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TRUMP TO ROLL OUT ETHANOL PLAN IN IOWA AMID OIL INDUSTRY PUSHBACK: Trump will use a trip to the big corn state to announce his plan to allow year-round use of 15-percent ethanol fuel.
The plan and the visit will be timed to help Farm Belt Republicans in tight congressional election races, sources told Reuters, who first reported Trump’s intention to announce the plan next week.
The plan, which Trump reportedly plans to unveil on Oct. 9 in Council Bluffs, is for the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a special waiver that allows the fuel to be sold through the summer driving season. It is currently restricted from being used in the summer months because of its higher Reid vapor pressure, or fuel volatility.
Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst said she is “optimistic” the president will act next week after months of hinting at taking action.
“It would not be good for the president to hint and hint about lifting the ban and do nothing,” she told Reuters. “I think there would be peril if he came and did not deliver on the promise.”
Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa met with Trump at the White House on Tuesday to discuss the E15 waiver. King tweeted out a photo of himself outside the White House with his notes from the meeting written on his hand, which showed E15 fuel blends were discussed.
A simultaneous rebranding: Ahead of the announcement, the ethanol lobbying group Growth Energy launched a website on Tuesday to rebrand E15 fuel, calling it “Unleaded 88.”
The website appears to be countering a month-long national ad campaign by the oil industry to persuade Trump not to move forward with the E15 plan. The oil industry says the fuel will ruin vehicle engines and make refiners liable.
The Growth Energy website says Unleaded 88, its new name for E15, is a fuel approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for cars model year 2001 and newer, which it says represents about 9 out of 10 cars on the road today.
“The website showcases the value Unleaded 88 provides -- whether consumers are looking for a fuel that’s good for their engines, their wallets, or the environment -- in a simple and straightforward way,” said Growth Energy.
The name change was based on a request from convenience store retailers for a “unified brand identity for E15,” the group explains. “Unleaded 88 has made its debut across the country and will be the consistent labeling at more than 80 percent of today’s E15 stations,” it said.
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SAUDI ARABIA ‘SIGNIFICANTLY’ RAISES OIL PRODUCTION AFTER TRUMP PRESSURE: Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s largest oil producer, has “significantly” increased its oil production to a near-record level as it faces pressure from Trump to reduce prices ahead of the midterm elections.
Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday that the Saudis are pumping about 10.7 million barrels of oil a day, slightly less than a record it set in November 2016.
“We’re meeting every single demand for barrels,” Al-Falih said in comments reported by Bloomberg. “We’ve increased production quite significantly.”
The Saudis want to reach an audience of one: The comments appear to be designed to mollify Trump, after OPEC in a meeting last month refused to collectively commit to more oil production despite the global oil price surpassing $80 per barrel less than two months from the U.S. midterm elections. Before that meeting, Trump had returned to his trusty Twitter diplomacy to call for a rapid increase in crude production to offset his decision to reimpose oil sanctions on Iran, and punish other nations that continue to buy the country’s oil starting on Nov. 4.
Iran’s oil exports are already falling fast ahead of Trump’s sanctions, tightening global supply and pressuring prices. But OPEC held off on committing to more oil production, worried about causing a glut in the market similar to a few years ago, when prices crashed.
And more help for Trump in on the way: According to a report Monday, Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world’s top two oil producers outside the U.S., struck a private deal last month to increase production, and informed the U.S. about it. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih and Russian counterpart Alexander Novak agreed during a series of meetings last month to lift output from September through December, Reuters reported, making U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry aware of the plan.
The Saudis pronouncement Wednesday of more oil production would seem to support that.
BILL TO SUE OPEC A FOCUS OF SENATE COMMITTEE HEARING : A Senate subcommittee will host a hearing on Wednesday afternoon that will highlight legislation that would allow the U.S. to sue OPEC for manipulating the oil market.
But Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who chairs the antitrust subcommittee, is a co-sponsor of the bill -- the so-called No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act, or NOPEC -- as is the panel’s top Democrat, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
They will likely seek perspective on the Trump administration’s view of the bill from one of the hearing’s witnesses, Justice Department official Makan Delrahim, the assistant attorney general in the antitrust division.
The House Judiciary Committee has already passed a NOPEC bill that would open up the cartel to antitrust lawsuits, potentially leaving it vulnerable to paying billions of dollars in repatriations.
Trump is upending expectations: It has been considered a longshot to pass Congress, since previous Democratic and Republican administrations have blocked other congressional efforts at implementing similar laws.
But Joe McMonigle, a former chief of staff of the Energy Department in the George W. Bush administration, recently told Josh that OPEC members fear the potential legislation passing because Trump has expressed an openness in his past business life to supporting the concept.
The Saudis recently hired a lobbyist to campaign against it.
CANADA CHALLENGES US ENERGY DOMINANCE WITH 'MEGAPROJECT' ONE DAY AFTER NAFTA DEAL: With a major announcement by oil giant Shell on Tuesday, Canada has set itself up to become the U.S.'s biggest energy rival in supplying liquefied natural gas to Asia.
Shell officials said LNG Canada, a massive multibillion dollar LNG export project in British Columbia, will compete directly with U.S. LNG terminals on the Gulf Coast by being able to beat U.S. companies on the price of shipping the fuel to customers in China, Japan, Malaysia, and South Korea.
The announcement came less than 36 hours after the Trump administration announced it had reached a deal with Canada on NAFTA.
Lower shipping costs are the advantage: Jessica Uhl, Shell's chief financial officer, said on a Tuesday call with investors that the terminal would benefit from shipping costs $1 lower per unit of natural gas than typical greenfield developments on the Gulf Coast.
Shell will control a 40 percent stake in the project. Its partners, including Malaysia's Petronas, Chinese government-run PetroChina, Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi, and South Korea's KOGAS, will be major buyers of the LNG. The companies joined Shell in making the announcement on Tuesday to build the export facility in Kitimat, British Columbia.
Other companies that benefit from the project: TransCanada, which proposed the Keystone XL pipeline to link Canada's oil to the U.S., will build, own, and operate the Coastal GasLink pipeline that will ship natural gas to LNG Canada for export. The export terminal will be built by a joint venture between Texas-based engineering giant Fluor and the Japanese-based JGC.
LNG Canada won’t face opposition like US energy projects: Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden emphasized Tuesday that local and provincial governments in Canada support the project, including First Nations and tribal governments.
By comparison, tribes and tribal governments in the U.S., along with environmental groups, have presented a significant amount of opposition to energy projects in the U.S., including the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota.
TRUMP GETS FRIENDLY WITH OPEC MEMBER AND ENERGY RIVAL INDONESIA: Trump called Indonesian President Joko Widodo Tuesday evening to offer help and condolences after a major earthquake and tsunami hit the country on Friday.
Trump offered his support to the victims and their families and acknowledged the Indonesian government’s leadership in response to the crisis, the White House said in a readout from the president’s call.
Indonesia is a major energy power in Asia, and is looking to become a major competitor to the U.S. when it comes to LNG exports to China in 2019.
Indonesia is also a major oil producer, as a member of OPEC since 1962. And even though President Trump likes to tout how U.S. coal exports have increased under his watch, the U.S. still imports coal from Indonesia. The country is a top exporter of coal to the U.S., right behind Colombia.
The story behind Indonesian coal in the U.S.: Indonesian coal imports began to surge about a decade ago when some U.S. coal power plants found it hard to rely on coal from U.S. producers because of rail delays. Coal buyers found it was cost competitive to buy coal from Colombia and Indonesia on the spot market, rather than risk not having enough fuel to produce electricity.
Nearly 70 percent of U.S. imports come from Colombia. Indonesian coal ranks at number two, and Canada is third, according to EIA’s latest quarterly reporting on coal.
Coal imports are cheaper than U.S. exports: The average price of U.S. coal imports is still more competitive than U.S. coal exports when it comes to price. So far, coal imports from these foreign suppliers average $82.95 per short ton of coal, while the price of coal from the U.S. to overseas destinations averaged $103.26 per short ton.
US REACTOR FLEET OFFICIALLY FALLS TO 98: The U.S. nuclear fleet had been holding at 99 reactors, the largest nuclear power fleet in the world, until last month.
The Energy Information Administration made it official on Wednesday that the U.S. reactor fleet has dropped to 98 reactors after a surprise announcement from New Jersey last month that the Oyster Creek power plant, the oldest in the nation, is closing one year ahead of time. Six reactors have retired in the past five years, and one dozen others have announced plans to retire in the next seven years.
AIRLINE CROSSES ATLANTIC ON FUEL MADE FROM RECYCLED AIR POLLUTION: Airline Virgin Atlantic has made the first-ever transatlantic trip using low-carbon fuel produced from a steel mill’s pollution.
LanzaTech, in partnership with Boeing, produces the low-emission fuel using a chemical process that captures carbon monoxide -- similar to a car’s exhaust -- and other waste gases from steel plants to make a “low carbon” jet fuel.
The flight, between Orlando and Lond, was announced on Tuesday by the three companies.
Meeting a milestone for clean fuels: The Carbon Capture Coalition, a business group that looks to reduce carbon dioxide pollution, congratulated LanzaTech and Virgin Atlantic “for achieving this important and inspiring milestone,” which it said reveals the economic potential in carbon capture.
They want technology that works with carbon monoxide, and not just carbon dioxide, to also be eligible for the 45Q investment tax credit that currently goes to facilities that capture CO2, which is the primary contributor to global warming.
FLORIDA HOUSE REPUBLICANS CRITICIZE EPA’S ‘DEEPLY TROUBLING’ MERCURY POLLUTION PLAN: Top environmentally conscious House Republicans criticized the Trump administration on Tuesday for planning to weaken an Obama-era mercury and toxic air pollution rule to help coal plants.
“There is no reason to relax that standard,” Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., told Josh in an interview. “I am against it. I am against coal. Why don’t we just stop burning coal? We’ve got all the natural gas we will ever need.”
In a separate interview, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., said the move lacked rationale.
“The only explanation I can come up with is this was pure zealotry, and more and more Republican members of Congress are standing up against these kind of actions,” Curbelo told Josh.
EPA’s latest move to boost coal: The EPA said Monday that it sent to the White House a proposal to relax the 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or MATS.
Mercury is a neurotoxin that can especially harm the nervous systems of children and fetuses.
While the mercury rule is less publicized than other Obama administration initiatives, the coal industry considers it the most expensive air emissions regulation ever implemented and is already spending $18 billion to comply with it, the EPA said.
EPA is not looking to cancel the regulation entirely. But the agency intends to provide legal justification for weakening it, and perhaps other air pollution rules, by proposing to change the way that it calculates the costs and benefits of regulations.
Coastal Republicans are starting to speak up: Rooney said Tuesday that he is “disappointed” in the move and that it is indicative of the Trump administration’s broader agenda to help coal and other fossil fuels by rolling back regulations intended to reduce pollution.
He is increasing his visibility on the subject of climate change, representing a Southwest Florida district vulnerable to sea level rise.
On Monday, Rooney became the latest Republican to join the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group vowing to combat climate change that consists of 88 equal number GOP members and Democrats — and chaired by Curbelo. Rooney co-sponsored a carbon tax bill introduced this summer by Curbelo.
FEDERAL COURT TAKES AWAY KEY PERMIT FOR MOUNTAIN VALLEY PIPELINE: A federal appeals court on Tuesday vacated a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the $3.5 billion Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline, putting the future of the project in doubt.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said the pipeline would harm streams and wetlands along the 160 miles of the route covered by the vacated permit.
FERC is in the crosshairs: FERC in August had allowed construction to continue on most of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a change in course after it had issued a stop work order for sections of the project that crossed federal land in response to another court decision.
Environmental groups on Tuesday urged FERC to stop construction of the pipeline after the latest court decision.
"In their haste to make a quick buck, MVP rushed essential processes because they knew there was no way their dirty project would ever satisfy commonsense protections for water and health," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement.
But the builder isn’t backing down: The project's developer said it plans to apply for a new Army Corps permit, and is assessing whether it can continue construction on other areas of the pipeline, with the goal of getting the project up and running by the end of 2019.
Associated Press Experts say Trump’s EPA moving to loosen radiation limits
New York Times Few candidates are running on climate change
Wall Street Journal Climate change is forcing the insurance industry to recalculate
Reuters After lean years, Big Oil is under pressure to spend
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WEDNESDAY | October 3
2:15 p.m., 406 Dirksen. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight Subcommittee hearing on "Oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency's Implementation of Sound and Transparent Science in Regulation."
4:30 p.m., 1740 Massachusetts Avenue NW. Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies hosts a panel discussion on “Green Finance in China.”
THURSDAY | October 4
9 a.m., 902 Hart. The Carbon Utilization Research Council and Department of Energy co-host "Showcasing Advancements in Fossil Energy Technology."
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.”