Ed Burke

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Renewables in 2015 & 2016

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


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


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

Image of the U.S. Capital Building

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

TransCanada/White House Standoff Begins Ahead of Climate Change Summit

Posted by Ed Burke on Nov 4, 2015 1:24:28 PM

Picture of an oil pipeline in the snow

In a surprise move Monday, TransCanada issued a request to the U.S. State Department that they pause the ongoing review of the project until the legal challenges in Nebraska are settled. (Interestingly and somewhat ironically, this is the exact same reason Secretary of State John Kerry gave for why the review was taking so long when asked last year.)

The project that we’ve all been debating for the past several years was looking at a likely rejection from the State Department and the prevailing theory is that TransCanada would like the review process to linger on, in the hopes that the proposal lands in front of a more friendly Administration in 2016, after the Presidential Elections.

The White House put forth this same theory, that the petition was a play to get a more friendly administration to rule on the project and spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House will summarily dismiss the petition for that reason.

TransCanada denies there is any politics at play. Even if it were political, however, the political moves are certainly not one-sided.

The reason cited for the timing of the petition is because Obama is expected to veto the project ahead of the upcoming UN Summit in Paris on Climate change, in order to make a statement on the U.S.’ commitment to battling Climate Change.  Not an apolitical move in and of itself, no?  (In fairness, it has become pretty clear that the President intended to veto no matter what the timing was.)

The Keystone projects’ prominence in the political realm had substantially faded in the face of tumbling oil prices but the issue has come up again with the beginning of the election cycle, with Presidential Candidates on both sides being asked their positions on the project in interviews and debates. The bid from TransCanada this week only added fuel to that fire. 

Whether the move was political, or simply meant to re-raise the issue, it most certainly puts pressure on the Administration to make a decision. That can’t be exciting for the President.  One would think he would rather pass it on to the next person anyway and avoid both the gains and fallouts politically from making the decision.

It will be interesting to see if the veto comes down before Paris, or if the project trudges on longer and longer despite a refusal to pause. 


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Topics: Keystone XL, TransCanada, climate change, obama

BREAKING: House Passes Bill to Lift Crude Oil Export Ban

Posted by Ed Burke on Oct 9, 2015 2:23:45 PM

Picture of the United States House of Representatives

This afternoon the US House of Representatives voted 261-159 to lift the Crude Oil Export Ban that has been in place for over 40 years. 

With the ban in place, prices have been artificially depressed at the refinery level due to limited capacity in the face of massive new production, so the thought is lifting the ban will allow producers to get more return on oil produced domestically. Refiners are obviously less than thrilled for the most part, for the same reason. 

Additionally, the ability to export is seen as being a potential positive for geopolitics and trade relations with other nations. 

On the other side though, environmental groups and the Obama administration argue that lifting the ban encourages further expansion of fossil fuel production, and disincentivizes and slows down the movement to non carbon intensive alternatives. 

(For a quick recap of some of the pros and cons, you can skim this article from 2013, when rumblings about overturning the ban began in Congress: Is It Time to Overturn the Crude Export Ban? )

Anyway, the House is the first hurdle in what could be a winding legislative process. Mitch McConnell has historically been hesitant to introduce bills of this nature to the floor, which could be an issue. Additionally, many Senate Democrats are not inclined to vote for the bill out of fear of backlash if domestic gas prices rise for their constituents (even though a recent EIA report indicated there should be no negative impact on consumers). One ammendment added may help entice Democrats though, and thats a provision that will allow higher payments to shipping unions involved, which is a key constituent for those in relevant states. 

To top it off, the White House has already announced that the President will veto the legislation, should it hit his desk. Even if the bill gets through the Senate, then, its unlikely to garner nearly enough votes to override a veto. 

Long story short, we will probably be in limbo on what actually happens with the legislation for at least another week or two, and its possible it dies in the same fashion as the Keystone Bill earlier this year. Don't expect that the market wont jump around one way or the other on the news though  - even though we really dont know whats happening yet (when has that ever stopped anything?)

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Topics: US Crude Exports, CRUDE, export ban

Better Data Drives Better Results on Fuel Inventory Management

Posted by Ed Burke on Sep 23, 2015 12:03:45 PM


Technician installing a tank meter 

There have been so many technology advances in the past 10-15 years that have helped streamline industry operations immeasurably. From cloud based CRMs, to updated financial systems, to e-logs, to TABs interfaces, so much of the background work that used to take hours of manpower and resources now runs automatically, or at least semi-automatically. 

Perhaps the best win-win tech advancement however, in terms of streamlining and simplifying an issue for both the company and the customer, is the ability to use cell technology for remote tank monitoring. For dispatch, theres no more guesswork but automated alerts, continuous level monitoring, and the ability to easily report on and plan for customer usage patterns. For the customer, there's no more sticking the tank, no more calling in orders, and no more running out of fuel.

What's better than that?

There are a lot of different systems for tank monitoring, and lots of questions about it. So, this month I wrote an article for the September issue of Oil & Energy Magazine on how we use specific remote tank monitoring setups to streamline our customers fuel inventory management as well as our dispatch operations.  

You can read the full article here: "Better Tank Data Drives Better Fuel Management" 

 Any questions, feel free to give us a shout. 


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Topics: remote tank monitoring, fuel management

Accidents Happen - EPA Spill Highlights Difficulty of Mine Decontamination

Posted by Ed Burke on Aug 12, 2015 1:31:32 PM

Person sitting next to a river with a river warning sign in the frame

(Photo: Alexa Rogals, The (Farmington, N.M.) Daily Times)

Earlier this week, while an EPA team worked to stem a leak from the Gold Medal mine in Colorado, an abandoned mine not operational since the 1920s, a pressure fluctuation caused hundreds of thousands of gallons of contaminated water to spill into the Animas River. This river feeds into the Colorado River – a main water supply source for the West.

All eyes are on the river now, but the Federal government has been working to cleanup and stop mine runoff for decades. An estimated 40% of waterways in the region have some level of heavy metals contamination from such runoff. In fact, the ruptured mine was being worked on in the first place because testing by the EPA showed that contamination levels were rising to a level that impacted aquatic life.

It turns out that there are an estimated 20,000 abandoned mines in Colorado and up to 500,000 throughout the West. Surprisingly, until late into the 20th century (1970) there weren’t many regulations on mining – meaning essentially anyone could start mining anywhere. As a result, when there were mining booms throughout the West, once a mine either didn’t yield or was exhausted, it was simply left there. As time goes on, water builds up within the mines and leaks into waterways and the surrounding environment, carrying with it, heavy-metal contaminants that could be dangerous in high concentrations.

One of the issues that has made mine cleanup such a slow process is that under the Clean Water Act, you’re legally and financially liable for spills even if it happened inadvertently in a cleanup effort, so stemming the pollution from the mines and handling the arduous process of decontamination has fallen solely on the EPA, and there are simply too many mines to fully decontaminate them all quickly.

It’s also an issue of cost – fully neutralizing the mine involves treating the trapped water to safe levels then releasing it, repeatedly, to the tune of about a million dollars a pop, essentially forever.

A “Good Samaritan” provision has been repeatedly proposed as an addition to the Clean Water Act, so other environmental groups can begin working on mine decontamination as well. Ironically, it sounded like a better idea before the spill than after. It’s hard to imagine an immediate pond containment system to control damages going in as quickly as the EPA was able to do. 

The release has certainly put the EPA and their cleanup response in the spotlight.

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Topics: EPA, emergency response

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