (EU) over its global warming regulations, according to documents seen by Reuters.
An EU deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030, fulfilling its pledge to the United Nations, poses problems for EU member-state Poland. Reducing emissions may harm Poland's coal industry - a critical industry for the country.
Poland is challenging the legal basis for the EU's global warming rules, and is determined to bring the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), though an unnamed source doesn't think Poland will go that far.
"[T]o challenge the legal basis (of EU climate policy) is extreme even for Poland," an anonymous EU official told Reuters.
EU global warming rules require unanimous consent from all 28 member-nations, meaning that Poland could block them. Poland repeatedly opposed EU measures to combat global warming and has fought the bloc on coal subsidies.
If passed, the EU resolution mandates that 15 percent of Poland's energy come from "green" sources by 2020. Poland presently generates nearly 90 percent of its electricity from coal power, making it the second largest coal consumer in Europe. Green energy accounts for less than 5 percent of energy production in 2012.
Poland is currently governed by the conservative and anti-EU Law & Justice party, the first political party to win enough seats in parliament to govern alone since the Soviet Union collapsed. Poland does not have a single member of a left-wing party in parliament.
Law & Justice generally opposes wind and solar energy and favors an energy policy that emphasizes tariffs targeted at Russian natural gas. It has even advocated for a moratorium on the construction of new wind power turbines and supports dismantling of any wind plant within three kilometers of a residential area.
Environmental groups like Greenpeace have repeatedly criticized Law & Justices energy policy ideas, claiming that the country's CO2 emission reductions are insufficiently ambitious.
The EU has committed by 2030 to reduce its carbon emissions by 40 percent and increase "green" energy production to 27 percent of energy consumption. Due to these mandates, the cost of electricity for the average European is 57 percent higher than the cost of electricity for the average Pole. Both the United States and Poland pay about the same amount for electricity.
Australia: Perth has second-wettest day ever
One recollects prominent Australian Warmist Tim Flannery predicting that Perth would become a ghost town because its rains will dry up. He hasn't got a clue about climate. He is a palaeontologist who knows a lot about ancient kangaroos but not much else. He's just another Green/Left propagandist and false prophet
Perth has come close to having its wettest-ever day as heavy rain in WA's southwest caused flash flooding and left more than 9000 properties without power.
Perth had more than 114mm of rain in the 24 hours to Friday morning, which is slightly shy of the record 120.6mm that fell on February 9, 1992.
The unseasonal weather also resulted in the city reaching only 17.4C on Thursday, making it Perth's coldest February day ever.
A Western Power spokesman there 2900 homes were still without electricity on Friday morning.
Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Catherine Schelfhout said there would be risks of flooding in the upper Swan River in coming days.
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Posted by JR at 1:36 AM