The Singapore-flagged tanker BW Zambesi set sail with little fanfare from the port of Galveston, Tex., on July 30, loaded with crude oil destined for South Korea. But though it left inauspiciously, the ship’s launch was another critical turning point in what has been a half-decade of tectonic change for the American oil industry. The 400,000 barrels the tanker carried represented the first unrestricted export of American oil to a country outside of North America in nearly four decades. The Obama administration insisted there was no change in energy trade policy, perhaps concerned about the reaction from environmentalists and liberal members of Congress with midterm elections coming. But many energy experts viewed the launch as the curtain raiser for the United States’ inevitable emergence as a major world oil exporter, an improbable return to a status that helped make the country a great power in the first half of the 20th century.
A federal judge has dismissed Nebraska’s challenge to U.S. EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas standards for new or modified power plants. Judge John Gerrard of the federal district court in Nebraska said the state’s challenge was premature because EPA has yet to finalize the limits. “The state has jumped the gun,” Gerrard wrote.
Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is calling for Congress to quickly extend dozens of expired tax breaks when it reconvenes next month, citing a letter from the head of the IRS warning that the agency may have to delay processing tax returns if Congress does not act one way or another by December. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen does not take a position on whether the package of tax breaks, collectively known as “tax extenders,” should be extended. But he says that Congress should decide one way or another within a couple of weeks of its scheduled return in November.
California typically gets about 20 percent of its power from hydroelectric plants, but that number is at a 10-year low, with dams producing only about 10 percent of the state’s power this year. That’s left an energy gap for natural gas-fueled power plants to fill—and they have. Though natural gas is considered less of a bane to the climate than coal because it produces less carbon dioxide when burned, it is itself a greenhouse gas—and more potent than CO2, although shorter-lived in the atmosphere.
The EIA added that in addition to the increase in gas-fired power, wind and solar generation are also playing an increasingly significant role in California’s generation mix. For the first time, wind generation surpassed hydropower generation in California, doing so in February and March of this year. Renewable generation might be seen as the big winner in the competition to capture the share of the generation market that hydropower has lost as a result of the drought, said Kaitlin Meese, an analyst with Platts unit Bentek.
“This is not a value play,” said Christine Tezak, managing director of research at ClearView Energy Partners, referring to Mr. Buffett’s normally conservative investing approach. “He’s looking at this as a way to participate in the structural shift taking place in the power and energy industry.”
In the short term, the transition is going to mean construction of many renewable power plants in Nevada. Around sunbaked Las Vegas, these have been solar plants. Further north, they have been geothermal plants. They help make Nevada, a state whose energy was largely coal-fired 10 years ago, a good fit for the Environmental Protection Agency’s pending rulediscouraging coal-fired plants. “The goal of the rule was to send a small market signal to the utilities of the direction they should move in,” said Jared Blumenfeld, the director of E.P.A.’s Region 9, which covers the Southwest and Hawaii. Existing state mandates, he said, ensured that “in some cases they were already moving in that direction.”
What ties America’s second-biggest energy company, ConocoPhillips Co., to a small Houston-based shale driller, Halcón Resources Corp.? They had some of the worst carbon pollution rates among their peers in 2012. Oil and gas operations have come under scrutiny for their climate impacts primarily because they leak methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The fossil fuel sector is the second-biggest emitter of the gas, which is 86 times as bad as carbon dioxide for the climate on a 20-year time scale. Where carbon dioxide works over centuries to wreak climate havoc, methane is its speedier cousin, working much more rapidly before decaying into less virulent gases. For climate change, both gases matter.
Coming boom in energy storage will make technology companies rich but harm traditional utilities, Citigroup predicts
Advances in energy storage technology over the next 15 years will allow for significant reductions in both costs and payback time for renewable energy systems and allow self-generation to become even more competitive with traditional utility-delivered electricity, a new report from Citigroup states.
Three-quarters of the way through 2014, Kansas’ wind energy industry is shifting from ice cold to red hot. The state has nearly 3,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity in 25 wind farms, placing it among the top states in the nation. This year started slowly, with months going by with little activity. But at this point, there are four wind farms under construction, with about 475 megawatts of capacity. They are Slate Creek wind farm in Sumner County, Waverly wind farm in Coffey County, Alexander wind farm in Rush County and Marshall wind farm in Marshall County.
Last month, Chevron Corp. announced the sale of its renewables subsidiary, following a trend by several oil majors to move away from clean energy investments. On today’s The Cutting Edge, EnergyWire reporter David Ferris discusses the shift in clean energy strategy at several oil companies and explains how it is impacting the renewable energy industry.