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Once More, With Feeling

Once More, With Feeling

By Ben Geman (@ben_geman), Clare Foran (@ckmarie), and Jason Plautz (@jason_plautz)


The Energy Department is getting closer to issuing loan guarantees for green-energy projects for the first time in years. DOE on Wednesday issued a draft call for applications for up to $4 billion in financing for renewable-energy and efficiency projects.

The last round of renewable-energy project loans in 2009-11 included big solar and wind power-generating projects (not to mention a half-billion for the infamous Solyndra solar-panel manufacturing flop).

But now DOE, with less money to play with, is focused more heavily on how to help commercialize other kinds of green technologies.


The department is focusing on projects that integrate renewable power into the grid and help store it; next-wave biofuels; projects to "enhance" various existing facilities (think, for instance, adding power production to a dam that doesn't do it); waste-to-energy projects; and energy-efficiency proposals.

Peter Davidson, who heads DOE's loan office, said the goal is to finance projects that deploy technologies that are "market-ready," "catalytic," and "replicable."

With the clock winding down on the Obama administration, Energy Department officials have been moving more aggressively to use their remaining lending authority in the financing program, which was born in a bipartisan set of energy bills in 2005 and 2007 but has fallen out of favor with Republicans.

Last year DOE solicited applications for petroleum- and coal-related projects that trap carbon emissions, and it's also rebooting a separate loan program to spur manufacturing of high-tech vehicles and components.


"We are really just going all out to put these resources to work," Davidson said in an interview.

But Davidson also said that the department is doing its due diligence. The draft solicitation issued Wednesday is going out for public comment, and he said that the office has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill to discuss its efforts. Congress has 45 days to weigh in.

Davidson said he expects the final version of the solicitation to arrive in the June-August time frame, and that projects could win approval as soon as the end of 2014 but more likely next year.

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Ben Geman


ARE STATES MISSING OUT ON MILLIONS FROM THE FRACKING BOOM? A number of states have opted to enact a severance tax on the market value of natural-gas production in their state. But Pennsylvania has gone in a different direction. The Keystone State uses a per-well impact fee to generate revenue. Republican Gov. Tom Corbett says the fee facilitates the energy boom while giving the state a fair share of its profits. But the governor has left himself vulnerable to critics who say the structure of the fee has cost the state millions in potential revenue. (Clare Foran, National Journal)

CARTER SLAMS KEYSTONE. Add former president Jimmy Carter's name to the list of Keystone XL opponents. Carter expressed opposition to the proposed oil-sands pipeline on Wednesday when he joined several other Nobel laureates in signing an open letter to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry urging them to nix the proposal. (Jennifer Dlouhy, Houston Chronicle)

HOW A MCKINLEY-ERA POLICY COULD AFFECT A KEY SENATE RACE. When the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana was expanded in 1900, the government did not transfer the rights to the tons of coal that lay beneath the surface. Now, Democratic Sen. John Walsh and Republican Rep. Steve Daines are hoping to win votes as they face off to win the state's open Senate seat and both have proposed legislation seeking to rectify what the tribe views as a mistake made more than 100 years ago. (Michael Catalini, National Journal)

BP ENDS 'ACTIVE' GULF COAST CLEANUP. Four years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP says it has ended its "active cleanup" of the Gulf Coast region. The announcement Tuesday came the same day the U.S. Coast Guard said it was transitioning to look at "re-oiling events," although federal officials cautioned that this did not mean the response was over. (Manuel Torres, New Orleans Times-Picayune)

ALBERTA WEIGHS CARBON CUTS. The Canadian province's environmental chief Robin Campbell says that upcoming emissions regulations will be released soon and that they could include an elevated price on carbon as part of a strategy to win support for oil exports coming out of the province. (Jeremy van Loon, Bloomberg)

EPA OFFICIAL HEADS TO EARTHJUSTICE. Lisa Garcia, EPA's associate assistant administrator for environmental justice, will leave the agency and join Earthjustice as head of the environmental legal group's healthy-communities work.

RADIOACTIVE WASTE IS PILING UP ACROSS THE COUNTRY. EPA says it's unclear how much of a threat is posed to public health by the waste, which is generated by the shale oil boom, and state regulators have been left to police the buildup. (Alex Nussbaum, Bloomberg)

ENERGY GIANTS PAY BIG TO PROMOTE FRACKING. Anadarko Petroleum and Noble Energy have joined hands to wage war against critics of the controversial drilling techniques in a media campaign timed to run as Colorado voters consider efforts to give communities the right to ban fracking. (Jennifer Oldham, Bloomberg)

BEIJING STUDIES POLLUTION SOURCES. A third of the air pollution in Beijing comes from outside the city, Chinese state media reported. According to the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, as much as 36 percent of the capital's particulate matter pollution comes from surrounding provinces. (David Stanway, Reuters)

THE 3-INCH FISH GIVING CALIFORNIA HEADACHES. The delta smelt, a tiny fish that can't swim very well, has been placed at the center of California's water battles because of environmental regulations meant to protect it. (Debra Kahn, Greenwire)


IS PROTECTING THE GRID A MATTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY? How much should protecting the electric grid weigh in considerations of national security?

"The leaked report was both unfortunate and, to some extent, misunderstood. Our energy infrastructure is much better protected now than at any other period of our history. Critical components and nodes are safe. That said, we cannot rest with our current state of affairs and must protect and prepare for the potential of a terrorist disruption to our power grid. To that end, however, we must balance costs with an appropriate level of protection." —Brigham McCown, CEO, Nouveau Inc.

Read the full responses from National Journal's Energy Insiders


OIL SPILL DISCUSSION. Resources for the Future hosts a discussion titled "From the Gulf to the Arctic: What Have We Learned Since the Deepwater Horizon Spill?"

GREAT LAKES CONFERENCE. The Woodrow Wilson Center and the Great Lakes Policy Research Institute host a conference on research and policy in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Region.

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