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Energy Edge

Obama Sells Climate Plan Abroad

June 5, 2014

TOP ENERGY NEWS

By Ben Geman (@ben_geman) and Clare Foran (@ckmarie)

OBAMA SELLS CLIMATE PLAN ABROAD, WHITE HOUSE CLAIMS 'MOMENTUM.' President Obama briefed other G-7 heads of state Thursday on EPA's new proposal to cut carbon emissions from power plants during the G-7 meeting in Brussels, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said.

"We do feel there is some momentum on the climate change issue, given again our clear roadmap for reducing our emissions," Rhodes said on Air Force One, according to a transcript.

 

Here's a little more from Rhodes: "A number of the leaders made a point of welcoming the president's new effort on climate change. And we think that it will help, because it gives concrete meaning to the commitments we made at Copenhagen about how we're going to reach our emissions-reduction target," he said.

"And so what the United States, through the Climate Action Plan, demonstrating the means by which we're going to reduce our emissions, it put us in a strong position together with G7 countries to work with nations like China and India and others who have to similarly take bold action and articulate how they're going to reach their emissions-reduction target as well," Rhodes said.

REALITY CHECK: US GLOBAL-WARMING PLAN 'FAR FROM WHAT'S NEEDED.' Analysts at the research group Climate Action Tracker have checked out the big new EPA proposal to cut power-plant emissions. Their verdict? It's too modest when set against the international goal of limiting world temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius.

Under their analysis, total U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions in 2030 will be 10 percent below 2005 levels and 5 percent above 1990 levels. Their sobering judgment of why that's not enough: "The [Climate Action Tracker] has calculated from the IPCC AR5 scenarios that reductions for the Annex I countries in 2025 and 2030 should be 25-55 percent and 35-55 percent below 1990 levels respectively for an equity scenario based on relative capability to mitigate."

Their sobering judgement, explained: IPCC is the United Nation's climate-change analysis body, AR5 is their latest sweeping report, and Annex I is Kyoto Protocol parlance for developed nations. Climate Action Tracker is a joint project of three research groups: Climate Analytics, Ecofys, and the Pik Potsdam Institute.

IF THAT ITEM ABOVE ISN'T SOBERING ENOUGH. Over at Vox, Ezra Klein offers, in lots of detail, "7 reasons America will fail on climate change."

"If you were going to weaponize an issue to take advantage of the weak points in the American political system—to highlight all the blind spots, dysfunctions, and irrationalities—you would create climate change. And then you would stand back and watch the world burn," he writes. The piece looks at why efforts in the U.S. and worldwide will fall short of preventing levels of warming that will likely be catastrophic.

"I don't believe the United States—or the world—will do nearly enough, nearly fast enough, to hold the rise in temperatures to safe levels," it states.

STATES ALREADY FIGHTING EPA POWER PLANT RULE. Politico reports that a number of states, with the encouragement of a "big-money conservative group," are lining up against EPA's new proposal to cut carbon emissions from power plants. "In at least eight states, lawmakers have approved symbolic anti-EPA resolutions based on a model approved by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that has shaped controversial state measures on issues like Stand Your Ground gun laws and opposition to Obamacare exchanges," their piece states. (Andrew Restuccia, Politico)

G-7 NATIONS ENDORSE LNG. From the official statement concluding the G-7 meeting in Brussels: "We will also ... promote a more integrated Liquefied Natural Gas market, including through new supplies, the development of transport infrastructures, storage capabilities, and LNG terminals, and further promotion of flexible gas markets, including relaxation of destination clauses and producer-consumer dialogue."

Russia's absence and it's energy policies cast a long shadow over what used to be the G-8 until recently. "The crisis in Ukraine makes plain that energy security must be at the center of our collective agenda and requires a step change to our approach to diversifying energy supplies and modernizing our energy infrastructure," the nations said in their joint statement.

A CHINESE COAL BUBBLE? REPORT SAYS YES. A new report concludes that "spending by Chinese companies of $21 billion last year on coal reserves might be wasted amid tougher environmental rules and weaker growth in electricity demand," according to a Bloomberg summary of the findings. A little more from their piece:

"Tighter restrictions on greenhouse-gas discharges may cut China's total power output by as much as 40 percent from 2012 levels by 2020 under an aggressive scenario, the Carbon Tracker Initiative and the Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia, environmental groups focusing on investment and finance, said in the report." (Alessandro Vitelli, Bloomberg)

MEANWHILE, THE LATEST NEWS ON CHINA'S POTENTIAL CARBON CUTS. The coal-dependent country is looking at what a timeline might look like to impose a mandatory cap on carbon emissions ahead of its next five-year plan. (Michael Standaert, Bloomberg)

NORTH CAROLINA PAVES THE WAY FOR FRACKING. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has voided a longstanding ban on fracking in the state. Drillers are expected to be able to begin fracking sometime next year. "This legislation will spur economic development at all levels of our economy, not just the energy sector," McCrory said. (Marti Maguire, Reuters)

REPORT SHEDS NEW LIGHT ON BP DISASTER. Federal investigators on Thursday offered new conclusions about what caused the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The Chemical Safety Board, in a report, said the buckling of steel drill pipe kept the Deepwater Horizon rig's "blowout preventer"—subsea equipment meant to halt uncontrolled oil and gas flows—from sealing off the Macondo well.

In fact the CSB said the buckling of drill pipe inside the blowout preventer may have transformed the fail-safe device into a cause of the spill, because the so-called shear rams on the BOP meant to seal off the pipe instead just punctured it, sending hydrocarbons upward.

Here are some key findings from a CSB summary of the new report:

Although other investigations had previously noted that the Macondo drill pipe was found in a bent or buckled state, this was assumed to have occurred days later, after the blowout was well underway.

After testing individual components of the blowout preventer (BOP) and analyzing all the data from post-accident examinations, the CSB draft report concluded that the BOP's blind shear ram—an emergency hydraulic device with two sharp cutting blades, intended to seal an out-of-control well—likely did activate on the night of the accident, days earlier than other investigations found. However, the pipe buckling that likely occurred on the night of April 20 prevented the blind shear ram from functioning properly. Instead of cleanly cutting and sealing the well's drill pipe, the shear ram actually punctured the buckled, off-center pipe, sending huge additional volumes of oil and gas surging toward the surface and initiating the 87-day-long oil and gas release into the Gulf that defied multiple efforts to bring it under control.

The CSB, an independent federal agency, also released an 11-minute animated video explaining the findings about the accident that took 11 lives and prompted the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

A WARNING ABOUT OTHER OFFSHORE WELLS. In a statement, CSB investigator Mary Beth Mulcahy said: "The findings reveal that pipe buckling could occur even when a well is shut in and apparently in a safe and stable condition. The pipe buckling—unlikely to be detected by the drilling crew—could render the BOP inoperable in an emergency. This hazard could impact even the best offshore companies, those who are maintaining their blowout preventers and other equipment to a high standard."

ABOUT THOSE BLOWOUT PREVENTERS ... The Interior Department for some time has pledged to write rules setting new standards for the devices. But while the agency has issued an array of regulations to improve offshore-drilling safety since the BP disaster, the tougher BOP standards have slipped repeatedly. National Journal looked at the topic here.

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

THE CLIMATE POLITICS OF SENATE JURISDICTION. Republicans operatives hope to transform the realities of Senate committee jurisdiction into a political liability for Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat facing a tough reelection fight.

Landrieu, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, is a critic of EPA's new proposed climate rules, but pointed out to reporters Wednesday that jurisdiction over the agency lies with the Environment and Public Works Committee.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee pounced, arguing that Landrieu's comments undercut her claims that the energy panel gavel gives her lots of clout to help Louisiana. Her remark shows that "even Landrieu may not be buying her own rhetoric," the NRSC said.

Landrieu, for her part, told The Hill that she still envisions a role for the energy panel. "I don't think it should be done by rule, it should be done by law. And the hearings that I do over the course of the next couple of weeks and months will create some kind of framework for that to happen," she said.

ENERGY COMPANIES BANKING ON GOP SENATE. Bloomberg reports that oil and gas industry PACS are steering 83 percent of their campaign giving to GOP House and Senate candidates this cycle, well above 2010 (the last election in the middle of a presidential term). Power-industry giving has shifted too.

"Electric-utility political action committees have donated 63 percent of their cash this election cycle to Republican candidates. That represents a partisan flip from four years ago when they gave 55 percent to Democrats and just 43 percent to Republicans, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington," Bloomberg reports. (Laura Litvan, Bloomberg)

LAND CHANGES HER TUNE ON CLIMATE. Republican Michigan Senate hopeful Terri Lynn Land fired off a series of tweets Wednesday proclaiming her belief in climate change and the need to protect the state from its harmful effects, while also noting that she opposes the EPA climate rule. The tweets mark a more forceful stand on the issue than Land's previous comments that "there should be a healthy and educated debate on the impact of human activity on our environment." Tom Steyer's NextGen Climate has pledged to wade into the race to defend Land's Democratic challenger Gary Peters, citing Peters's willingness to talk about the need for action on global warming as a major reason for the group's endorsement.

 (Alex Lazar, Huffington Post)

GREEN GROUP GIVES NOD TO ROBERTSON. The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund is endorsing Democrat Martha Robertson for New York's 23rd Congressional District. Robertson faces off against Republican incumbent Tom Reed.

MCCONNELL FOE WADES INTO MODEL MAYHEM. Democratic Kentucky Senate contender Alison Lundergan Grimes's campaign is facing controversy after an ad it released depicting a coal miner was discovered to have used a photo of a European model. (James Hohmann, Politico)

WHAT INSIDERS ARE SAYING

WILL THE CLIMATE RULE CREATE WINNERS AND LOSERS? What power sources stand to gain a leg up in energy markets once the regulations have been set in stone? What staples of the U.S. power supply stand to suffer?

"If the objective is to make significant reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, the rule will be a very costly waste of resources. This conclusion is not the result of computer models or sophisticated economic analyses. It is based on the empirical evidence that has been generated within the European Union." -- William O'Keefe, CEO, George C. Marshall Institute.

Read the full responses from National Journal's Energy Insiders.

HAPPENING TOMORROW

CLIMATE RESILIENCE EVENT. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan will speak at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference on Climate Change Resilience.

MEXICO ENERGY-REFORM EVENT. Inter-American Dialogue holds a discussion on "Mexico's Energy Reform: What's Next for Gas and Electricity?"

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