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Blog posts April 2011

Energy Update, April 22, 2011

April 22, 2011

In the States

CA – Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the country’s strongest renewable energy standard that will require electric utilities in the State to generate 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources in less than nine years.  Although the new law limits the amount of rate hikes due to the new requirements, opponents of the measure cite studies showing that rates may increase by 7-19 percent.  The Governor cited reliance on foreign oil, economic instability, and climate issues in expressing his support for the law while other supporters said it would keep investment strong in the renewable energy industry.  Calif. sets nation’s most aggressive goal for renewable energy as critics say rates will soarWashington Post

OK – Governor Mary Fallin has signed a new law that will expand the allowed length of horizontal drilling into shale reservoirs, easing investment costs for companies to drill for oil and natural gas.  Proponents said that the new law allows for increased production while protecting mineral owners’ rights, and modernizes regulations to account for technological advances that have made it possible to extend drilling longer than was previously possible.  Drilling bill modernizes state oil and gas statutesEnid News & Eagle and Oklahoma’s Gov. Mary Fallin signs energy reform billThe Oklahoman

OR –  Speaking at a conference on the future of energy, Governor John Kitzhaber announced he is developing a 10-year plan for Oregon that will emphasize renewable energy as a way to rebuild the State’s post-recession economy.  During his remarks, one example he cited was the possibility of retrofitting homes with energy-saving materials as a way to replace economic activity previously generated by the housing construction industry.  He also said that he and Governor Christine Gregoire of Washington State had recently discussed forming a three-state coalition with California focused on creating green energy jobs and reducing carbon emissions.  Kitzhaber says it's time for a 10-year plan on clean energy in Oregon – The Oregonian

National News

The U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture have announced $30 million in spending on projects that will support research and development in advanced biofuels, much of which will be in rural areas in the Midwest.  These funds come from the Biomass Research and Development Initiative and could help rural communities become less reliant on fossil fuels.  They will now be able to produce much of the fuel they use for heating and electricity locally, lessening dependence on foreign oil.  The home-grown fuel can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, since burning biomass creates no more pollution that the decomposition process that occurs naturally.  U.S. expands seeding of biomassNew York Times

The U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Duke Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit utility consortium, to test its first electricity-related invention.  The new product is an energy storage device that may allow electric power generated by wind turbines to be stored and then used when needed.  It may also have applicability to solar power.  Electric power would be used to pump air into an underground cavern.  When more energy is needed, this compressed air would flow through a generator, at 70-75% efficiency.  ARPA-E provided $750,000 to General Compression, the company that makes the device, which then attracted $12 million in private investments.  ARPA-E is poised to put products on the gridNew York Times

The U.S. Supreme Court appears likely to dismiss a case in which six States are suing five energy companies to limit their greenhouse gas emissions.  While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun regulating emissions from new and modified industrial sources, the States are seeking to apply Federal and State laws to regulate existing plants.  Justices listening to oral arguments in the case expressed skepticism about the States’ claim that the costs and benefits of emissions standards can be evaluated by courts rather than determined through the regulatory process administered by federal agencies.  U.S. Supreme Court signals rejection of State climate-emissions lawsuitsBloomberg

Three U.S. States – New York, Minnesota, and California – have joined with 11 utility companies and two environmental groups as a coalition to ask the U.S. EPA to allow States to choose the best approach for meeting federal greenhouse gas emissions standards.  Specifically, the coalition seeks permission to regulate greenhouse gases through existing regional or statewide cap-and-trade programs or renewable energy standards as an alternative to plant-specific limitations.  Some power companies that use more fossil fuels than those taking part in the coalition did not join and are continuing to raise general objections to new restrictions on plant emissions.  States, utilities ask EPA to boost regional cap-and-trade programs

 

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Energy Update, April 8, 2011

April 8, 2011

In the States

SD –  Governor Dennis Daugaard has signed a bill into law that he proposed earlier this year that will divert a portion of funds that previously would have gone to ethanol production plants toward grants to fuel stations for installation of blender pumps that will allow motorists to purchase fuel containing higher levels of ethanol.  Governor Daugaard referenced the recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision that allows cars made in the past decade to use fuel containing 15% ethanol, higher than the previous 10% limit.  The blender pumps will allow consumers to choose the amount of ethanol in the fuel they purchase.  SD Governor signs bill to boost ethanol industryRapid City Journal

State Fiscal News

Energy production appears to be a driver of economic recovery in some States.  In Wyoming, thousands of new mining jobs have opened up, increasing by 8.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 over the same period in 2009.  Higher demand in developing countries, particularly in Asia, is leading companies to hire more workers to extract coal, soda ash, and uranium.  Rising oil prices and demand for natural gas may soon contribute to job growth in those industries as well.  These industries have increased sales tax revenues for Wyoming by 10% in 2010.  In Montana, unemployment numbers are higher on the west side of the State, where workers rely more on wood-product manufacturing jobs dependent on the housing market.  On the east side of the State, energy jobs in the coal, oil, and wind industries have kept unemployment rates much lower.  Energy powers robust Wyoming economyStar-Tribune and Montana growth slows but withstands recessionUSA Today

National News

In a series of recent appearances, President Barack Obama has called for a one-third reduction in oil imports within 14 years.  The President addressed shortcomings in previous methods in reducing oil imports, stressing that “there are no quick fixes” and that efforts must continue once drivers see relief at the gas pump.  Proposals for reducing oil imports include greater use of natural gas in fleet vehicles and buses, increased production and use of biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol (for which the President said four refineries will be built in the next two years), higher fuel efficiency standards for heavy trucks, and increasing domestic oil production both on- and offshore.  President Obama also said that “we simply cannot take [nuclear power] off the table, regardless of concerns over the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan.  Part of the President’s message on energy independence includes an economic aspect: that transitioning to a less oil-intensive economy could create jobs.  The President cited new lower unemployment numbers adding “we need to keep the momentum going” by “making a transition to a clean energy economy.”  President Obama calls for one-third cut to oil importsWashington Post and Reviving elusive goal, Obama calls for one-third reduction in U.S. oil importsWashington Post and Obama promotes his energy agenda by showcasing energy-efficient vehiclesWashington Post

U.S. EPA regulations on greenhouse gases and mountaintop removal have become major points of contention in Congress, and attempts to limit the agency have thus far been unsuccessful.  Nineteen House Democrats joined all Republicans in voting for a bill that would prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act and, beginning in 2017, from granting waivers to States for stricter emissions standards for automobiles.  A similar bill was defeated in the Senate.  Although four Democrats joined 46 Republicans in supporting a ban on the EPA regulations, the bill needed 60 votes to pass.  The fate of appropriations riders that would have restricted EPA greenhouse gas and mountaintop removal regulations in the fiscal year omnibus 2011 funding bill appeared settled as of the afternoon of April 8, when Republicans agreed to drop the measures.  If Congress does pass a bill limiting EPA’s oversight of greenhouse gases, the Obama Administration has signaled that the President would veto such a measure.  Senate rejects bill that would limit EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gasesWashington Post and House votes to stop EPA from regulating greenhouse gasesWall Street Journal and EPA riders axed, lawmakers sayPolitico

 

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