EPA's 2017 RFS Volume Proposal Draws Familiar Concerns

Posted by Ed Burke on Jul 20, 2016 8:20:00 AM

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This past May, the EPA released its 2017 RFS volume standards. The 2017 levels are a 3.8% increase over 2016 but are still well below the original levels for the year as proposed in 2007.

In both the stakeholder commentary period and the period immediately following the volumes' release, we saw the usual cast of characters come forward with their concerns about the mandated levels. That included biofuels proponents who see the EPAs levels as a "cave" over the blend wall, and industry members who are concerned about the market and practical feasibility of ever increasing levels and who carries the obligation to meet mandated levels. 

You can read more in depth about the diverse reactions the EPA ruling had in the recent article I wrote for Oil & Energy magazine here: "Proposed RFS Changes Draw Diverse Reactions" 

 

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Topics: EPA Mandate, Biofuels, RFS

Solar Power - New Developments Off Of the Rooftop

Posted by Ed Burke on Jun 10, 2016 3:30:00 PM

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Solar Power has seen a huge growth in installations - from residential neighborhood rooftops to large installations along highways throughout the country.

However, the new and exciting developments in solar are all off rooftop, with potential applications from wearable tech to on board setups in trucks across the nation, to floating panels in reservoirs. MIT is working on photovoltaic solar cells so light they can rest on soap bubbles without popping them. Amazing stuff!

To read more in depth about the new frontiers being explored you can read my most recent article in Oil & Energy Magazine here: "Solar Power: Looking Beyond the Rooftops"

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Topics: Solar Power, MIT, photovoltaic

Tesla's Model 3 Debut Stuns Industry

Posted by Ed Burke on May 12, 2016 2:30:00 PM

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Tesla's Model 3 launch saw unprecedented and unpredicted preorders come in around 400,000 - for a car that isnt even out for about 2 more years! 

The car boasts a $35,000 dollar price tag - compared to the high price of some previous Tesla models, the model 3 is an opportunity for lovers of the Tesla branded vehicles to get into one themselves. The car also boasts a 200+ mile electric only range, and some neat tech features including a heads up display and the standard Tesla car software "upgrades".

I wrote an aticle for Oil & Energy on the Tesla model 3 launch, it's features, as well as possible issues that could be on the horizon for the company in terms of hitting deadlines on the Model 3, especially in the face of demand that tripled even the most optimistic preorder projections. You can read that article here: Oil & Energy Magazine:"Impressive Launch for the Tesla Model 3"

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Topics: electric vehicles, tesla

Battery Tech Advances Could Change U.S. Energy Storage Outlook

Posted by Ed Burke on Apr 14, 2016 2:00:00 PM

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Batteries had a great year in 2015 - with costs going down and large scale installations occuring, primarily in the utility sector. The United States energy storage capacity grew by 221 megawatts in 2015, which is triple the capacity added in 2014.

Batteries serve to bridge the gap between renewables like wind and solar and the grid. Wind and solar are both intermittent in terms of power generation, and battery storage technology is a necessary to ensure power is available when its needed versus when it happens to be generated. 

I wrote an article for Oil & Energy magazine going into depth on new developments in battery technology and what the future holds in terms of the goals of cutting edge developments at MIT, Harvard, and the Department of Energy. You can read that article here: Oil & Energy Magazine: "Persuing the Holy Grail of Battery Tech"

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Topics: Solar Energy, renewable energy, energy storage

Renewables in 2015 & 2016

Posted by Ed Burke on Mar 11, 2016 1:30:00 PM

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2015 was a banner year for Renewables. The EPA finally finalized RFS volumes for 2014-2016 in November. In December, Congress passed the tax extenders package which included both the $1 per gallon biodiesel blender credit and cellulosic blending credit of $1.01 per gallon, retroactively.

We also saw the Paris Climate Change Summit in November (Here's a quick recap of where we were then in terms of Climate Change regulations). The Summit saw 190 countries agree to Climate Change resolutions and almost univerally agreeing that each country would lower its carbon emissions.

2015 saw increases in renewable fuels use essentially across the board, and 2016 projections are optimistic on growth. I wrote an article for Oil & Energy's March issue that goes into depth on current levels, projections, and how the renewables mix looks like it will shake out through 2016. You can read that article here: Oil & Energy: "Renewables are Changing the Energy Mix"

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Topics: Biodiesel, EPA, renewable energy

New England States & Climate Change Preparedness

Posted by Ed Burke on Feb 11, 2016 12:30:00 PM

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A comprehensive state by state analysis of 5 specific threats: wildfire, extreme heat, drought, inland flooding and coastal flooding by Climate Change Central and ICF International has ranked New England states in order of preparedness. Once again, Massachusetts comes in on top.

I wrote an article for this month’s edition of Oil & Energy Magazine that goes into how each New England state stacked up, why, and where there is an opportunity to improve preparedness. You can read that article here: “Oil & Energy Magazine: States Prepare for Climate Change”

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Topics: Oil & Energy Magazine, climate change

RFS Volumes Finally Finalized

Posted by Ed Burke on Jan 8, 2016 11:36:12 AM

Corn kernels in a container labeled, Biofuel

As of November, the EPA finally released its final renewable volume obligations for 2014, 2015, and 2016.

The volumes set are lower than those mandated by Congress in the initial Renewable Fuel Standard, after the EPA took into account a drop in fuel & gasoline demand and usage over the past several years (as compared to the demand and usage projected in 2007). The final volume for 2016 is 18.11 billion gallons, versus the Congressional volume of 22.25 billion gallons.

There were over 600 thousand comments on the proposal before it was finalized, and the feelings on the results are mixed, to put it mildly.

Ag farmers and biofuel industry players had argued the EPA had to stick to the original mandated volumes. Livestock farmers and food producers had argued for the mandate to be scrapped in its entirety, citing the impact it has had on pushing the cost of food and food production skywards. The oil industry fell somewhere in the middle, arguing the EPA ought to use its waiver to greatly reduce volumes to reflect lower fuel usage, the essential lack of cellulosic renewables, and concerns that high mandated volumes of ethanol would force the blend wall issue.

I wrote an in depth piece on the EPA's final ruling for Oil & Energy Magazine - you can read it in full here: "EPA Finalizes RFS Obligations"

 

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Topics: Ethanol, Biofuels, RFS, renewable energy

Senate Strikes Down Clean Power Provisions Ahead Climate Change Summit

Posted by Ed Burke on Nov 18, 2015 4:24:41 PM

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Yesterday, the Senate voted to block President Obama’s Clean Power Plan with respect to the new EPA regulations on Power Plant Emissions announced in August, as well as blocking the moratorium on new Coal Fired Plant building. (For a refresher on those regulations, read this “Obama, EPA Announce First-Ever Federal Limits on Power Plant Emissions” )

The Senate challenged the regulations under the somewhat obscure Congressional Review Act which allows the legislature to vote to block enactment of new federal regulations as long as they do so within 60 days of publication. It was a fairly clever move, given the rules came out in August, but because technically they were not published until October, they were fair game.

The rationale behind using the Congressional Review Act cited was that nearly half of the States are suing the EPA over these specific parts of the Clean Power Plan, and several are vowing to refuse to comply pending said lawsuits.

The Review Act also is not subject to filibuster and only requires a simple majority, not 60 votes – so the final count of 52-46 (on both the emissions regulation vote, and the moratorium vote) was sufficient to block the regulations. That is, until it hits the President’s desk, where it will immediately be vetoed. It’s extremely unlikely that a veto could be overridden, so essentially this legislation will drop off in the same fashion the Keystone Bill did earlier this year.

The Power Plant portion of the multiple Climate Change resolutions proposed by the Administration is essentially the centerpiece to the overall plan. The timing of the vote is not advantageous for the Administration because, as we’ve mentioned, the Climate Change Summit is to be held in France a few days from now.

 Essentially, the regulations are critical for the U.S. if a broad Climate Change agreement is to be secured at the conference, which is really the entire point of it – to broker a global agreement.  Without being able to cite massive overhauls and regulation of emissions on a broad scale, the U.S. has much less of an ability to point to what we are doing as a model for a global pact.  

 

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Topics: EPA, obama, clean power plan, climate change summit

Ahead of the Climate Change Summit, Here's Where We Are on Regulations

Posted by Ed Burke on Nov 16, 2015 2:39:21 PM

Image of Climate Change in a dictionary

Despite the horrific ISIS terrorist attacks in Paris this past weekend and the fact that France will still officially be in a State of Emergency, as declared by French President Hollande, the Global Climate Change Council Meeting is still slated to take place in Paris on November 20th

 Some are arguing that at the very least the venue ought to change, others that it should be postponed, and still others that the best thing we can do in response to terrorist attacks is carry on with scheduled events versus cancelling  in fear.

 Regardless of anyone’s position, at the moment, the Council meeting is a go.

 We’re likely to hear new proposals from both the US, and several European countries on comprehensive changes. So before new policies or talking points are rolled out, it’s a good time to recap the steps the United States has taken policy wise to combat Climate Change over the past year through EPA proposals and regulations.

 I wrote a “roundup” of major EPA rulings and proposals from 2015 aimed at combatting Climate Change and how they may impact the industry for Fuel Marketers News Magazine recently - You can read the article in PDF format here: 

"Climate Change: Regulations Roundup"

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Topics: EPA, climate change, climate change summit

Obama Administration Officially Rejects Keystone XL

Posted by Ed Burke on Nov 6, 2015 3:05:33 PM

Protesters holding a sign the reads, Obama-lead onClimate

As of this morning, the Obama Administration has officially rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline on the basis of Climate Change concerns.  As we discussed with the TransCanada "pause petition" delivered Monday, many had thought the President would “kick the can” to the next president and decline to rule on the proposal before the end of his term.

Ironically, the petition to pause consideration of the project may have simply served to force the decision .

Obviously, the saga most likely continues in the Courts, but as of this moment the project has officially been nixed.

It’s important to note however, that stopping the pipeline project has very little effect on the development or transport of oil sands derived Crude – it will simply continue to be transported via tankers and rail, which ironically, has more of an impact on Climate than pipeline transport.

The pipeline would have moved over 800,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to Nebraska, where it would hook with existing pipelines and travel on from there to Gulf Coast refineries. Approximately 100,000 of the barrels would be from North Dakota oil fields, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Keystone Pipeline has been a major political issue for the past seven years, splitting people between those with environmental concerns regarding oil sands development, general fossil fuel dependency issues and potential spills. (Like this one: Mayflower Arkansas Highlights Keystone XL Environmental Concerns )

Then there are those who supported the development for the jobs it would supply, and the strengthening of the US as a major global energy player, in addition to moving more of our importing from Canada versus OPEC nations. (For more on that see: Energy Security, not Independence Should be the Goal )

President Obama’s focus throughout his second term has primarily been on Climate Change, so the move to reject Keystone isn’t all that surprising. Especially when you consider the pipeline project in tandem with Federal limits on Power Plant Emissions that include regulations on methane from fracking, truck fuel regulations, a veto of a previous Keystone Bill, and a threatened veto of the Crude Oil Export Bill – all of which have been significant moves during the President’s second term.

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Topics: Keystone XL

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