“4 Ways Election Results Could Intensify U.S. Energy Battles” – National Geographic, 5 November 2014

After November’s midterm elections and the newly elected Republican majority in the both houses of Congress, President Obama might have a difficult time moving forward with his climate policy agenda. Now there’s a chance that Republicans will obstruct the EPA‘s funding so that it won’t be able to enact its proposed regulations of curbing power plants emissions. Meanwhile, we might get closer to authorizing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and repealing our 1970s crude oil export ban. Only a few days before the elections, the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change issued another report with grave warnings about the effects of climate change.

One method that Republicans can employ to hinder the Obama administration is with a joint congressional resolution of disapproval, which asks for a majority vote in favor of blocking proposed regulations. However, in order to advance their own bills, Republicans need 60 votes to stop filibusters by Senate Democrats, or a two-thirds majority to quash any of Obama’s vetoes.

Though those odds might seem unlikely, the Republicans can still play a huge hand in climate policy and the energy debate by:

  1. Further Opposing the EPA‘s Power Plant Regulations
    Previously, climate activist and Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer (CA) chaired the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works; however, now the position will transfer to Republican Senator James Inhofe (OK), a staunch climate denier and author of the 2012 book The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.That title itself says it all. Inhofe is staunchly again the idea that climate change is caused by human activity. So it’s reasonable to assume that his goal — along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — is to block funding for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, where the EPA’s goal is to reduce existing power plants’ emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

  2. Advancing the Keystone XL Pipeline
    Another one of McConnell’s targets is the Keystone XL Pipeline — he would do whatever possible to advance the project, including strategizing a plan that would make sure the legislation would end up on Obama’s desk. Obama would then have to either approve the pipeline or use his veto power.Obama is more likely to approve the pipeline if it has no impact on emissions; according to the State Department, Keystone will not increase emissions.
  3. Increasing Fossil Fuel Exports
    Republicans are now more motivated than ever to end the circa-1970s crude oil export ban that was authorized amid the Arab oil embargo. So far, the Department of Energy has already authorized a few projects that would allow the US to export natural gas, but Republicans would like to push more through.Many Republicans and those in the oil industry contend that exporting crude could push gas prices down even more. Environmentalists assert that repealing the ban might prompt the US to generate more oil, at the cost of the environment.
  4. Introducing a Bipartisan Energy Efficiency Bill
    Republican Senator Rob Portman (OH) and Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH) have created a bipartisan bill that advocates for energy efficiency in many spheres, including residential, commercial, and federal buildings. The bill tried to get through the Senate in 2014, but was unable to because of the debate around Keystone. The bill will have another go, but might very well be blocked by Republicans who don’t support implementing rules that require stronger efficiency guidelines for appliances.

(From National Geographic)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 26, 2015

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“GOP oil titan: Keystone’s irrelevant” – Politico, 14 November 2014

Though the Keystone XL pipeline has been a hot-button issue with environmentalists, it seems that it has become an irrelevant discussion. The pipeline was introduced in 2005, and still no decision has been made about its construction. In October, the House approved a bill that would authorize the pipeline; however, a few days later, the bill failed to pass through the Senate. If it had passed, the bill would have gone directly to President Obama, though it’s likely he would have vetoed it.

But all that might change when the new Republican-majority Congress reconvenes in January. In fact, it has become the mission of Republican Senator Mitch McConnell (KY) to have the bill pass. It’s probable that the bill will pass both Congress legislatures, but the bill will need 67 votes in favor in order to quash a presidential veto.

Regardless of the pipeline’s importance, proponents firmly contend that the $8 billion pipeline will allow for a flood of new jobs and bolster North American energy independence; but opponents believe that it will increase fossil fuels and further incite the effects of climate change.

It seems like the oil industry has moved on from Keystone; oil companies are employing other pipelines to carry their oil. Furthermore, the US now has an abundance of oil, which has reduced prices. Bringing more oil in from Canada doesn’t seem like the best plan.

What some suggest — like Harold Hamm, the CEO of Oklahoma’s Continental Resources — is that the US should end its crude oil export ban, which would make the oil market fairer for US oil companies. Congress imposed the ban in the 1970s due to the worry that we were becoming too reliant on foreign oil. Now that US oil prices have dropped, Saudi Arabia is attempting to undercut our prices so that it can recover what it has lost in the market. Further, a lift on the ban could help Ukraine and European countries that are under the thumb of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Conversely, if the ban is lifted, we could see gas prices soar; lawmakers would become our scapegoat.

(From Politico)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

November 29, 2014

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“Study: Keystone pollution higher” – Politico, 10 August 2014

According to a report from the Stockholm Environment Institute, the Keystone XL pipeline — the 1,700-mile pipeline that would send 800,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Canada sand formations to Texas refineries — could potentially emit four times as much pollution as initially determined by the State Department.

Estimates made by the US federal government didn’t consider that transporting extra oil through the new pipeline can potentially cause prices to fall by almost $3 per barrel. More oil means more consumption, and more consumption means more pollution. Yet, organizations like the American Petroleum Institute (API) view the study as trivial, as the oil will be produced and transported either way; if it wasn’t being shipped through the pipeline, then it would be shipped using the railroad, which could also increase emission levels.

The report projects that the pipeline can raise greenhouse gas emissions by about 121 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. The State Department noted that the pipeline would, at the most, only increase CO2 emissions by 30 million tons this year.

Earlier this year, President Obama was still undecided about approving the pipeline; and his administration’s approval has been extended until after the midterm US elections. Obama has been making an effort to reduce the US’s GHG emissions — the report indicates that the pipeline’s emissions could undercut the government’s new policies to curb pollution.

Many scientists from outside the study claim that the extra 121 million tons produced by the pipeline is insignificant compared to the 36 billion tons that we globally emitted in 2013. Still, approving the pipeline could weaken Obama’s new climate policy, which takes a firm stance on the effects of climate change.

See also:
Keystone pipeline: Obama’s unpleasant options
Pipeline Fight Lifts Environmental Movement

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

August 12, 2014

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Underground Recovery, LLC Granted Patent for Innovative Process that Generates Electricity from Coal and Other Fossil Fuels without Carbon Emissions

Fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas have been, are, and will remain some of the most abundant energy sources in the world, especially in the US. Despite the benefits of fossil fuel recovery — such as underground coal mining and combustion, and oil and natural gas drilling — and above-ground combustion for power plants, both historically present a threat to the environment and produce undesirable carbon dioxide emissions, greenhouse gas, and ash.

Coal is integral to many of the US’s state economies and is an industry these states can’t afford to lose. Coal is particularly plentiful in Kentucky; as of 2012, coal generates 41% of the world’s electricity, and in 2013, coal generated 93% of all Kentucky’s electricity. Kentucky is the third largest producer of coal in the US, and one of the largest exporters of coal to Asian markets.

Many projects in various stages of commercialization are under way to either process the above-ground released carbon dioxide or sequester underground carbon dioxide, all adding to the cost and environmental impact of generating additional electricity. However, the Lexington-based research and development company Underground Recovery, LLC has a reasonable solution for retrieving underground fossil fuels.

Since 2011, Underground Recovery has been devoted to environmentally friendly and cost effective recovery of energy and metals from underground resources. The company was granted a US patent in July for its innovative coal combustion process, which can eliminate atmospheric release of carbon dioxide emissions and ash. This new process may be a tremendous boon to coal industries in Kentucky and throughout the world, as it provides an economically feasible alternative to the current process of coal, oil, and natural gas mining, followed by above ground combustion and power generation with subsequent under- and above-ground carbon sequestration.

As a high-risk project, if viable, a successful implementation of this process, especially when coupled with hydraulic fracturing, can be ”game changing “ by lowering costs of energy environmental development, increasing fossil fuel reserves, and minimizing the negative environmental impacts of the atmospheric release of GHG, like CO2 and ash.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das

July 28, 2014

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