Jason Barton

Professional Information and Energy News

Archive for the ‘U.S. Energy Policy’ tag

Senators to Release New Energy Plan by April 22

without comments

Senators seek new energy plan

Apr 15 – McClatchy-Tribune Regional News – Barbara Ferguson Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Sen. John Kerry is preparing legislation to release a new energy plan by Earth Day.

Kerry, D-Massachusetts, said he and the other senators drafting the legislation, Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, and Joseph Lieberman, Independent from Connecticut, are on track to release their plan on April 22.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

April 16th, 2010 at 7:16 am

Navy Highlights New Partnership to Power Navy Fleet with Biofuels

without comments

When I read about Richard Branson’s Virgin-Atlantic flight powered by biofuels, I wanted to see a graphic: An animated plane would be flying across a map of the U.S., say from LA to New York, with a small circle starting in the middle of Illinois, growing larger as the plane crosses the map, showing the amount of land that is used to grow the feedstocks to produce the biofuels.

That circle would have to grow pretty large, pretty quickly, to show the land needed to support even a portion of the Navy’s air fleet.

From the U.S. Department of Agriculture

HONOLULU (NNS) — The deputy secretary of agriculture and the assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment kicked off an energy forum April 6 in Honolulu to look at ways to increase biofuels production and meet the Navy’s renewable energy needs.

The forum, led by Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, was the first of several scheduled energy forums.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

April 14th, 2010 at 11:30 am

Rival Ethanol Trade Groups Campaigning to Woo Senators, Clobber Each Other

without comments

With talks well underway in the U.S. Congress for a new energy/climate bill, the U.S. EPA’s recent decision that Brazilian sugarcane ethanol meets the “advanced fuel” mandate, and now Brazil’s removal of their tariff on imported ethanol, the stage is set for some heated discussion about lowering or even eliminating our own tariff, as several senators have argued the U.S. Government should do.

The Brazilian sugarcane and ethanol industry association, UNICA, has recently launched a website and a series of ads aimed at winning over U.S. consumers.

An important note: The paper cited at the end of this article that claims larger environmental benefits from corn ethanol is not indicative of the U.S. corn ethanol production system. It focuses on fewer, newer refineries that use natural gas and have greater efficiency. If the whole U.S. corn ethanol production system were like those surveyed by Liska et al. (2009) then yes, the fuel would be cleaner. But as it stands this is not the case of the average refinery.

All of this back and forth makes my time here in Brazil that much more interesting. I’ll keep you posted.

By ANNE C. MULKERN of Greenwire
Published: April 13, 2010

Two rival trade groups seeking congressional help for the ethanol industry launched advertising yesterday to promote themselves and bash one another.

Growth Energy Inc., which represents corn and other domestic ethanol producers, seeks to maintain supremacy at home, while the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, or UNICA, wants to tear down corn ethanol’s benefits in order to grab a larger share of the U.S. market.

Read the entire article here.

Nuclear’s New Confidence

without comments

In a recent conversation with oil and gas industry executives here in Sao Paulo, they asked me about the prospects for nuclear energy in the U.S. I gave them the same response I’ve expressed previously on this site: There are many people in the U.S. who are strongly in favor of nuclear energy, as long as the nuclear plant is in the state next door.

The article below balances between outlining the high capital costs required to build a nuclear plant, and the enthusiasm for nuclear energy that has recently be arising once again in the U.S.

April 12, 2010

Ken Silverstein, EnergyBiz Insider

Nuclear energy development in this country is getting a big boost now that the nuclear loan guarantees are being processed. Southern Co., which snagged the first $8 billion of what will be $54 billion pie, still has to wait about a year for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to okay its license application.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

April 11th, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Energy Dept. invests $100M in Smart Grid education

without comments

This can be an extremely helpful program if it is executed effectively. Many people are unaware of or confused about what ‘Smart Grid’ technology means, and how it can benefit households and businesses. Increased education and government transparency are certainly excellent steps forward.

April 9, 2010 | Camille Ricketts

These programs will be targeted at utility company employees.

The U.S. Department of Energy rolled out its Open Government Plan yesterday, pledging to be more transparent about energy policy shifts and to better educate the market about efficiency initiatives. A major part of the latter goal is teaching people about the benefits and importance of the Smart Grid — a concept that consumers and some utilities have yet to rally behind.

Tackling this challenge head on, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced today that the department will be sinking almost $100 million into 54 different Smart Grid training programs across the country. Targeted at about 30,000 utility workers and electrical equipment manufacturers, these programs will also use $95 million from universities, utilities and industrial groups to design curricula around the modernization of today’s electrical grid.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

April 10th, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Adding some juice to the nuclear energy industry

with one comment

I’ve heard that about the biggest cost for building a nuclear power plant is the legal fees required to protect the operating firm from all of the liability and public pressure on new plants. Could it be that this is the reason why Obama, an attorney, is putting so much government money into nuclear energy? All that hope, fading to cynicism in the face of all this deficit spending.

I still like nuclear power, but am tired of thinking about the debt my grandchildren will be forced to shoulder due to a decade of irresponsible government. Come on, Obama, where’s the fiscally conservative pragmatist endorsed by The Economist?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

“OBAMA doubles down on nuclear energy,” wrote an environmental blogger after the president’s State of the Union address last month. Actually, it’s more like he tripled down. After his speech, he proposed increasing the size of the federal loan guarantee program for building nuclear power plants from $18 billion to $54 billion, and this week he backed two proposed reactors in Georgia — which would be the first built in decades — promising that this would just be the first of many such announcements.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

February 20th, 2010 at 2:06 pm

EPA reaffirms sugarcane biofuel is advanced Renewable fuel with 61% less emissions than gasoline

without comments

This is huge. It blows open the door for vast increases in U.S. importation of Brazilian ethanol. I’m not sure if this is positive or negative, but it makes the work I’m doing, investigating the possible impacts of this increased importation, that much more pressing.

There is currently a tariff on imported ethanol here in the U.S. of $0.54 per gallon. We are still the largest importers of Brazilian ethanol, but it is a small fraction of both their production and our biofuels use. This ruling makes it increasingly likely that the U.S. will have to do something to lower or at least suspend this tariff in order to meet the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS).

The Energy Independence and Security Act, which created the RFS (much discussed on this site) was signed into law by George Bush in 2007. Not only does it mandate increasing amounts of renewable fuels, mostly ethanol, in our fuel supply stretching out to 36 billion gallons in 2022, it also mandates use of “advanced biofuels,” which must reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by at least 50% compared to gasoline.

For now, the only fuel that may be able to satisfy that mandate is Brazilian sugarcane ethanol.

There has been much debate regarding which fuels accomplish this GHG reduction, with many reliable models both including and excluding U.S. corn ethanol, while almost all of them maintain that Brazilian cane ethanol does indeed reduce GHGs by at least 60%, with some claiming it reduces emissions by as much as 80%.

This ruling by the EPA doesn’t necessarily end the debate, but it makes it law that, according to U.S. policy, Brazilian cane ethanol is the only renewable fuel available today on sufficient scale to accomplish this objective.

I’ll be in Brazil later this month to gather more data, mostly asking the folks there what they think.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed that ethanol made from sugarcane is a low carbon renewable fuel, which can contribute significantly to the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As part of today’s announcement finalizing regulations for the implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2), the EPA designated sugarcane ethanol as an advanced biofuel that lowers GHG emissions by more than 50%.

Read the entire article here.

Obama Says Senate May Drop Cap and Trade, Pass Energy-Only Bill

with one comment

I hear more and more that this is the most likely scenario. Though at a recent townhall-style meeting, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) claimed that this fight was far from over and that he is optimistic about the chances for a cap and trade bill. Even if this bill passes, I don’t see it taking effect for several years, so if one is looking for change in energy markets, it won’t likely come from Cap and Trade for several years. The mere belief that this may happen, combined with public perceptions and pressure from consumers and shareholders are already causing considerable movement, as has been well documented on this site, towards renewable and low-carbon energy resources.

Published: February 3, 2010

President Obama acknowledged yesterday that the Senate may pass an energy bill this year without the cap-and-trade component he has long put at the center of his environmental agenda.

Speaking at a town hall meeting in Nashua, N.H., Obama repeated his call for a price on greenhouse gas emissions but said he recognized that such an approach may not have the votes to make it into law.

Read the entire article here.

Obama pushes energy plan that GOP may support

without comments

Obama seeks GOP support for energy plan that includes coal, more drilling, nuclear power

By PHILIP ELLIOTT and MATTHEW DALY Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON February 3, 2010 (AP)
The Associated Press

Looking for a political and policy victory, President Barack Obama on Wednesday pushed energy proposals designed to attract allies and opponents alike, calling for increased ethanol production and new technology to limit pollution from the use of coal.


He spoke as the White House released presidential task force recommendations calling on both Washington and the private sector to spend more money on biofuels like ethanol. The group said the nation likely will fall short of goals Congress has set for creating more environmentally friendly energy.

At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a new rule requiring U.S. companies to produce at least 13 billion gallons of renewable fuels this year, up from about 11.1 billion gallons in 2009. Thirteen billion gallons is about 9 percent of overall U.S. fuel consumption. Congress has set a goal of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022.


In his meeting with the governors, Obama also announced a new task force to study ways to increase the use of coal in meeting the nation’s energy needs without increasing the pollution that contributes to global warming.

“It’s been said that the United States is the Saudi Arabia of coal, and that’s because … it’s one of our most abundant energy resources,” Obama said. “If we can develop the technology to capture the carbon pollution released by coal, it can create jobs and provide energy well into the future.”

Read the entire article here.

U.S.-Brazil Biofuels Partnership Steering Group Meeting

without comments

As is typical with government press releases, this is pretty vague. One line verging on the substantive is this: “GBEP has created a methodological framework allowing for transparent comparisons across different GHG life cycle analyses.” If anyone has access to this framework I’d love to see it. Standardization of LCA methodology in general, but particularly with bioenergy, is a glaring gap in the discipline.

Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 16, 2009

The Steering Group of the U.S.-Brazil Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to Advance Cooperation on Biofuels met December 15, 2009, in Washington, DC to assess accomplishments to date and discuss the best ways to advance the partnership.

Read the entire press release here.

Written by Jason

December 17th, 2009 at 6:10 pm