Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted January 31, 2015
The long trail of “process” excuses for not approving the Keystone XL pipeline is coming to an end.
Five U.S. State Department reviews – all of them basically saying Keystone XL won’t significantly affect the environment – done.
Public hearings – done.
A new pipeline route through Nebraska – done.
By Monday, federal agencies must weigh in on whether Keystone XL is in the national interest. It is, as we’ll get into below.
The point is, after more than six years of process and review by the White House, we’ve come to the end of the processing and the reviewing. The administration stretched to 76 months a pipeline approval process that typically takes 18 to 24 months. It turned Keystone XL into a political football, punted here and there for reasons that clearly weren’t in the national interest.
Posted January 23, 2015
Earlier this month, then-White House advisor John Podesta said the Obama administration is unlikely to do more on the U.S. crude oil export ban beyond the Commerce Department’s recent effort to clarify the rules for exporting ultra-light crude known as condensates. Podesta told Reuters:
“At this stage, I think that what the Commerce Department did in December sort of resolves the debate. We felt comfortable with where they went. If you look at what's going on in the market and actions that the Department took, I think that ... there's not a lot of pressure to do more.”
It’s a strange conclusion given the weight of scholarship that says America’s 1970s ban on crude exports should be lifted – to spur domestic production, create jobs and put downward pressure on U.S. gasoline prices. It also would solve a growing mismatch between supplies of light sweet domestic crude and a refinery sector that’s largely configured to handle heavier crudes. ConocoPhillips Chairman and CEO Ryan Lance, speaking recently at the Center for Strategic and International Studies:
“(The condensates decision is) a help. … I question whether we’ll ever grow to a million barrels a day of condensate production, so it helps, but it doesn’t solve the problem. It doesn’t answer the issue that we’re going to have coming at us as a nation … crude that our refineries cannot refine. So it’s a help, but by no stretch does it solve the problem. We have to address the bigger issue.”
Posted January 15, 2015
Facts and science over politics. That’s the way energy policy should be made. Too many policy matters in the energy space are being hijacked by politics. The Keystone XL pipeline is one example, as are some of the regulatory initiatives the administration is pushing right now. That’s not the way to craft good energy policy.
Keystone XL has been stuck on the drawing board more than six years because it was turned into a political football by the White House. Cross-border pipelines like Keystone XL historically have gained approval in 18 to 24 months. We’re at 76 months and counting for political reasons, not because of compelling scientific and economic analysis – as advanced in the five reviews conducted by the U.S. State Department.
Keystone XL finally has reached the debate stage in the Senate, but the White House is threatening to veto legislation that would advance the project. More politics, more delay, more missed opportunity for American workers and U.S. energy security.
Posted January 13, 2015
As the Keystone XL pipeline debate in Congress continues, working Americans are pushing back against those – including President Obama – who dismiss as “temporary” the jobs the project would support.
North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) published an open letter to members of Congress that asks a simple question: “When did our careers and livelihoods become fodder for disdain and ridicule?”
Great question, because disparaging the more than 42,000 jobs Keystone XL would support during its construction – according to the U.S. State Department – has become a standard line of attack from Keystone XL opponents, from the president on down.
The union ad makes clear that those who work in the construction trades have had it with politicians who are double-tongued about the need to put Americans back to work and the need for infrastructure investment – while brushing off the way Keystone XL could help with both.
Posted January 10, 2015
Throughout the Keystone XL pipeline’s long wait for federal approval, President Obama has used one excuse after another to deflect responsibility for blocking a project that polls in the 70s with the American people, one that would support thousands of U.S. jobs and help move the country closer to North American energy security. All along the way the president could have exercised his authority to say yes to all of the above but deferred instead.
The president said environmental questions needed answers, and they were provided by his own State Department, which cleared Keystone XL in five separate environmental reviews.
The president said the cross-border approval process – required because Keystone XL would cross the U.S.-Canadian border – needed to run its course. It did and then some, stretching now to more than six years when historically, cross-border approvals are granted in 18 to 24 months.
The president said Nebraska needed to work out the pipeline’s route through that state, which it did. Then the president said the state’s Supreme Court would have to settle a legal challenge over the re-routing process.
On Friday, Nebraska’s high court rejected that challenge, confirming the assessment of the state Department of Environmental Quality and the governor’s recommendation to the State Department – leaving the project with only one remaining obstacle: President Obama.
Posted December 2, 2014
U.S. News (Lamont Colucci): OPEC met on Nov. 27, and openly recognized that the United States' oil technological revolution – driven by enhanced oil recovery methods including hydraulic fracturing (known as fracking) and horizontal drilling – has undermined the cartel's economic and political power. This constitutes one of the major geopolitical and economic shifts of the 21st century in America’s favor. This meeting has been characterized as OPEC abandoning its role as a “swing producer” or simply the arbiter of oil supply and demand. Some are now suggesting that the new swing producer will be the United States.
Enhanced oil recovery technology was consistently denigrated as unworkable and unprofitable, and there will be many more articles restating this as the old wine in a new bottle. These technologies have made the U.S. the world's number one oil producer, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia. OPEC’s strategy of allowing the market to decide oil prices is designed to hurt American enhanced oil recovery activities, with the assumption that American producers need a higher profit margin per barrel than it does. This may be a horrible miscalculation on OPEC's part due to continual advances in technology and innovation.
According to a 2013 report, hydraulic fracking and horizontal drilling have the potential to increase the global reserve of oil from 1.6 billion barrels to 10.2 billion barrels. Domestically, we are already witnessing the 21st century oil boom generate prosperity for states like Colorado, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming. Current estimates indicate that by 2020 the United States will be the dominant worldwide producer of both natural gas and oil and achieve energy independence.
However, this energy issue has been dominated by the wrong people: economists, businessmen, engineers and environmentalists. They all have their required expertise, but all of this is really an issue of foreign policy and national security. There are four ways that this new situation can be welcomed by conservatives, liberals, realists and environmentalists.
Posted November 12, 2014
See video below of Thursday's event, hosted by The Hill newspaper, that featured discussion of the energy policy issues that are likely to be front and center in the new Congress, which will have a new Senate majority.
Discussion focused on what’s next in the energy sector – from industry in terms of innovation and other advancements that affect energy development, and from Washington policymakers on Capitol Hill and within the administration.
Posted November 6, 2014
Over the past few years it has been difficult to know President Obama’s true position on the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline, now under federal review more than six years. That’s likely to change in the new Congress, with Republicans saying Keystone XL legislation will be a top priority soon after the first of the year. North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven talked to Fuel Fix.com:
“The president opposes the project and has tried to defeat it with delay,” Hoeven said, but “given the clear vote from the American public and strong bipartisan support, he may decide it’s time to start working with Congress, and this is a good example of a place to start and why you’ll see us advance the measure early on.”
Given the mid-term election results, President Obama soon will be called to make a decision on Keystone XL – one that will indicate his willingness to work with the new Congress on an issue that has strong public support and one that also will show whether he’s serious about an all-of-the-above approach to energy and American energy security.
Posted June 16, 2014
This week the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to vote on bipartisan legislation that would advance the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline – a $5.3 billion, privately financed infrastructure project that the U.S. State Department says would generate more than 42,000 jobs during its construction phase while contributing more than $3 billion to our economy.
Congress is acting because the administration has not – not in more than five years of review by the administration, during which the project has cleared five environmental reviews by the State Department. Congressional leadership on Keystone XL is about the administration’s lack of clear leadership on the Keystone XL.
As the vote approaches, API President and CEO Jack Gerard and Sean McGarvey, president of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, talked about the pipeline during a conference call. Both pointed to developments in Iraq and the ongoing standoff between Ukraine and Russia as reminders of how important it is for the United States to secure its energy future – and the significance of the Keystone XL in that equation.
Posted March 7, 2014
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll on the Keystone XL pipeline adds to the drumbeat of strong public support for building the pipeline. The Post/ABC survey shows a nearly 3 to 1 margin, with 65 percent saying Keystone XL should be approved.