Europe’s largest oil companies are reportedly working together on a policy strategy leading up to this year’s international climate talks in Paris. It’s nice to hear that some of the biggest players in the global oil and gas industry want to engage in solutions, but it remains to be seen if they will take the action needed to effectively tackle some of our most immediate climate threats – or to seize a major untapped opportunity.
That opportunity is methane. The highly potent greenhouse gas that’s been largely ignored until recently represents a solution for making real and immediate progress to slow warming. So will the group of oil companies sign on to tackle methane as a big part of its strategy, or are they going to ignore it?
FirstEnergy, the giant Ohio-based company that owns power plants and transmission lines in several midwestern and northeastern states, is running out of arguments for its proposed bailout.
The Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO), which is currently considering the proposal by FirstEnergy for substantial, customer-funded subsidies to bail out its uneconomic power plants, has suggested the utility must prove four points.
- Financial need
As we all know, need is different than want. And with a balance sheet showing $12.4 billion in shareholder equity, clearly the giant utility is able to keep these plants open. But FirstEnergy and its shareholders are reluctant to subsidize their own risk – instead, they want Ohio customers to take on the cost and associated risk. Strike one. Read More
This May has truly been a banner month for transparency of the oil and gas industry. To start, FracFocus, the state-run, national hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure database, released chemical information of nearly 100,000 wells in raw digital format. On the same day, Colorado’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) put two key datasets online that will also increase what we know about oil and gas development.
Providing access to quality data is good for the public. The recently released data will help the public track oil and gas complaints and understand more about the quality of wells across the state. This is significant, as researchers can now analyze these data sets to uncover patterns of well issues that can ultimately lead to environmentally protective policy solutions – the Big Data revolution in a nutshell. By making its data easily and fully accessible to the public, Colorado is helping to lead the way when it comes to responsibly managing oil and gas development. Read More
If you want to catch fish, go where you know the fish are. That’s our best advice for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as they draw up details to set methane pollution limits for the oil and gas industry, expected later this summer. The agency knows where the “fish” are – they drew a pretty good map of key methane sources back in January when they announced their intentions to address methane. Now they just need a concrete plan to reel them in.
The Administration has announced that EPA will issue a proposed plan for action later this summer, with a proposed rule that will set first-ever limits on potent methane pollution from new and modified oil and gas sources. Together with other efforts from across government, this step can lay a strong foundation toward achieving the administration’s goal of reducing harmful methane pollution 40-45% below 2012 levels by 2025.
But as we know, the devil will be in the details, and for the oil and gas sector these details will be critically important. There are many different points along the supply chain where methane is being released uncontrolled—and in many cases undetected. The good news is that EPA knows this is a problem, and even collected extensive comments from experts and the public via a series of whitepapers on how to tackle the most significant emission points along the supply chain. Read More
Utilities across the country offer energy efficiency programs, many of which obtain good results simply by replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). In Pennsylvania, however, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and other environmental groups are going further by seeking more comprehensive and longer-term efficiency measures.
Compared with neighboring states, Pennsylvania’s efficiency programs tilt heavily – 65 percent – toward the residential sector. Since residents account for only 37 percent of the state’s total electricity, environmental groups see substantial efficiency opportunities exist in the commercial and industrial (C&I) sectors. Read More
Solar energy is booming – and you needn’t look further for proof of its success than Brian H. Potts’ recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. When a utility lawyer like Potts is arguing for what type of solar energy our country should be investing in –utility-owned, large-scale solar versus customer-owned, rooftop – you know this renewable energy resource has gone mainstream. And that’s a good thing.
We should support a wide variety of clean energy resources precisely because these technologies eliminate the costs of pollution now being socialized by fossil fuel generators. And this is becoming all the more critical as the costs of a changing climate grow. Read More