Nine Energy Stories Will Drive 2019 -- Many Of Which Will Be Powered By Trump

Forbes - Ken Silverstein

White House Getty
2018 has once again been underscored by the loudest guy in the room, or in this case, the world: Donald Trump. 2019 will only ramp up the volume. But the noise, though, is getting more obnoxious while his words and actions have become inescapable. Indeed, the president is described as a con artist. And his energy and environmental policies are just as dirty — a throwback to a bygone era when the milkman delivered and the gas station attendant pumped your gas.
Setting aside Trump’s personal peccadilloes, he has tried to totally turn back Obama’s environmental policies. There’s also Trump’s indifference toward CO2 emissions and his denial of climate science as well as his attempted reversal of vehicle tailpipe emissions standards. And then there’s the try at propping up of uneconomic coal-fired power electricity as well as the proposal to ease natural gas-related methane emissions. The list goes on.
But Trump’s biggest faux pas this past year has been his misguided insistence that the U.S. must apply tariffs on certain products coming out of China and namely, solar panels. To this end, solar development in the United States is feeling the heat. Meantime, China has responded in-kind and it has specifically targeted oil and natural gas exported from the U.S. And once China gets locked into new long-term contracts, the U.S. could be frozen out of these lucrative markets.
Just as former White House Counsel John Dean warned the nation in 1973 that a “cancer was on the presidency,” a similar malignancy may now be upon us in 2018. But this column will drill down on Trump’s policies, which could stick around a lot longer and which could have a far-reaching impact.

Nine: On a positive note, the shale gas revolution continues to provide both economic and environmental opportunities. When it comes to using natural gas for electric generation, the fuel is replacing coal. And that is helping to drive down CO2 levels, which are tied to global warming. The good news is that CO2 emissions are 18% less than they were in 2005, says the Energy Information Administration.
And when it comes to shale gas and its byproducts being used for the manufacturing process, that too is giving a boost to regions of the country that need a second wind: Appalachia, in particular.
In fact, a 2018 study says that the Utica and Marcellus Shale basins will provide 37% of the nation’s natural gas production by 2040, making it the best place nationally for manufacturers to invest — even better than the Gulf Coast. IHS Markit concludes that the region, which is made up of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will “provide a significant financial advantage” when compared to the Gulf Coast.
A climate activists with a colorful mask attends the March for Climate in a protest against global warming in Katowice, Poland, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, as the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference takes place in the city. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz) ASSOCIATED PRESS
Eight: But the negative side of greater shale gas exploration means the potential for more methane leaks, which are 80-times more powerful than CO2 and which are also responsible for trapping heat. In 2000, shale gas accounted for 5% of all gas production in the United States and today it is about 60%, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration.
With that, a 2018 study published in the journal Science says that the U.S. oil and gas business emits 13 million metric tons of methane from its operations a year. And that is 60% more than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated. In fact, the leak rate from existing operations is 2.3%, which is greater than EPA’s estimate of 1.4%. Despite the serious concerns and the available technologies, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency released a draft to ease up the time frame for which oil and gas companies must inspect and fix their leaks for fracking sites on publicly-held lands.

Seven: The states are on the leading edge of enacting policies to curb emissions and especially CO2. One idea to emerge — and a lot of environmentalists don’t like it — is the one to save the existing nuclear energy fleet. Right now, 99 nuclear reactors provide about 20% of the nation’s electricity and 56% of its carbon-free power. At the same time, the industry says that its operating costs have fallen by 19% since 2012.
But six plants have shut down over the last five years, either the result of safety issues or the fact that they have been unable to compete with cheap natural gas generation. To help save those plants, New Jersey enacted laws to keep open PSEG’s Salem and Hope Creek nuclear plants operating.
It follows Connecticut, which is working to save Dominion Energy’s facility. Ohio and Minnesota are in the process of doing the same for First Energy and Xcel Energy, respectively. Those states follow Illinois and New York, which enacted laws to credit nuclear units owned by Exelon and Entergy, respectively, for the clean energy they generate.
Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid on the electric charging station. Plug-in hybrid vehicles and electric cars replaces the classic fuel vehicles in future. Getty

Six: In 2009, car makers had agreed with President Obama to produce vehicles that got better gas mileage. But they had a change of heart once President Trump was sworn in. They have now given the Trump administration their blessing to reverse course: instead of the 54.5 miles per gallon that Obama would require — over-and-above the current 35 mpg — Trump has settled on 37 mpg by 2025.
But California is responding by saying that the tougher vehicle emissions standards set by the Obama administration only add a few hundred dollars to the price of a new car and that has not deterred consumers who finance them over five years. It, along with nine other states, will fight the Trump administration in court.
The silver lining here is that automakers are committed to commercializing all-electric models. Indeed, at least 13 companies have such brands, including Tesla, Volkswagen, Nissan, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, Ford and Toyota.
According to U.S. the Energy Information Administration, electric vehicles are now 1.6% of the overall car market. But that could increase to 6% in 2025.

Five: While experts predict that electric batteries for cars will hit stride around 2027, battery storage for utilities got a big boost in 2018. Wind and solar energies have been responsible for about 60% of all of generation. That has caught the eye of electric utilities.
Xcel Energy, which has a goal of going fully renewable by 2050, says that it can do do so without huge burdens on its customer base. To that end, it has asked for energy storage proposals that could help bolster its would-be wind and solar projects. It got 430 such bids, compared to 55 in 2013.
The U.S. Energy Storage Monitor 2017 Year-in-Review says that 1,000 megawatt-hours of that capacity was deployed between 2013 and 2017 and it is predicting that more than 1,200 megawatt-hours of energy storage will get deployed in 2018 alone; last year, it was 431 megawatt-hours.
Moreover, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted in mid February to allow grid managers to compensate energy storage the same as traditional power generators. Energy storage would thus graduate beyond the injection of electrons to prevent lights from flickering out and into the wholesale energy markets. Storage devices can also start up in seconds while generators take much longer.
Blue Wind Turbine 3d illustration Getty

Four: Renewable energy continues to be a bright spot on the energy horizon. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that wind and solar electricity will make up 50% of the world’s energy mix by 2050. That will be a function of the falling price of the underlying technologies as well as $548 billion being invested in storage capacity.
Moreover, wind costs have fallen by 67% since 2009 while utility-scale solar has dropped by 86% since that time, notes financial advisor Lazard. With that, corporations have contracted to buy 7,000 megawatts of renewable energy over four years, which is expected to grow to 60,000 megawatts by 2025, says the Edison Foundation Institute for Electric Innovation.
“Since the 1970s, fossil fuels have commanded a consistent 60-70% share of the global power generation mix. We think this 50-year equilibrium is coming to an end, as cheap renewable energy and batteries fundamentally remake electricity systems around the world,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s 2018 report says.

Three: Coal’s continuing saga continues to be bleak. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, about 16,200 megawatts of coal generation is expected to retire in 2018, meaning coal will supply less than 30% of the domestic electricity market. Similarly, the Energy Information Administration adds that renewables, excluding hydro, will hit 10% of the U.S. electricity market this year.
Meantime, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says coal jobs are at their lowest level since the mid 1980s: 51,000 nationally. Wind and solar jobs total 474,000, combined, or 100,000 and 374,000, respectively.
But the Trump administration has said that it will try and use the regulatory levers to buttress coal plants that it thinks are vital to the country’s energy security. Its rationale is that such facilities are reliable and keep electricity purring along during harsh weather conditions.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has dismissed that thinking, however, noting that reserve margins are greater than they have ever been and even in areas that rely on coal. In other words, the grid is more dependable than ever, all while wholesale prices are dropping and the level of harmful emissions is going down.
Because coal will still be relied upon not just in this country but also developing countries, it is important that the fuel become cleaner. Coal, in fact, is responsible for a third of all manmade emissions.
To that end, Congress enacted a law this year to give a tax credit of $50 per ton for CO2 that is buried and $35 a ton for CO2 that is re-utilized. With that, Net Power is working with Toshiba Corp. to burn natural gas in oxygen to create pure CO2 — much of which is captured, heated and used to create electricity. The remaining CO2 is captured and either sequestered underground or used to enhance oil recovery. It says that its project is now more viable because of this new law.

Two: The peril of rising temperatures and climate change will loom for decades to come. But the threat level has increased since Trump was sworn in. And 2019 was a marked year.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in October says that keeping temperature increases to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by mid Century won’t be enough to avert environmental catastrophes. To make matters worse, at the current pace, such temperature rises could be greater than 7 degrees Fahrenheit. The economic and environmental damages would thus become irreversible.
Meantime, 13 government agencies released the fourth National Climate Assessment six weeks later. Experts there found once more that climate change is primarily human-induced and that global average temperatures are the highest they have ever been.
Importantly, the president has withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement that calls on nations to limit their temperature rises to no more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by mid century, from pre-industrial levels. He is also trying to get out of the Clean Power Plan that would reduce this nation’s CO2 emissions while he has placed tariffs on solar panel imports.
The International Energy Agency said that global CO2 emissions rose, globally,1.4% to 32.5 gigatons in 2017. About two-thirds of the increase is coming from China and India, which are actively addressing air quality issues.
Along those lines, the U.S. Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in October. Kavanaugh replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy, who provided the deciding vote to allow the EPA the right to regulate CO2.
Even Kavanaugh has called Obama’s Clean Power Plan that seeks to cut CO2 by 32% by 2030 a “laudable policy.” But he also tamped down his endorsement of the plan during a court hearing by saying, “If Congress does this, they can account for the people who lose their jobs. If we do this, we can’t.”
FIEL - In this Sept. 24, 2018, file photo, shoppers sit on a bench with a decorated with U.S. flag browsing their smartphones outside a fashion boutique selling U.S. brand clothing at the capital city's popular shopping mall in Beijing. China will go along with changes meant to update global trade rules but they must protect Beijing’s status as a developing country, a Cabinet official said Friday, Nov. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File) ASSOCIATED PRESS

One: The biggest energy issue to hit this year is not one that has been lingering around but rather, it is one that was brought about solely because Trump is a believer in tariffs, calling himself “a tariff man.”
Economists agree on almost nothing — except that free and fair trade produces better business and healthier economies. And that axiom especially holds true when it comes to the relationship between the United States and China, considering that the Asian nation is the second biggest economy in the world and that it is a voracious consumer of oil and natural gas. In fact, the two economies are inextricably linked to the import-export markets.
In fact, oil and natural gas make up 8% of the gross national product and provide nearly 10 million jobs in the United States, the American Petroleum Institute says. Absent a trade war, by 2020, the United States could be exporting 70 billion cubic meters of LNG and by 2040, the number could be 110 billion cubic meters, says the International Energy Agency in Paris. Chinese gas demand is forecast to grow by 60% between 2017-2023, all of which is tied to China’s domestic policies to reduce local air pollution by switching from coal to gas.
China has become the second largest importer of U.S. crude oil. Until June 2018, it imported 350,000 barrels per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That equates to $1 billion of such purchases. But it turned off the spigot in August and September, although it says it will turn it back on.
And, roughly $8 billion worth of utility-scale solar projects — those that connect to the transmission grid — have been killed or delayed, says the Solar Energy Industry Association and Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, in a new paper that looks at the impact of solar panel tariffs on imports through 2022. The same analysis says that 9,000 jobs will have been lost or forsaken as a result of the president’s tariffs that were implemented in January.
Trump imposed a 30% tariff on all solar panel imports. It will decline by 5% a year. The tariff is intended to “save” domestic solar makers but American solar companies comprise only 5% of the global production market.

Conclusion: President Obama lifted the country out of recession by, in part, using government’s levers to foster a green energy economy — one that critics said would fail and do little to scrub the environment. President Trump has tried to reverse those same policies, maintaining that his goal has been to level the playing field while creating jobs.
The two philosophies are diametrically opposite. And while Obama’s economy was slow out of the starting gate, it was consistently upward and prolonged. Trump’s economy, by comparison, had an impressive start fueled by corporate tax cuts but two years in, it is sliding back. The takeaway: a low-carbon economy produces economic results. As such, policymakers, globally, should should hasten the transition, not drag their feet.


No comments :

Post a comment

Lethal Heating is a citizens' initiative