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NUCLEAR ENERGY WATCHDOG BACKS SAUDI PUSH FOR KHASHOGGI MEDIA BLACKOUT: The Saudi government only wants to hear from voices that toe its official line when it comes to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the region’s nuclear energy watchdog says it’s onboard.
The Arab Atomic Energy Agency, the Mideast’s division of the International Atomic Energy Agency, weighed in on the Khashoggi crisis on Wednesday. It “affirmed its support” for Saudi Arabia's position “to adopt reliable media sources and to avoid unofficial sources regarding disappearance of Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi, and to wait for the results of the ongoing investigations,” according to a Saudi government news blurb.
In the 48 hours since U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was dispatched to meet with the Saudi royals on Khashoggi being killed in Turkey, the Saudi government has published statements from foreign leaders and others that support only government-sanctioned statements on Khashoggi as the news, calling everything else a campaign to malign the kingdom.
Trump’s nuclear deal hangs in the balance: The Saudis have a major stake in the Tunis-based nuclear agency, which will oversee its planned development of nuclear energy in the kingdom that may or may not include the United States.
The Trump administration wants to win a bid to design and build the oil-rich nation’s first nuclear power plant. But in the background of the Khashoggi murder investigation are the Russians, who could very well win the nuclear energy contract and push Trump out.
Trump met with Pompeo Thursday morning to discuss Khashoggi. Pompeo said outside the meeting that he would let the facts speak for themselves once the Saudis and Turkey complete their investigations, and determine an appropriate response then. He said the results of the investigations will be coming soon.
Pompeo said on Wednesday that he gave the Saudis a matter of days to tell the U.S. what exactly happened to the journalist in Instanbul, Turkey, where a video obtained by Turkish law enforcement shows he was lured and murdered in the Saudi consulate there.
MEANWHILE… SAUDI ARABIA PUSHES OIL’S ROLE IN MEETING PARIS CLIMATE GOALS: Saudi energy minister Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Faleh met on Wednesday with a top United Nations climate official to discuss the role of oil in meeting the Paris climate change accord.
The Saudis want the petroleum industry to play a part in addressing climate change, and for the U.N. to find “appropriate solutions” for them, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
“For [U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary Patricia Espinosa’s] part, the secretary expressed admiration at the achievements of the Kingdom, in all fields, especially the petroleum industries, as well as the programs applied by the Kingdom, in the field of energy conservation and its leading role, in the localization of solar and renewable energy industries,” the official news service reported.
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FEDS WARN IRAN SANCTIONS COULD MAKE IT HARDER TO HEAT HOMES THIS WINTER: Higher oil prices as a result of sanctions on Iran could make it harder for Americans to pay their home heating bills this winter, the federal government said Wednesday.
The agency forecasts that the Brent crude oil price, used in determining U.S. petroleum product prices, will average $79 per barrel this winter, which is $15 per barrel higher that last winter, an increase that is “the result of gradually tightening global oil balances and concerns about potential supply disruptions in the coming months," the agency said.
A big chunk of the Northeast relies on home heating fuel for space heating, from Washington, D.C., to Maine. Although more are switching to natural gas and electricity to heat their homes, the percentage of heating oil users remains higher than the rest of the country.
EPA SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH ISRAEL TO WORK ON CYBER THREATS, SILENT ON CLIMATE CHANGE: Environmental Protection Agency acting chief Andrew Wheeler signed an agreement Thursday with Israel to collaborate on air pollution, water quality issues, and cybersecurity, but, not surprisingly, nothing on climate change.
The agreement renews a memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries’ environmental agencies in 1991, which is the same year Wheeler first began working in Washington, he noted.
Areas of focus: The MOU covers joint work on air and water quality, cybersecurity, and emergency response practices, Wheeler said.
Wheeler emphasized water quality as a major concern of his. “We can do a lot for water quality for the entire globe,” he said.
Israel is currently the global leader on water recycling, reusing 80 percent of its water, said Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer.
Dermer said the MOU shouldn’t be discounted as insignificant and minor, because Israel is a very different country than most.
“We punch well above our weight,” he said, despite Israel being the size of New Jersey.
As big as China: In both cybersecurity and water management “we are a global technology leader,” and equivalent to China, Dermer said.
“We account for 20 percent of all work on cybersecurity,” he said. “On cyber .. [Israel is] as big as China.”
The MOU with EPA gives Israel’s technology “global reach,” Dermer said.
RYAN ZINKE IS ‘BULLISH’ ON OFFSHORE WIND, PLANS FOR MAJOR AUCTIONS: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Wednesday he is “bullish” about offshore wind, working with government leaders in the Northeast to transform what was once a fringe and costly investment into America’s newest energy-producing industry.
“I'm very bullish on offshore wind, and harnessing this renewable resource is a big part of the Trump Administration's made in America energy strategy,” Zinke said during a major offshore wind conference in Washington.
Zinke has used the same “bullish” language before, in a interview this summer with Josh.
As the cost of onshore renewables drops, offshore wind, which produces strong gusts for long periods of time, represents perhaps the biggest clean energy opportunity of them all, and allows for the Trump administration to show it does not only care about fossil fuels.
Block Island, a small 30-megawatt wind farm off the Rhode Island coast that can power 17,000 homes, is the nation's only current offshore project.
But it is likely to have company soon: Zinke said Wednesday the Interior Department will hold an auction for 390,000 acres of federal waters off the coast of Massachusetts on Dec. 13, with 19 companies qualified to participate. That opportunity could support 4.1 gigawatts of electricity and power nearly 1.5 million homes, he added.
He also said he plans to begin a process to auction offshore federal waters off the coast of California for the first time ever, and is seeking to identify interested companies with a notice publication in the Federal Register on Friday.
But the Atlantic Coast is where the real opportunity for offshore wind, and these efforts have the support of governors such as Republicans Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland, and Democrats Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island.
Building on offshore wind auctions that began during the Obama administration, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is engaged in 11 active commercial leases for offshore wind along the Atlantic Coast, from Massachusetts to North Carolina.
FERC CHAIRMAN KEVIN MCINTYRE IS ABSENT AT MEETING: Kevin McIntyre, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, was not present at Thursday’s monthly meeting because of health issues, and did not vote on any agenda items, feeding speculation that he may resign or relinquish his chairmanship.
Fellow Republican commissioner Neil Chatterjee chaired the meeting for the second straight month, and he and fellow Democratic commissioners Cheryl LaFleur and Richard Glick offered prayers and best wishes for McIntyre Thursday morning. The commissioners ended the meeting without providing an update on McIntyre’s status on the commission.
“I am very sorry that Chairman Mcintyre is not able to be here today and continue to wish warm wishes for his recovery and I know that everyone here does,” LaFleur said.
FERC is already short one member after Republican commissioner Robert Powelson recently resigned. Trump has nominated Bernard McNamee, the head of the Energy Department’s Office of Policy, to fill the open seat.
GLICK SAYS FERC CAN’T IGNORE CLIMATE CHANGE: Glick, a Democratic commissioner, warned fellow commissioners that FERC should account for climate change in its decision-making, even if it does not have authority over regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
"It is important that we recognize many of our decisions have an impact on emissions,” Glick said at Thursday’s meeting, highlighting the importance of the recent U.N. report about the worsening impacts of climate change. “We cannot ignore climate change in our decision processes."
FERC is currently reviewing its 1999 policy for approving pipeline projects, aiming to update to reflect how to best manage the transport of bountiful shale natural gas to market, while balancing environmental and climate change concerns. Environmentalists say FERC has become a “rubber stamp” for pipeline approvals because the policy statement encourages the committee to lean too heavily on economic considerations when making decisions.
WILBUR ROSS OPENS NEW FRONT IN TRADE WAR WITH $11M IN FISH FARM GRANTS: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross doled out $11 million Wednesday aimed at jumpstarting the U.S. aquaculture industry, or fish farming, and limiting dependence on foreign seafood imports.
“With such vast coastlines, there is no reason the United States should be importing billions of pounds of seafood each year,” Ross said. Growing a domestic aquaculture industry would create jobs while making the nation more food secure, he said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is launching 22 projects aimed at expanding sustainable U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes aquaculture.
WEATHER GROUP SAYS TRUMP’S ATTACK OF CLIMATE SCIENTISTS IS ‘VERY MISLEADING’: The American Meteorological Society is pushing back at Trump’s claim that climate scientists have a “very big political agenda,” saying such assertions are “misleading and very damaging.”
The executive director of the weather group wrote a letter to Trump, signed Tuesday, rejecting the president’s claim that politics marr scientific forecasts of climate change.
“The scientific community welcomes all who commit to the pursuit of understanding through science irrespective of their political views, religious beliefs, and ethical values,” the letter said, which was obtained by the Washington Post on Wednesday. “As an institution, the American Meteorological Society takes no political positions and we proudly count among our members both individuals who strongly support you and those who routinely disagree."
Trump is playing politics with science: The president in a pair of interviews this week has sought to tarnish the science behind a U.N. report released this month that said the worst impacts of climate change are coming faster and stronger than previously thought, and would take a major transformation of the world’s energy system to avoid.
Trump on Tuesday continued to falsely assert that the science is unsettled on climate change and its causes, and claimed he has a “natural instinct for science” because his uncle worked as a professor at MIT.
His government supports climate science: These comments bely the findings of Trump’s own government.
A major climate change report released last year by the Trump administration said that it is “extremely likely” that human activities are the “dominant cause” of global warming.
BUT TRUMP SAYS HE’S AN ENVIRONMENTALIST: “I know some people might not think of me as that, but I'm an environmentalist,” he told the Associated Press in an interview this week. “Everything I want and everything I have is clean. Clean is very important -- water, air,” he said, underscoring his goals of supporting basic tenets of environmental protection while avoiding climate change.
SCIENTISTS ASTONISHED AT LACK OF LIFE IN PUERTO RICO’S RAINFOREST: A new research paper published Wednesday shows Puerto Rico’s rainforest has lost 98 percent of all insect life as a result of increased temperatures.
And with the insects go the birds, reptiles, and amphibians that rely on them for food, according to the survey of the Luquillo rainforest in Puerto Rico published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers compared insect surveys they conducted in the mid-1970s to those conducted in the last few years.
Some of the scientists that had been part of the survey in the 1970s said it was noticeable, before they did their statistical analysis, that the insect population had collapsed. In television and radio interviews, the researchers remarked that there were no butterflies, where in the past they had been everywhere.
And with the collapse of the insect population, the number of anole lizards, commonly found in the rainforest, had decreased by between 25 to 91 percent, depending on which species was looked at.
The study also found that the rainforest’s temperature has increased by 2 degrees Celsius over the last 30 years.
EU LAUNCHES $115 MILLION CLEAN ENERGY INVESTMENT FUND WITH BILL GATES: The European Commission has launched a $115 million clean energy investment fund with Breakthrough Energy, a group led by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
Together, the partnership will be called Breakthrough Energy Europe. Gates’ group, formed in 2015, has $1 billion in committed capital from billionaires like himself. Its commitment is to help support “cutting edge companies” to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
The new venture has a two-pronged focus: Gates, in a statement Wednesday, said the new combined fund with Europe would focus on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy efficiency in electricity, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, and buildings.
“The scientists and entrepreneurs who are developing innovations to address climate change need capital to build companies that can deliver those innovations to the global market,” he said. “Breakthrough Energy Europe is designed to provide that capital.”
Reuters Exxon Mobil bets big on China LNG, sidesteps trade war
New York Times Exposed by Michael: Climate threat to warplanes at coastal bases
E&E News Trump and coal: ‘The boss wants what the boss wants’
USA Today $3 billion already spent to end longest blackout in US history. Could renewable energy help Puerto Rico?
Washington Post Venezuela’s foreign creditors try to lay claim to Citgo
THURSDAY | October 18
Noon, 1030 15th Street NW. The Atlantic Council holds a discussion on "The Role of Advanced Energy in National Security and a Resilient Grid."
12:30 p.m., 3600 N Street NW. Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service holds an Energy and Climate Policy seminar on "Covering Climate Change in the Age of Donald Trump."
12:30 p.m., 1201 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The American Security Project holds a discussion on "Guyana: Building Sustainable Security - Oil and Geopolitics."
2 p.m., FERC holds a technical conference regarding Winter 2018-2019 Operations and Market Performance in Regional Transmission Organizations and Independent System Operators.
FRIDAY | October 19
1 p.m., Montana. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s panel on National Parks holds a field hearing to examine challenges in gateway communities of National Parks. National Parks Subcommittee Chairman Steve Daines, R-Mont., will lead the hearing.