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Small Refinery Exemptions and Biomass-Based Diesel Demand Destruction

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on March 18, 2019

The market impact of small refinery exemptions (SREs) granted under the RFS remains a highly contentious issue.  From a regulatory standpoint, there is no doubt that SREs opened a backdoor mechanism for the EPA to reduce the statutorily-mandated RFS volumes. However, there is sharp disagreement about the impact of SREs on the physical consumption of biofuels, particularly for ethanol.  The ethanol industry has argued vociferously that there has been substantial destruction of demand in the physical ethanol market due to the SREs.  However, a series of farmdoc daily articles in recent months showed that the physical use of ethanol declined little if any due to SREs.  This is not really all that surprising because ethanol prices generally have been low relative to gasoline, which means that ethanol is a price competitive component in E10 gasoline blends and the RFS conventional ethanol mandate is non-binding (up to the E10 blend wall).  The situation is much different for biomass-based diesel (BBD), because BBD prices are substantially higher than diesel prices, and consequently, the BBD mandate is highly binding.  In this case, the demand for biomass-based diesel in the physical market should be reduced by SREs.  The purpose of this article is to investigate the magnitude of BBD demand destruction in the physical market due to SREs.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam vetoes attempts to pull state from regional carbon-cutting initiatives

Energy News Network | Posted on March 18, 2019

By issuing a pair of vetoes Thursday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam sent a message to the Legislature and beyond that he is intent on sticking with an aggressive carbon-cutting agenda.One bill he struck down, HB 2611, would have prohibited Virginia from entering a regional program to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from power plants unless authorized by two-thirds of the General Assembly.The other, HB 2269, would have prevented the state from joining a separate regional compact designed to slice emissions from vehicles and other transportation sources unless approved by two-thirds of the General Assembly.

Solar Is Gaining in Wind Markets as the PTC Steps Down

Green Tech Media | Posted on March 18, 2019

Over the years, top-ranking wind and solar markets have overlapped in just a few states. Where wind flourished, solar usually hung back, and vice versa. “Each of our technologies has largely had their own playpen,” said Anthony Logan, a North American wind analyst at energy and consulting company Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.But now analysts say that’s changing. Dirt-cheap solar costs, record-setting growth and movement into new markets, plus the ability for solar to complement wind production, mean the technology is now encroaching on onshore wind’s territory. Solar is poised to grow by the highest percentage of any U.S. generation source in 2020, according to the federal U.S. Energy Information Administration. Wind will be close behind — EIA says it’ll show the largest percentage growth in 2019 and the second in 2020 — but solar prices are dropping enough that the resource is comparable and even cheaper than wind in some formerly wind-oriented markets. 

Renewable energy reduces the highest electric rates in the nation

Phys Org | Posted on March 17, 2019

Michigan Technological University researchers found that increasing renewable and distributed generation energy sources can save Michigan electric consumers money. However, as three Michigan Tech researchers contend in a new study, while utility fuel mixes are slowly shifting away from fossil fuels toward , Michigan utilities, and U.S. utilities broadly, continue a relationship with fossil fuels that is detrimental to their customers.The paper, "Policies to Overcome Barriers for Renewable Energy Distributed Generation: A Case Study of Utility Structure and Regulatory Regimes in Michigan," was published in the  policy special issue of the journal Energies.


Unsafe coal ash contamination found in North Dakota groundwater

Bismarck Tribune | Posted on March 14, 2019

Unsafe contamination from coal ash disposal sites at half a dozen power plants in western North Dakota has seeped into groundwater sources, according to a report from an environmental group.The Environmental Integrity Project collected industry monitoring data for its nationwide report, which found that six of seven coal-fired power plants in North Dakota leaked contamination into groundwater sources at levels exceeding those deemed safe — in one case, by a factor of 100.But state health officials and representatives of the utilities that run the coal-fired power plants say none of North Dakota’s ash disposal sites fail to comply with standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

New Mexico is the third state to legally require 100% carbon-free electricity

Quartz | Posted on March 14, 2019

As Congressional leaders in Washington, DC remain stalled out on climate-related legislation, states are moving forward, even in conservative parts of the country. New Mexico is the latest. The southwestern state is the latest to embrace carbon-free electricity, passing a bill that will require all electricity from public utilities to come from carbon-free sources. The bill, which passed 43-22 in New Mexico’s increasingly Democratic legislature, requires the state (now one of the country’s top oil, gas, and coal producers) to get 50% of its energy from renewables by 2030 and 80% by 2040. By 2045, it must go entirely carbon-free.

Connecticut’s solar panel industry presses for change in state law it sees as threat to its existence

Hartford Courant | Posted on March 14, 2019

Connecticut’s solar industry and environmental advocates are fiercely lobbying state lawmakers to reverse or at least delay action they took last year changing how consumers are compensated for solar energy generated from rooftop panels.About three dozen workers in the industry that installs solar panels gathered Wednesday at the Capitol, urging legislation they say will save industry jobs in Connecticut, estimated at more than 2,000. The legislature’s clean energy caucus said the state’s solar industry faces an "existential crisis.”

Rainfall changes for key crops predicted even with reduced greenhouse gas emissions

Science Daily | Posted on March 14, 2019

By 2040, rainfall on wheat, soybean, rice and maize will have changed, even if Paris Agreement emissions targets are met; projections show parts of Europe, Africa, the Americas and Australia will be drier, while the tropics and north will be wetter.

South Dakota pushes bills to prosecute ‘riot-boosting’ ahead of pipeline construction

High Country News | Posted on March 14, 2019

Two bills allowing the state of South Dakota to prosecute pipeline demonstrators and their funders — and use money from damages to fund law enforcement and pipeline costs — moved to the Senate floor on Wednesday. Introduced by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, R, on Monday, the bills would protect the 1,179-mile-long Keystone XL pipeline, a planned TransCanada project that would slice through the state carrying 830,000 barrels of crude oil a day. The Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association has opposed the bills, representing the leaders of 16 tribes in the region, none of whom were consulted for the legislation.

Trump proposes slashing EPA budget by 31 percent

The Hill | Posted on March 14, 2019

President Trump proposed significant budget cuts to the government agencies responsible for overseeing the nation’s energy and environmental policies, including a 31 percent reduction in spending at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The fiscal 2020 budget proposal to Congress marks the latest effort by the administration to slash funding for science and enforcement programs.The document, titled "A Budget for a Better America," requests $31.7 billion for the Department of Energy, an 11 percent decrease from current funding, while the Interior Department would see a 14 percent cut, to $12.5 billion.