Wow… Our first snow day and school closing of 2019… and with the some of the government closed, it wasn’t too difficult for OPM to close the rest of it today – which was great for traffic. The remaining partial shutdown remains unresolved over a dispute between President Trump and Congressional Democrats. Unfortunately, with the partial shutdown covering NOAA, the Press Club’s first 2019 Newsmaker on 2018 Hurricane Season with NOAA hurricane forecasting expert Dr. Gerry Bell and MIT disaster resilience expert Jeremy Gregory will be postponed. That is a BUMMER, but the NPC will reschedule as soon as it is possible.
The shutdown was also mentioned with regard to Andy Wheeler’s confirmation hearing on Wednesday at Senate Environment. Last Friday, four Committee Democrats (Carper, Whitehouse, Van Hollen, Cardin) worried that EPA employees who should not be working have been tasked with helping Wheeler prep for the hearing. EPA general counsel Matt Leopold said "participation in and preparation for a confirmation hearing that has been scheduled by Congress is clearly excepted under Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel, opinions."
Interestingly, Wheeler is a veteran policy and political hand from his service at EPA and on Capitol Hill as the Staff Director of the committee. Plus, it is important to remember, he also testified before EPW after assuming the “Acting Administrator” role. Both give him in-depth knowledge of the issues he will need to address and he is clearly fully-prepared to discuss any of them he managed during his previous Committee appearances. While you can never take any preparation for granted, he is an “A” student who is studying for the same test he has already passed twice. Other items on the Hill include AG pick Bill Barr tomorrow, who may get a few energy questions and Senate Energy Approps talking advanced nuclear on Wednesday.
The other BIG EVENT this week is Thursday’s BPC innovation forum with Air Liquide CEO Mike Graff, SoCo CEO Tom Fanning and ClearPath’s Jay Faison. The event at the Capitol Visitors Center also just added DOE Secretary Rick Perry to the lineup. Other events this week include the start-up of the Detroit Auto Show, the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting (with DOT’s Elaine Chao speaking today), while NRECA joins the Congressional Solar Caucus briefing on the solar revolution in rural America on Wednesday afternoon.
For next week, mark your calendars for Thursday January 24th when US Energy Assn holds its widely- recognized State of the Energy Industry Forum at the National Press Club. Then on Friday January 25th at 3:00 p.m., the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) and the Wilson Center host the 7th annual Journalists' Guide to Energy and the Environment, where top reporters will look ahead at 2019's biggest stories.
Since I know some of you were out last week, I wanted to re-run our Top 10 Issues for 2019 at the end of this e-mail. I hope you enjoy.
Finally, I had some fun with my friend Julie Mason on Sirius XM’s Press Pool on Friday talking about the Green New Deal, impacts of the shutdown and non-related things like the 80s punk rock band Black Flag and grilled cheese. Check it out. See you on Wednesday at the Wheeler hearing (you can wish me a happy birthday) and Thursday at BPC’s Innovation event. Please feel free to call with questions.
C. (202) 997-5932
“Although the Democrats don't always agree with him, they like and respect him."
Bracewell partner and former EPA Air Administrator Jeff Holmstead in POLITICO’s Morning Energy saying he was confident Wheeler will ultimately be confirmed.
ON THE POD
SEIA’s Hopper Joins Columbia Energy Podcast to Discuss 2019 -- Solar energy has enjoyed extraordinary growth in recent years, thanks largely to declining costs and commercial investments, but public policy has played a big role, too. So, what lies in store for solar in 2019? In this edition of the Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless talks to Abby Hopper, the president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the U.S. trade group for solar energy. Abby joined SEIA in 2017 after having run the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management at U.S. Department of the Interior during the Obama administration. Before that, she served as director of the Maryland Energy Administration, energy adviser to then Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and deputy general counsel with the Maryland Public Service Commission. As such she’s learned firsthand how policy is made at the state and federal levels, and now represents the US solar industry. Bill and Abby sat down at her office in Washington to discuss the condition of solar energy in the U-S today, the prospects for federal and state policies governing this sector, and the opportunities and challenges for leaders in this field like Abby.
Good Media Analysis on Green New Deal, Climate Politics – Two of our media friends have excellent analysis pieces today on the Green New Deal and international climate politics. POLITICO’s Zack Colman tackles the GND, the search for a “Monty Hall” to bring the plan into fruition and for some details. Zack draws interesting comparisons to the previous New Deal, but it is heavy on the progressives and lite on a space that will eventually see lots of voices changing the tone and direction. Meanwhile, Axios’ Amy Harder is at it again with another good column on international climate politics and how it has often divides nations. Amy argues the most well-known division is between developed nations that have emitted the most greenhouse gases in the past and those still developing their economies like China and India, which are increasingly emitting the most today. Those fault lines are well documented, but others emerged more forcefully at a UN climate change conference last month in Poland between nations that produce fossil fuels like Saudi Arabia and Australia and those that don’t. While the process tries to bridge this gap, actions, political trends and the bad taste of tough policy solutions all get in the way of success.
IN THE NEWS
USEA Rings Stock Exchange Bell – Congrats to our friends at the US Energy Association who opened the NYSE on Friday when Executive Director Barry Worthington rang the bell to start the day’s trading. USEA executives and members joined Worthington on the podium to celebrate American energy prosperity and Worthington’s 30th anniversary the helm of USEA. One of the most familiar images of the NYSE on the evening news is the loud ringing of a bell, signaling the opening or closing of the day’s trading.
New Electric Generating Capacity In 2019 expected From Renewables, NatGas – Following last week’s Rhodium report that says GHGs will increase next year after years of declines, the Energy Information Administration is highlighting its latest inventory of electric generators. The report says that 23.7 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity additions and 8.3 GW of capacity retirements are expected for the U.S. electric power sector in 2019. The utility-scale capacity additions consist primarily of wind (46%), natural gas (34%), and solar photovoltaics (18%), with the remaining 2% consisting primarily of other renewables and battery storage capacity.
DOE Pushing Advanced Nuclear Reactors – The Department of Energy is moving forward with the U.S. development of high-assay low-enriched uranium, which will be needed to fuel many advanced nuclear reactors. DOE announced its intent to launch a three-year $115 million project in Ohio to demonstrate an American-owned HA-LEU production technology. This type of fuel is required for a variety of promising advanced reactors - and a commercial supply is largely only produced in Russia and not in the U.S. Congress has strongly supported U.S. HA-LEU production capacity both through recent spending packages and stand-alone legislation. That includes a bipartisan plan last Congress from Reps. Bill Flores (R-Texas) and Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) to direct DOE to establish a program supporting HA-LEU availability via public-private partnerships to address regulatory and market challenges. A bipartisan Senate advanced nuclear blueprint, the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act, also aims to bolster U.S. HA-LEU production. The FY19 spending bill included $20 million pushed by Sens. Mike Crapo, Sheldon Whitehouse, Jim Risch and others for highly-enriched uranium recovery preparation and testing.
ClearPath Already Working on Advanced Nukes – Last year, ClearPath Action advisor and former Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield published a white paper sponsored by ClearPath and the U.S. Nuclear Industry Council that urged lawmakers, policymakers and the NRC to take prompt steps to ensure adequate supply of HA-LEU or risk continued progress in deploying the next generation of U.S. nuclear power.
ON THE SCHEDULE THIS WEEK
Detroit Auto Show Ready – The 2019 North American International Auto Show will begin in Detroit today and run through January 27th at Cobo Hall in the Motor City. With the largest concentration of the world’s top automotive and technology executives, designers, engineers and thought leaders, the North American International Auto Show serves as the global stage for companies to debut brand-defining vehicles and industry-shaping announcements. Events start with the 13th annual ultra-luxury automotive event, The Gallery. The event has now become the official kick-off to the North American International Auto Show at the MGM Detroit. Press days start today while the public show launches Saturday.
Chao Headlines Research Board Meeting on Infrastructure, Resilience – The National Academies of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board (TRB) holds its 98th Annual Meeting next today through Thursday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, in Washington, D.C. The information-packed program is expected to attract more than 13,000 transportation professionals from around the world. The meeting program will cover all transportation modes, with more than 5,000 presentations in nearly 800 sessions and workshops, addressing topics of interest to policy makers, administrators, practitioners, researchers, and representatives of government, industry, and academic institutions. A number of sessions and workshops will focus on the spotlight theme for the 2019 meeting: Transportation for a Smart, Sustainable, and Equitable Future. DOT Secretary Elaine Chao will discuss the department’s actions in support of her priorities of promoting safety and innovation while improving transportation infrastructure today at 1:30 p.m. UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment, and the Economy and the 3 Revolutions Future Mobility Program host a related program on Wednesday to discuss automated, shared, and electric vehicles, while Tuesday evening, the Sustainable Transport Award Committee awards cities that are transforming their streets, fighting climate change, and improving quality of life with innovative transport solutions.
BPC Book Event to Look at Addressing Climate – Today at 5:00 p.m., the Bipartisan Policy Center hosts a discussion of the new book, A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow, with co-author Joshua S. Goldstein. The book explores real-world examples of how countries have cut greenhouse gas emissions using a broad set of technologies, including renewable energy sources and nuclear power.
NEI to Host Supply Forum – The Nuclear Energy Institute will hold its Nuclear Fuel Supply Forum tomorrow at the Mayflower in Washington DC. The one-day forum will provide information on policy issues related to the nuclear fuel industry. Speakers from key government agencies and organizations that shape policy will present the latest insights on what lies ahead.
POSTPONED – NPC to Host NOAA, Hurricane Resilience Expert to Discuss 2018 Hurricane Season – The National Press Club’s Newsmaker tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. in the Club’s Zenger Room to recap the 2018 hurricane season featuring NOAA forecasting expert Dr. Gerry Bell and MIT resilience expert Jeremy Gregory WILL BE POSTPONED because of the government shutdown. NOAA is part of the shutdown so Bell will not be able to attend. It will be rescheduled as soon as possible… Bell will eventually focus on the 2018 season impacts, climate change and what it may mean for the 2019 season, while Gregory will focus on the 2017 rebuilding in Houston, Puerto Rico and Florida, as well as the impacts of the 2018 season on the Carolina coast and Florida Panhandle.
Panel to Look at Smart Buildings – The Federal Real Property Association hosts a panel discussion tomorrow with the GSA and the DOE on smart building technology. With more than 350,000 energy- utilizing buildings, the Federal government is the nation’s largest energy consumer. Energy used in buildings and facilities represents about 38% of the total site-delivered energy use of the Federal government. The panel discussion will focus on how both GSA and the Department of Energy are working with Federal agencies to meet energy-related goals, identify and implement emerging building technologies across the Federal portfolio, facilitate public-private partnerships, and provide energy leadership to the country by identifying government best practices.
NRC to Discuss Pilgrim Nuclear Decommissioning – Nuclear Regulatory Commission holds a public meeting in Plymouth, Mass., to discuss a decommissioning road map report for the Pilgrim nuclear power plant.
Wheeler Hearing Set – The Senate Environment Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday on the Nomination of Andrew Wheeler to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
C2ES to Look at Paris Rule Book – A new webinar from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions on Wednesday will look inside the Paris 'Rulebook.' Governments meeting last month in Poland, produced a comprehensive “rulebook” fleshing out the implementing details of the landmark Paris Agreement. COP 24 adopted rules and procedures on mitigation, transparency, adaptation, finance, periodic stocktakes, and other Paris provisions, but put off until COP 25 decisions on the use of market-based measures. The new rulebook will govern how countries meet, report on, and strengthen their commitments in the years ahead. Hear from leading experts on the key outcomes at COP 24 and what’s ahead in the climate negotiations.
NRECA to Discuss Rural Solar – The National Rural Electric Co-operatives Assn (NRECA), in conjunction with the Congressional Solar Caucus, will hold a Congressional staff briefing on the solar progress in rural America on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. in H-137 in the Capitol. The use of solar energy is skyrocketing in rural America. In response to evolving consumer expectations and dramatically lower costs, electric cooperatives are bringing the benefits of solar energy to communities once written off as not suitable for solar development. Speakers include Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) and Ralph Norman (R-SC), as well as a panel with NRECA head former Rep. Jim Matheson, Eau Claire (WI) Electric Cooperative President/CEO Lynn Thompson, Green Power EMC (Georgia) President Jeff Pratt and DOE Solar Office staff Dr. Elaine Ulrich.
Senate Approps Energy Panel to Look at Advanced Nuclear – The Senate Appropriations Committee's Energy & Water Development Subcommittee will convene a hearing on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. to review the future of nuclear power as it pertains to advanced reactors. Witnesses includes DOE’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Edward McGinnis, Oak Ridge Lab Director Dr. Thomas Zacharia, Director and Christina Back of General Atomics.
Wilson Forum Looks at Conservation – The Wilson Center holds a conversation on Wednesday about conservation projects in a war zone. The event, which will focus on Afghanistan, will feature Alex Dehgan and Geoff Dabelko, Ohio U Professor that is Senior Advisor to Wilson’s Environmental Change & Security Program. Dehgan will reflect on innovative approaches to protecting the environment and advancing security in some of the most politically and ecologically fragile places in the world, and the connections between conservation and political stability. His talk will also consider the larger changes of the political landscape and evolving US positions towards Afghanistan.
Perry Joins CEO Line Up For BPC Innovation Forum – DOE Secretary Rick Perry will now join the Bipartisan Policy Center holds a panel discussion on Thursday at the Capitol Visitors Center with its American Energy Innovation Council on the crucial role of government in energy innovation. The conversation will build on the findings in the latest AEIC report and provide a business-sector perspective on the importance of federal energy research investments for the new Congress. Speakers joining Perry will include ClearPath’s Jay Faison, SoCo CEO Tom Fanning and Air Liquide USA head Mike Graff, as well as Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur who will make intro remarks.
FERC Meeting – Thursday, January 17.
WCEE Hold Litigation Roundtable – The Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment (WCEE) will hold its 4th Annual Litigation Roundtable with the women Administrative Law Judges of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Judges will discuss their experience as Administrative Law Judges, interesting developments in their careers, who mentored them along the way and who they themselves mentored, and share the “Dos & Don’ts” regarding hearings and settlement conferences.
Forums to Look at Offshore Wind – The Business Network for Offshore Wind, Marine Log, and Winston & Strawn LLP will begin a special three-part series of interactive discussions with U.S. government officials and industry authorities on regulatory issues affecting the construction and financing of offshore wind projects in the U.S. Starting Thursday, January 17th, they will discuss the U.S. Coast Guard’s Oversight Roles during the Implementation Phase of Offshore Wind Projects. Speakers will include U.S. Coast Guard officials Edward LeBlanc and Carl Moberg. Future events will be Thursday, February 14 on Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE)’s Safety Oversight of Offshore Wind Projects and Thursday, March 14th on Jones Act Compliance and U.S. Offshore Wind Projects.
IN THE FUTURE
Martin Luther King Day – January 21st
EPA to Hold Water Rule Hearing – The EPA has scheduled a public hearing for January 23 in Kansas City at 1:00 p.m. on the proposed replacement Waters of the United States definition. Of Course, this may be postponed if the shutdown continues.
Forum to Look at China Transportation – On Wednesday, January 23rd at Noon, Johns Hopkins University’s China Studies and Energy, Resources & Environment (ERE) Programs will present a forum on sustainable transport and urban prosperity in China. The event will feature Daizong Liu, China Director, World Resources Institute Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.
EIA to Release 2019 STEO at BPC – On January 24th, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) will release its 2019 Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) and discuss its January 2019 Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) at a public event hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center. The event will feature a presentation by EIA Administrator Dr. Linda Capuano as well as panel discussions about the latest AEO and STEO. EIA releases its Annual Energy Outlook each year to provide updated projections of U.S. energy markets. In addition, EIA releases its Short-Term Energy Outlook each month. The January 2019 STEO release will include projections out to 2020 for the first time. Panelists will include ClearView’s Kevin Book, Enbridge’s James Edgar, former FERC Commissioner Colette D. Honorable, EPRI’s Arshad Mansoor and Rick Smead of RBN Energy.
USEA to Hold State of Energy Industry Forum – The US Energy Assn begins each calendar year with its widely- recognized State of the Energy Industry Forum on Thursday January 24th at the National Press Club. The Forum brings together distinguished leaders from the most influential energy trade associations to share their outlook and to discuss dynamic issues facing the energy industry in the new year.
SEJ 2019 Journalists Guide to Energy, Environment – The Society of Enviro Journalists (SEJ) and Wilson Center will host the annual Journalists Guide to Energy and Environment on January 25th at the Wilson Center. Panelists include SEJ board member Jeff Burnside, WaPo’s Juliet Eilperin, Ellen Gilmer of E&E News, POLITICO’s Pradnya "PJ" Joshi, NPR’s Chris Joyce, AP’s Christina Larson, the NYT’s Eric Lipton and moderator Emily Holden of The Guardian.
Global CCS to Launches Report – The Global CCS Institute and the Atlantic Council will hold a special US launch of the Global CCS Institute’s signature publication, The Global Status of CCS, on Monday, January 28th at 3.00 p.m. in the Atlantic Council Headquarters. The report was first presented at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. DOE’s Assistant Secretary of Fossil Energy Steven Winberg offers Keynote remarks.
WM Phoenix Open – The Greenest Show on Grass, the PGA’s 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open will be held January 28th to February 3rd at the TPC in Scottsdale, which houses the loudest and most exciting hole in golf. While I love golf and often mention PGA event, this is important because on Thursday, January 31st, WM hosts its 9th annual Sustainability Forum - 2019 at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. National Geographic will take center stage at the Forum, exploring solutions for “Plastic Waste in the Environment.” The Forum will also examine “Cities of the Future” through panel discussions and presentations. The WM Sustainability Forum is free to attend, but pre-registration is required. Waste Management created the Sustainability Forum in 2011 as a collaborative space for corporate leaders, government leaders, experts, innovators and influencers to share insights and exchange ideas.
DOE, ClearPath to Look at MicroReactors – The Department of Energy and ClearPath sponsor the next Atomic Wings nuclear power policy lunch on Tuesday, January 29th featuring discussion on microreactors. Speakers will be announced.
State of the Union Address – January 29th
Webinar to Preview CERAWeek – After a tumultuous year for the energy industry, CERAWeek 2019 looks ahead with a focus on the responses to the collapse in oil prices, fractious geopolitics, evolving disruptive technologies and emerging competitors. This year’s theme – New World of Rivalries: Reshaping the Energy Future will hone in on the changing forces at work impacting the energy sector. This will be highlighted in a webinar discussion on Thursday, January 31st at 9:00 am EST with Daniel Yergin and Carlos Pascual in conversation with Atul Arya. The groups will preview and share insights into some of the many topics to be discussed at CERAWeek 2019 in Houston, Texas on March 11-15.
ACORE Webinar Looks at Offshore Wind – ACORE hosts a State of the Industry Webinar on Wednesday February 6th at Noon to offer the latest intelligence and analysis on renewable energy markets, finance and policy. The webinar is part of a quarterly series produced in partnership between ACORE and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and will feature a quarterly market update and a discussion of key issues in financing U.S. offshore wind development. Offshore wind projects could be a major element in the growth of U.S. renewable energy over the next decade, yet significant questions remain about the financing of these large, capital-intensive projects. The U.S. has seen a recent wave of major offshore wind project announcements, with 28 projects, totaling more than 25 GW, now in the project pipeline. Even as European banks, investors and capital markets have become increasingly comfortable with offshore wind as an asset class overseas, U.S. markets present new challenges. Speaker include ACORE’s Todd Foley and Greg Wetstone; BNEF’s Ethan Zindler and Tom Harris; and Stanford’s Dan Reicher and Citigroup’s Marshal Salant
BCSE, Bloomberg to Release 2019 Sustainable Energy Factbook – The Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) will release the 2019 edition of the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook on Wednesday morning, February 13th at BNEF offices in DC. The Factbook provides up-to-date, accurate market information about the broad range of industries — energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy— that are contributing to the country’s move towards cleaner energy production and more efficient energy usage.
Forum on Storage Set for SF – The 12th annual Storage Week will be held on February 25-27 in San Francisco at the Hotel Kabuki. The event is the development and finance business hub at the forefront of behind-the-meter and grid-connected storage system deployments. This year, the event takes a deep dive into structuring both standalone and co-located storage projects, and assesses the opportunities emerging in states, new rules in organized markets and the needs of new customer classes.
TOP 10 for 2019
1) House Democrats, Climate Focus – As Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, it is clear that they will make climate change a priority issue where they can place a wedge between their views and President Trump. Last week, Speaker Pelosi called climate change the "existential threat of our time" during her opening address to the House, and said Congress must "put an end to the inaction and denial of science that threaten the planet and the future." The Democrat majority also reinstated the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which will be led by Kathy Castor. Democrats will make climate change a front-burner issue to help shape the party's agenda. While the panel doesn't have the ability to pass legislation, it will encourage standing committees to be accountable and press them to go further and faster. The major question will be can they sustain the momentum on this issue which tends to remain a second tier issue. Democrats hope is to lay the policy and political groundwork if the window for legislation or administrative moves opens after 2020.
2) Discussions on the Green New Deal, Carbon Taxes – With Climate in the forefront, the new hot topic is what to do and the item du jour is the Green New Deal. It has been a battle point not only between parties but also internally among Democrats. In 2019, watch for details of the Plan to be defined by many different folks – and not just progressives. I suspect, those focused on innovation issues will also capture it for their agenda. And with ceremonial leader Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez floating an income tax rate as high as 70% on the highest-earning Americans to combat carbon emissions, I suspect most will find more opportunity by focusing on things that can get done in any legislative effort. Regardless, this will be a major issue that will have many twists and turns in 2019. This also include the regular banter on Carbon Taxes. With former Rep. Carlos Curbelo headed to the Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, expect the issues and the burgeoning bipartisan lobby to keep promoting it aggressively despite its bipartisan political challenges.
3) 2020 Politics – With potential candidates like Elizabeth Warren, Jay Inslee and Michael Bloomberg already out there and others like O-C and 2016 challenger Bernie Sanders pumping up the issue, there is some early speculation that climate issues may rise above the usual din to make a splash in the 2020 race. While it is a hot topic to go this way, my Spidey sense of over 25 years of covering this issue suggests don’t take the bait. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the first top-tier Democrat to launch a 2020 White House bid, barely grazed the topic in her rollout. Most potential candidates have focused their careers on other topics and will likely fall away from climate when competition for political attention on the campaign trail targets things voters care more about like jobs, health care, foreign affairs and the economy. Regardless, like Saturdays in PGA golf, 2019 is moving day for the 2020 Presidential election so look for lots of action.
4) HFC Reduction Go Into Force So What Will U.S. Do – The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol will reduce the projected production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by more than 80% over the next 30 years. If fully supported, the amendment can avoid up to 0.4°C increase by the end of this century. 65 countries have already ratified the amendment putting it into force on January 1 with more expected in the weeks to come. Interestingly, with manufacturing jobs booming in Rust Belt states, there is a chance that not getting engaged on this HFC phase out will put the US at a competitive disadvantage, placing those manufacturing jobs at risk. The Senate has already engaged on this issue with 13 Republican Senators calling for the policy to be addressed in the body who ratifies Treaties. And a recent economic analysis for the White House showed significant jobs gains in key states.
5) Energy Infrastructure Hits a Key Moment – While oil prices (and gas prices) remain low, production is high and many shale companies are considering slowing production. A larger problem remains with the infrastructure question. While our emissions profile has benefited dramatically from more natural gas and renewables, the infrastructure problem threatens gains as companies struggle to build much-needed pipeline and transmission infrastructure that not only will move our energy, but create thousands of construction jobs. Recently, the US Chamber’s Global Energy Institute and LIUNA rolled out a report highlighting anti-energy campaigns have prevented at least $91.9 billion in domestic economic activity and eliminated nearly 730,000 job opportunities. In addition, federal, state, and local governments have missed out on more than $20 billion in tax revenue. But it also has specific impacts on individual projects like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Court challenges vacated permits for ACP to cross two national forests and the Appalachian Trail in Virginia – despite the fact that 56 other oil and gas pipelines have operated across the trail for decades. The cost of stopping construction on the project is about $20 million per week. It also means $2.3 billion reduction in GDP impact; $500 million in lost tax revenue; and over 21,000 jobs. With relation to ACP, all of the 3,000 full-time construction workers in West Virginia and North Carolina working on the project are at risk. And this is playing out at projects across the country. 2019’s energy infrastructure debate will need to address this problem.
6) Ethanol, Ethanol, Ethanol – As if this fight would ever go away or into the background, 2019 promises to be an interesting year over the issue of ethanol. Fights over the volume levels and the arcane mechanics of the RFS were front and center in in 2018 and will remain so. But, add the new fight over E15 policy to the debate with ethanol advocates complaining the government shutdown is harming EPA’s effort to get a rule out by the summer driving season. Opponents’ push back saying that E15 changes are illegal and unnecessary. Interestingly, some of the ethanol industry strongest past economic advocates have said E15 is not a great policy and overall demand is not being harmed by program waivers for small refiners. This is a hardy perennial and don’t expect that to change.
7) Nuclear Power at Vogtle, Finally – The first nuclear power plant units in the US are getting closer to completion despite all the challenges it has faced. After a recent challenge, Georgia regulators unanimously allowed construction to continue on two new nuclear reactors to move forward despite cost overruns for the multibillion-dollar project. The project will shape the future of the nation’s nuclear industry, partly because the reactors at Plant Vogtle were the first new ones to be licensed and to begin construction in the U.S. since 1978. The project, co-owned by Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities, has been plagued by delays and spiraling costs, compounded when the main contractor filed for bankruptcy. Those who are passionate about carbon emission reductions can’t place all of their chips on the renewable and efficiency table. As many experts argue, the Green New Deal is no deal if it doesn’t include nuclear.
8) Solar, Wind Making Significant Mark with Utilities – The solar and wind industries will continue to make a strong move in the marketplace in 2019. Expect steady growth as renewable power prices continue to decline and solar developers take advantage of investment tax credits poised to ratchet down during the next several years. Renewables will likely surpass 10% of total U.S. electricity generation, up from about 8% in 2017. A big part of the success is technological advancement and lower costs, but another major factor is utility acceptance of renewables as a viable generation option. Finally, states have and will continue to take the lead in driving the renewable growth where it makes most sense. Finally, watch out for a big year in the offshore wind space. Finally, projects are in the water and the recent Massachusetts lease sale’s huge success underscores the significant interest in OSW. Of concern: trade issues could hinder our ability to maximize renewables’ total impact. We are already seeing it on the solar side.
9) Electric, Autonomous Vehicle, CAFE Fight Heating Up – There is a burgeoning fight in policy world over EVs, AVs and our current oil-based transportation economy. While of interested parties on both sides are playing up the debate, it is less controversial than most will admit. EVs are clearly a modest success for certain markets, but to the think they will displace combustion engines anytime as many in Europe are hoping is unlikely. Interestingly, auto companies are playing both sides so keep your eye on that internal push and pull. The debate takes on an interesting twist with the fight over EV tax extensions in 2019. As for autonomous vehicles, there is a fight brewing over how they should and will be regulated. It is played out in the WaPo metro outlook page over the weekend with supporters arguing the success/opportunities while advocates like former NHTSA head like Joan Claybook raise concerns. It is going to be an important issue. Finally, don’t sleep on EPA reforms over Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and California’s waiver due this spring. It will be very controversial and litigation-inducing.
10) Rightsizing or Rollbacks – The enviro activists call them roll backs, but right-sizing the overreach of the Obama Administration regulatory agenda hits its stride as the Administration approaches two years in office. The most recent example is the change to the economic analysis of the EPA mercury rule which was rejected by the Supreme Court. While leaving the actual rule in place, opponents wrongly still called it a rollback. The same rhetoric has impacted the debate over the Obama Clean Power Plan, stayed by the SCOTUS again. With the new EPA Affordable Clean Energy rule replacing it, it is hard to argue that replacing the illegal Obama rule is a rollback. There are a dozen examples of these issues across the regulatory spectrum and we will continue to have this debate in 2019.
BONUS ISSUE: The Wheeler/Bernhardt Show – After the first EPA Admin and Interior Secretary made big splashes (and many times not for the right reasons), both agencies are now headed by seasoned political/policy veterans who will actually probably make more significant progress than their higher profile and controversial predecessors. EPA’s Andy Wheeler has been effectively running the EPA for 6 months, moving several key policy initiatives forward on power plants, methane, mercury and renewable fuels. Now, Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is the acting head of the Interior Department showing up at the first White House Cabinet meeting after former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke resigned. Bernhardt’s experience in government and qualifications to do the job make him a great choice to move policy issues forward. 2019 on energy and the environment seems to be the year of the effective manager and Wheeler and Bernhardt are already leading the way.