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TRUMP MEETS WITH FEMA CHIEF AS MASSIVE STORM THREATENS FLORIDA:
Hurricane Michael is projected to be a Category 4 hurricane when it makes landfall later this week in Florida.
Managing the fallout was set to top the agenda as Trump met Wednesday morning with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long.
"I've been speaking with the President regularly, briefed him and Secretary Nielsen yesterday and we'll continue to do so,” Long said this morning on CNN ahead of the meeting with Trump.
Trump frets about protecting people: Trump’s “message to me is 'protect people.' Do what you can to help people," Long said.
President Trump already order a pre-disaster relief order to begin freeing up all resources to respond faster, said Long.
As of Tuesday night, Michael was a Category 3 hurricane, residing about 235 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola, Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters predict the storm to weaken after it makes landfall.
The Energy Department’s tracking website for the storm has it categorized as a Category 4 hurricane as of 6 a.m. Wednesday morning. The Energy Information Administration, the analytical arm of the agency, shows Michael to be on a direct course with the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
US to lose 700,000 barrels per day: The region represents the eastern edge of offshore oil and gas production in the Gulf. Oil prices were already going up on Wednesday, as the markets reacted to news of supply disruptions as drilling rigs shut down in preparation for the storm.
U.S. oil production will lose nearly 700,000 barrels per day, according to Tuesday night reports.
There is also the compounding problem of Iran, which has begun curtailing oil production ahead of U.S. sanctions kicking in next month. The cuts in Iranian crude production have already pushed oil prices higher in recent weeks.
Expect 45 days of oil price volatility: BP CEO Bob Dudley said Wednesday that he sees "extreme volatility" for oil prices in light of Iran. "I think it's going to be 45 days of extreme volatility, it could spike up, it could also go the other way," Dudley told CNBC's Steve Sedgwick from London.
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UTILITY DUKE ENERGY PROJECTS DAYS-LONG POWER OUTAGES IN FLORIDA, CAROLINAS FROM HURRICANE: Utility Duke Energy warned customers in Florida and the Carolinas to expect days-long power outages as a result of Hurricane Michael.
The utility projects 100,000 to 200,000 power outages in the northern part of the Florida Panhandle.
“Duke Energy anticipates significant, widespread power outages, particularly along the coastline of the company’s service area due to storm surge,” the utility said.
It also expects power outages, some potentially lasting several days, in both North and South Carolina.
Fresh off dealing with major outages after Hurricane Florence, Duke Energy said it has mobilized more than 7,000 personnel to restore service from Michael, with crews coming to help from other states.
SENATE SENDS MAJOR $10.5B WATER INFRASTRUCTURE BILL TO TRUMP: The Senate passed a major bipartisan water infrastructure bill on Wednesday with a firm vote of 99 to 1.
The bill provides $4.4 billion for addressing water infrastructure maintenance and drinking water needs. It also authorizes $6.1 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers for major waterway projects. The bill will also streamline the maintenance process to fix water infrastructure and growing the economy.
Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said Wednesday that the bill is good for the environment and has been endorsed by environmentalists.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, chairman of the environment committee, noted that the bill has been endorsed by a broad cross-section of interests, from the oil industry to environmental stalwarts at the Sierra Club.
TRUMP SEES MOVE TO BOOST ETHANOL AS KEEPING CAMPAIGN PROMISE: Speaking in Iowa Tuesday night, Trump filed his administrative action to boost ethanol for farmers in Iowa to his record of "promises made, promises kept."
"I made that promise to you during the campaign," Trump said. "I made that promise to you during the primaries. Promises made, promises kept."
"We're going with E15 year-round," Trump said early in his speech.
What’s it all about? The plan would relax Environmental Protection Agency rules that restrict the sale of 15 percent ethanol fuel blends to eight months of the year. The EPA waiver for the E15 fuel would allow it to be sold year-round, which corn farmers and ethanol producers have been pushing the administration to do for months.
Trump bashes Democrats: Later in the speech, Trump warned that ethanol production and E15 will be in jeopardy if Democrats take back Congress in November.
"The Dems will end ethanol, you know that," Trump said. "They're not going to approve ethanol. They will find a way to take it away.... You better get out there and vote."
Dems actually boosted ethanol over the last decade: Democrats were big proponents of the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, and in fact the biofuel target was raised from 6 billion gallons in 2005 to 36 billion gallons in the 2007 energy bill. Many Democrats want the RFS to transition sooner to more advanced biofuels, like cellulosic ethanol, derived from crop waste, and move away from the crop-based biofuels.
Cellulosic and advanced biofuels are rated as much more beneficial to the climate than conventional biofuels, such as corn-based ethanol.
OIL REFINERS READY TO SUE TRUMP OVER E15: Trump will likely find himself in court over his E15 decision, according to the refinery industry's top lobbyist.
“The President’s proposal to waive the rules for E15 is unlawful and could actually make the problems of the Renewable Fuel Standard worse," Chet Thompson, president and CEO of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, said in a statement.
Thompson told Reuters in an interview that “[t]he only certainty from today’s actions is a lawsuit.”
Refiners aren’t happy with the administration’s concessions: Thompson sees Trump’s action as too “one-sided,” according to his official statement on the announcement.
Although Trump's plan also included actions to fix the ethanol credit trading system to help refiners deal with the cost of the renewable fuel program, it doesn't seem to be enough for Thompson's group, which represents the nation's top refining companies.
The oil and refinery industries see the EPA ethanol program as a failure, requiring either significant reforms by Congress or repeal.
A key Republican also isn’t pleased: Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said Trump’s plan to expand the sale of E15 gasoline “without meaningful reforms for the U.S. refining sector is a missed opportunity that only benefits ethanol producers and their allies.”
Toomey called it a “legally-dubious” proposal that does not address the high compliance costs associated with the government’s Renewable Fuel Standard, which he says “threatens thousands of jobs” at Philadelphia Energy Solutions and Monroe Energy, two companies with refineries in his state.
CONGRESS’ FIGHT OVER WILDFIRES IS NOW AN OBSTACLE TO THE FARM BILL PASSING: A fight over Republican-backed measures to mitigate wildfires is contributing to a delay in passage of the 2018 farm bill.
Democrats and Republicans are haggling over who to blame for Congress missing a deadline to reauthorize the farm bill, which primarily sets and funds agriculture and food policy, as they seek an agreement on a long-term deal rather than a short extension.
Disagreement over food stamps is the main issue dividing the House and Senate, but an unresolved dispute over forest management projects for wildfires is also disrupting the process.
“There is a lot more that needs to be done to make our forests more healthy and resilient, and the Forest Service needs tools to do that,” Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., told Josh in an interview. “Democrats have proposed nothing on forest management.”
Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, pointed his finger the other way.
“Republicans are holding the bill hostage to their unreasonable demands on forestry policy,” Grijalva’s office said in a statement to the press earlier this month.
What House Republicans want: The House-passed version of the farm bill, which advanced 213-211 without a Democratic vote, contains provisions to expand the pace and scale of forest management projects through the removal of overgrowth and dead trees, which fuel wildfires.
Republicans also want to making it easier to do prescribed burns, in which officials intentionally set fires to take away ignitable material like brush off the forest floor and give trees more space to breathe.
Democrats say these are poison pills: But Democrats and conservationists say these measures go too far in removing environmental reviews.
They argue that Republican solutions to combat worsening wildfires cannot be taken seriously if GOP lawmakers, and the Trump administration, don’t also acknowledge the role of hotter and drier weather caused by climate change for making fires more destructive, and fire seasons longer lasting.
The Senate-passed farm bill does not contain forest management provisions, and it passed by a bipartisan margin. The two chambers must reconcile their differences to reach a final agreement that Trump would sign.
CARBON TAX ADVOCATES TOUT EXXON’S $1 MILLION CONTRIBUTION AS A TURNING POINT: Advocates for bipartisan climate change reduction legislation say Exxon’s commitment Tuesday to spend money lobbying for a carbon tax is a turning point in making that happen.
“To get over the finish line will take time. But this is an important step in the process,” Greg Bertelsen, the senior vice president of the Climate Leadership Council, told Josh.
Oil and gas giant Exxon committed Tuesday to provide $1 million over two years to a group promoting a carbon tax and dividend plan.
Exxon will give the money to Americans for Carbon Dividends, an advocacy organization that was set up in June to lobby Congress to support a carbon tax-and-dividend plan proposed by the Climate Leadership Council, a group led by two former Republican secretaries of state, James Baker III and George Shultz.
Exxon is the first oil and gas company to provide funding to Americans for Carbon Dividends, following other contributors Exelon, the large utility, First Solar, and the American Wind Energy Association.
Exxon could start a trend: Supporters say they expect to see other oil and gas companies use lobbying muscle to back a carbon tax, because it could benefit their bottom-line. Oil and gas majors are investing more in less-polluting natural gas, and increasingly, renewables.
"I am very glad to see Exxon stepping up here," Bob Inglis, founder of republicEn.org, and a former six-term congressman from South Carolina, told Josh. "It's counterintuitive that Exxon would be for a carbon tax until you think it through. They are going to turn heads with people realizing it's in Exxon's interest to have a carbon tax. They are being good citizens, but it's also great business for Exxon."
Momentum for a market-oriented climate solution: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a panel of scientists convened by the United Nations, warned in a report Sunday night that putting a high price on carbon is crucial to transform the energy system to prevent the worst impacts of climate change as soon as 2040.
The Climate Leadership Council, and others, say using carbon tax revenue for dividends -- regular payments to every American -- is key to political support for both passing a carbon tax.
“A revenue neutral carbon tax absolutely has to be part of the answer here,” Josiah Neeley, energy policy direct at the free market R Street Institute, told Josh. “To succeed globally, clean energy solutions have to be cheap, and markets are the best way to do that.”
TRUMP QUESTIONS UN CLIMATE REPORT: Trump questioned a report by international scientists -- including Americans -- convened by the UN that projected faster and more severe consequences of global warming than previously thought.
"It was given to me. And I want to look at who drew it. You know, which group drew it. I can give you reports that are fabulous and I can give you reports that aren't so good," Trump told reporters on the South Lawn outside the White House Tuesday.
Trump, who has denied climate science and does not prioritize climate protection, said he would read the report.
"I will be looking at it, absolutely," he said.
ENERGY DEPARTMENT SAYS ‘ALL OF THE ABOVE’ STRATEGY KEY TO GLOBAL CLIMATE GOALS: The Energy Department on Tuesday replied to Josh’s round of inquiries to Trump administration agencies about how to best respond to the UN climate report by reasserted its commitment to an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy.
Agencies that responded Monday, such as the EPA and State Department, bragged about how market forces have helped the U.S. become a world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mostly as a result of natural gas replacing coal as the dominant energy source. None endorsed the findings of the report, which said these market changes are not sufficient, and called for dramatic government action across the world.
Carbon capture research, LNG exports are key: The Energy Department provided a similar outlook, but filled in some details.
"The United States has led the world in lowering emissions through innovation,” said Shaylyn Hynes, an Energy Department spokeswoman. “While others have been focused on reports and symbolic agreements, the Trump Administration has been focused on all of the above energy policies that produce positive results for the environment.”
She said the Energy Department is contributing to solutions by developing “clean coal” -- aka carbon capture and storage -- and renewable technologies at National Labs, and exporting liquified natural gas.
“Secretary Perry and DOE have worked with our allies around the globe to share American technology so that other fossil fuel producing nations can lower their own emissions, impacting climate change beyond our own borders,” Hynes said.
TRUMP BLAMES BILL NELSON FOR FLORIDA ALGAE BLOOMS: Trump claimed Tuesday that Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida has not been proactive when it comes to solving the algae problem in his state's largest lake, Lake Okeechobee.
“.@FLGovScott has been relentless in securing the funding to fix the algae problem from Lake Okeechobee - we will solve this! Congress must follow through on the Government’s plan on the Everglades Reservoir,” Trump posted to Twitter. “Bill Nelson has been no help!”
Scott is challenging Nelson in his re-election for Senate.
Nelson has insisted that the problem is a result of Republican mismanagement of Florida’s government, and budget cuts. He has partnered with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on providing more federal money to deal with the algal blooms.
The algae outbreak in the Sunshine State has led to enormous losses for fisheries, tourism, and other industries that rely on the ocean. Wildlife has suffered, with numerous fish kills and marine mammal die offs being reported off the coast.
ACTING EPA CHIEF ADMITS HE MAY HAVE ‘INADVERTENTLY LIKED’ IMAGE OF OBAMAS AND BANANA: Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Tuesday said he doesn't recall liking a controversial image of Barack Obama on social media that showed former president and his wife Michelle looking at a banana.
Wheeler liked the picture of the former president and his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, that is partially obscured by a white person holding a banana sometime after it was posted on Facebook in 2013 by "Mia mamma è vergine," the Huffington Post first reported Tuesday. The Southern Poverty Law Center told the outlet the content was “blatantly racist."
Wheeler also promoted conspiracy theories online, including the so-called "Pizzagate" theory that connected John Podesta — Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign chairman — with an alleged child sex ring run out of a Washington-area pizza restaurant, according to the Huffington Post.
Wheeler dismisses accusations: Wheeler said he’s not a racist, or a supporter of conspiracy theories.
“Over the years, I have been a prolific social media user and liked and inadvertently liked countless social media posts,” Wheeler told the Washington Examiner in a statement. “Specifically, I do not remember the post depicting President Obama and the First Lady. As for some of the other posts, I agreed with the content and was unaware of the sources.”
EPA SAYS IT HIT 13-YEAR HIGH IN CLEANING UP SUPERFUND SITES: The EPA claimed progress Wednesday on cleaning up the nation’s most contaminated toxic land areas, known as Superfund sites.
The agency said in fiscal year 2018 it has removed all or parts of 22 Superfund sites from the National Priorities List, which includes locations that most urgently need cleanup of toxic chemicals.
“Under President Trump, EPA is deleting Superfund sites from the National Priorities List at the fastest pace in more than a decade,”Wheeler said. “This remarkable accomplishment is proof that cleaning up contaminated lands and returning them to safe and productive use is a top priority of the Trump EPA.”
Superfund is a focus for Trump: Speeding up cleanup of Superfund sites has been one of the EPA’s main “back to the basics” goals, first under Pruitt, and now, Wheeler.
Early in his EPA tenure, Pruitt appointed a task force to study the Superfund program, adopting 42 recommendations and saying he wanted to create a list of the most dangerous sites.
But it’s a team effort: Critics note that Trump's proposed EPA budget requests cut funding for the Superfund program, and worry that focusing on speeding up the cleanup process at particular high-priority sites could result in inadequate cleanups at other places.
Also, some of the cleanups the Trump EPA referenced started decades ago, and were completed years ago, so there’s credit to share.
SENATE COMMITTEE SCHEDULES CONFIRMATION HEARING FOR FERC NOMINEE: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee moved quickly to schedule a confirmation hearing next Tuesday for Bernard McNamee, Trump’s nominee to fill an open seat on the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission.
McNamee, the head of the Energy Department’s Office of Policy, is expected to get an earful from Democrats questioning his impartiality because of his work on the administration’s plan to subsidize money-losing coal and nuclear plants. FERC, an independent agency that oversees wholesale electricity markets, may have to review any potential action.
The Energy Committee will also hold confirmation hearings next Tuesday for Rita Baranwal, tapped to be the Energy Department’s assistant secretary for nuclear energy, and Raymond Vela, nominated to direct the National Park Service.
Wall Street Journal Germany finds local coal filthy and irresistible
Washington Post Climate bill would move D.C. to 100% renewable energy by 2032
New York Times The climate outlook is dire. So what’s next?
Bloomberg The battery boom has created a new lithium superpower in China
Reuters Natural gas here to stay beyond energy transition, Big Oil says
SPONSOR MESSAGE: Interested in learning more about pipelines and the important role they play in the energy industry? Check out this clip on the remediation process and monitoring during pipeline operation.
WEDNESDAY | October 10
9 a.m., 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE. The Global America Business Institute, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA, and the Heritage Foundation present forum on nuclear power called the “Multinational Nuclear Supplier Partnerships within the OECD: Ensuring Relevance and Competitiveness in the Global Nuclear Power Market.”
FRIDAY | October 12
Noon, 2322 Rayburn. Securing America’s Future Energy holds a lunchtime briefing on the Hill to discuss the importance of fuel economy standards and the steps the EPA and NHTSA can take to modernize the rules in a way that will save lives, reduce oil consumption, and strengthen American energy security.
SUNDAY | October 14
All day, New Delhi. One of largest energy conference in the U.S., CERAWeek, is holding its second annual energy forum in India, October 14-16. Featured speakers will include: Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-Falih, OPEC ministers, and U.S. Energy Undersecretary Mark Menezes.