Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted July 22, 2015
An informative event this week hosted by the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, highlighting some potential real-world impacts of EPA’s proposal to tighten national ozone standards. Underscore “real-world impacts,” because the discussion centered on the potential havoc EPA’s proposal could unleash on transportation projects all over the country. “There’s going to be real people who’re going to be really upset,” said Karen A. Harbert, Institute president and CEO.
It’s important to see EPA’s ozone proposal in that light. The possible macro-economic harm that stricter ozone standards could bring – GDP reduction of $270 billion per year and $3.4 trillion from 2017 to 2040, according to one study – have been discussed here and elsewhere. But individual Americans may or may not relate to them, they’re so large.
The institute discussion and its new report, “Grinding To a Halt – Examining the Impacts of New Ozone Regulations on Key Transportation Projects” – help bring potential problems with stricter ozone standards to Americans’ doorsteps. Or, more specifically, to their daily commutes – which could get tougher if all kinds of transportation projects are terminated or delayed because they’re proposed in areas that would be in nonattainment with the new ozone standards.
Posted July 17, 2015
Lots of people are concerned that increasing the presence of E15 in the nation’s fuel supply could have adverse impacts on devices powered by gasoline.
Studies show E15 can damage engines and fuel systems in cars and trucks that weren’t designed to use it. (Click here for a matrix that shows most vehicles on the road today aren’t recommended for operating on E15 by manufacturers.) Motorcycles and outdoor power equipment could be negatively affected by using E15, too.
That’s a concern of marine engine manufacturers and boating enthusiasts as well.
Posted July 13, 2015
Another data point in the continuing public discussion of EPA’s plan to make the nation’s standards for ozone more restrictive, even as the existing standards have ozone levels falling 18 percent from 2000 to 2013 – and giving every indication levels will continue to fall. A new study by the Center for Regulatory Solutions (CRS) details how more restrictive ozone standards would impact where a lot of people live: Chicago and the state of Illinois.
According to the study, 21 counties in Illinois would be out of compliance or in “non-attainment” if EPA tightens ground-level standards from the existing 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 65 ppb, as it may do. (The fact is EPA is considering a national level as low as 60 ppb.)
Those 21 counties represent nearly 80 percent of Illinois’ gross domestic product, or $613.4 billion. The CRS study says Cook County and five other counties that surround Chicago would be “ground zero” for the most dramatic ozone reductions, potentially affecting 65 percent of the state’s population, nearly 70 percent of its employment and 73 percent of its GDP.
Posted June 12, 2015
For some time we’ve been talking about EPA’s bid to make the nation’s ozone standards more restrictive.
We’ve expressed puzzlement that the agency wants to impose more stringent standards when the existing ones are working – lowering ozone levels 18 percent between 2000 and 2013 according to EPA’s own data. We’ve noted the lack of scientific and public health justification for stricter standards while highlighting potential risks to the economy. If this week’s House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on ozone was any measure, the issue has the attention of many in Congress.
Top EPA official Janet McCabe was peppered with questions about economic impacts, the arguable wisdom of stricter standards when areas like Los Angeles don’t meet existing standards and EPA’s push for more stringent standards before the current standards are fully implemented in the states.
Posted May 27, 2015
With national ozone levels falling, some activists argue for stricter federal standards the best way they can – by pointing to the relatively few areas in the United States where ozone levels remain above the current standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb).
Yet, think about that. If an urban area like Los Angeles or Houston currently is out of attainment with the standard set at 75 ppb, how will lowering the national standard to 65 or 60 ppb – which EPA is considering – make a difference in those and other non-compliant areas? Good question.
The fact remains that the current standards are working. EPA data shows ozone levels declined 18 percent between 2008 and 2013.
Posted May 21, 2015
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Weinstein): Thanks to what’s sometimes called the “shale revolution,” America has re-emerged as an energy superpower.
Even with prices 40 percent lower than a year ago, we remain the world’s No. 1 producer of crude oil and other liquid hydrocarbons. Imports of oil have dropped from 60 percent of consumption to about 35 percent just in the past five years. We’re also the world’s largest producer of natural gas.
Both our oil and natural gas output would be even higher if not for regulatory and infrastructure constraints.
Posted February 3, 2015
Politico reports (subscription required) that the White House Office of Management and Budget on Friday finished review of EPA’s final rule to set state implementation plan requirements for the agency’s 2008 ozone standards.
Here’s the significance of that piece of wonky news: Even before EPA has finished telling the states how to implement the 2008 ozone standards, the agency already is well into setting new, potentially stricter standards. Regulation for regulation sake? It would be hard to find a better illustration.
Posted January 29, 2015
With EPA opening public hearings (subscription required) on its proposed new ground-level ozone standards, it’s important that we not let some key facts get lost in the wave of comments and anecdotes that results when there’s an open microphone available.
At issue is EPA’s plan to make more restrictive the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone, from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to between 65 and 70 ppb. The agency is collecting input until mid-March before finalizing the rule this fall.
We’ve made the case before that the existing standards are working, that our air is getting cleaner and will continue to do so with the current rule. In short, there’s no good reason to make the standards more stringent. That’s what the science shows, as experts detailed at EPA’s hearing in Washington, D.C. (here and here). Indeed, EPA’s own data shows that ozone levels have fallen 33 percent since 1980, including 18 percent since 2000.
Posted December 9, 2014
New research by the University of Texas shows what other studies have shown: methane emissions from natural gas production are lower than previously estimated. The UT study found that emissions represent just 0.38 percent of production – about 10 percent lower than a 2013 study by the same research team.
The UT study checked two sources of methane emissions in natural gas production: processes to clear wells of accumulated liquids to increase production, called liquid unloadings; and pneumatic controller devices that open and close valves.
The study found that just 19 percent of pneumatic devices accounted for 95 percent of emissions from that equipment, and that just 20 percent of wells with unloading emissions that vent to the atmosphere accounted for 65 percent to 85 percent of those emissions. David Allen, the study’s principal investigator:
“To put this in perspective, over the past several decades, 10 percent of the cars on the road have been responsible for the majority of automotive exhaust pollution. Similarly, a small group of sources within these two categories are responsible for the vast majority of pneumatic and unloading emissions at natural gas production sites.”
The results suggest that technologies and practices already in use by industry – voluntary efforts and those to comply with federal green completions rules that become standard in January – are working to reduce methane leaks.
Posted December 4, 2014
National Journal: World oil producers have put oil prices into a free fall, refusing to pare back global supplies in the hopes that low prices will derail the fracking-backed production boom in the U.S. and preserve OPEC's power over world energy markets.
But global analysts are skeptical that the move will work.
The basic reason: Prices remain high enough to keep pumping. "Looking out there, it seems like there's a huge amount of oil that can be produced at $60, $70 per barrel," said Michael Lynch, president of consulting firm Strategic Energy and Economic Research, referring to the prices for Brent crude oil, a global reference point.