Texas Energy Report - Mobile



February 28, 2017

Lead Stories

Austin Business Journal

February 22, 2017

Texas oil and gas taxes could fall under bill filed by Republican state lawmaker

Texas Sen. Kel Seliger has filed a bill and joint resolution to decrease oil and gas severance tax rates and limit the state’s Rainy Day Fund to $5 billion. This is the first time the Amarillo Republican has filed a bill of this type, and tax observers say a proposal to reduce the severance tax is rare. More often than not, lawmakers tend to propose where excess revenue should go when the funding of the Rainy Day Fund exceeds its state-mandated cap. That state-mandated cap currently is $16.2 billion, which is 10 percent of the general revenue from last biennium. ... The rate of the severance tax varies by production. According to the Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees the state's oil and gas industry, gas severance tax is 7.5 percent of market value of gas produced and saved. Oil severance tax is 4.6 percent of market value of oil produced. Condensate tax would be 4.6 percent of market value.

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Austin American-Statesman

February 27, 2017

Natural gas squares off against competitors for Texas emissions money

The natural gas industry is squaring off against an odd-bedfellow coalition of environmentalists and big business over the size of their shares of a pot of air quality improvement money. As with so much this session, the man in the middle appears to be Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has strong ties to the gas industry and is pushing lawmakers to extend a suite of programs that promote the use of natural gas in cars and trucks that are set to expire. The environmentalist-business coalition says the programs — in the form of grants or mandates involving state fleets or the construction of natural gas refueling stations — don’t actually do that much to improve air quality and that the money would be better spent in other ways. A big pot of money is involved — about $235 million is being spent this biennium out of the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan fund. The money comes from a variety of vehicle fees and surcharges, especially those in the smoggier areas of the state, including Austin.

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Houston Chronicle

February 27, 2017

U.S. power grid records largest gain since 2011

The amount of generating capacity on the U.S. power grid grew last year by its largest amount since 2011, the U.S. Energy Information Agency reported Monday. The agency reported that more than 60 percent of the increase came from wind turbines and solar panel installations, with another 33 percent coming from natural gas plants. Close to 27 gigawatts of total capacity were added, which when combined with 12 gigawatts worth of capacity retirements resulted in a net gain of nearly 15 gigawatts – compared to a net loss of 4 gigawatts in 2015.

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Los Angeles Times

February 27, 2017

Bryce: Wind power is an attack on rural America

Urban voters may like the idea of using more wind and solar energy, but the push for large-scale renewables is creating land-use conflicts in rural regions from Maryland to California and Ontario to Loch Ness. Since 2015, more than 120 government entities in about two dozen states have moved to reject or restrict the land-devouring, subsidy-fueled sprawl of the wind industry. ... Objections to the encroachment of wind energy installations don’t fit the environmentalists’ narrative. The backlash undermines the claim — often repeated by climate activists such as 350.org founder Bill McKibben and Stanford engineering professor Mark Jacobson — that we can run our entire economy on nothing but energy from the wind and sun. Many of those same activists routinely demonize natural gas and hydraulic fracturing even though the physical footprint of gas production is far smaller than that of wind.

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Oil Price

February 28, 2017

Cooking The Books? Saudi Aramco Could Be Overvalued By 500%

The world’s most valuable oil company, Saudi Aramco, is approaching its first IPO in 2018, as the government of Saudi Arabia prepares to sell off portions of the company in order fill a sovereign wealth fund crucial to the country’s transition away from an oil-based economy. Saudi Aramco is worth $2 trillion, according to Riyadh, and its five percent initial offering could yield $200 billion. This would be the largest IPO in history, blowing away the offering of China’s Alibaba in 2014. The problem, however, is that the company itself may not be worth as much as the Saudi government claims. Recent reports and growing skepticism regarding Aramco’s actual worth have cast some doubts on whether the world’s largest IPO will be as earth-shattering as originally thought.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

February 28, 2017

US oil ticks up for 2nd day on record OPEC output cut compliance

U.S. crude oil edged higher for a second day on Tuesday, underpinned by high compliance with OPEC's production cuts even as the market remains anchored by rising U.S. production. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has so far surprised the market by showing record compliance with oil-output curbs, and could improve in coming months as the biggest laggards - the United Arab Emirates and Iraq - pledge to catch up quickly with their targets. ... West Texas Intermediate crude oil added 11 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $54.16 a barrel by 0337 GMT, while benchmark Brent crude oil added 17 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $56.10 a barrel. For the month, U.S. crude oil is up 2.6 percent after falling in January, while Brent oil has risen marginally.

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Motley Fool

February 27, 2017

Can You Guess Which Country Has the World's Largest Oil Reserves? (Hint: It's Not Saudi Arabia)

According to a report by energy consultancy Rystad Energy, the U.S. holds 264 billion barrels of oil reserves, which includes oil from existing fields as well as a projection of oil from yet-to-be-discovered fields. Rounding out the top five are Russia (256 billion barrels), Saudi Arabia (212 billion), Canada (167 billion), and Iran (143 billion). Rystad found that the U.S. had already discovered 109 billion barrels of the reserves it used for its estimates. Another of Rystad's findings was the importance of shale in fueling America's explosive growth in oil reserves, with these sources supplying 50% of the reserves. Of that amount, 60 billion barrels were in the state of Texas alone, thanks to the Eagle Ford and Permian Basin. Meanwhile, another 20 billion barrels of oil are likely underneath the state of North Dakota in its Bakken shale, according to estimates by leading developer Continental Resources (NYSE:CLR). On top of that, the country has several emerging shale plays in the Rockies and Oklahoma that are starting to become important drivers of reserve growth.

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Houston Chronicle

February 27, 2017

Mixed verdict in National Oilwell Varco, M-I Swaco noncompete case

A Harris County jury on Monday delivered a mixed verdict in a contentious fight between two Houston energy services companies over trade secrets, confidentiality and a noncompete agreement. The case, which has stretched over more than two-years involved Jeff Russo, who signed a noncompete agreement when he took a $13-per-hour laborer job with M-I Swaco and, after working his way up to become a top salesman, left to work for rival National Oilwell Varco. The verdict, delivered in state district court in Harris County, allows Russo to keep his six-figure job at National Oilwell Varco while finding that M-I Swaco acted in bad faith when it claimed Russo misappropriated trade secrets as a way to enforce the noncompete agreement. The jury awarded Russo and National Oilwell Varco $176,000 in attorneys fees. But the jury also found that Russo failed to comply with M-I Swaco’s confidentiality provisions and awarded $493,000 in attorney’s fees to M-I Swaco, a unit of energy services giant Schlumberger. The verdict did not specify how Russo breached the confidentiality provisions.

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Midland Reporter Telegram

February 24, 2017

Henry Energy, Moriah Energy partner on Midland Basin acquisitions

Two veteran Midland producers are joining forces to acquire and develop properties in the Midland subbasin. Henry Energy LP and Moriah Energy Investments LLC are forming Moriah Henry Energy Partners LLC, backed by a $200 million equity commitment from Post Oak Capital LP. Both Henry and Moriah will invest alongside Post Oak. The Permian Basin has been a core focus for Post Oak since it was founded 10 years ago, Frost Cochran, managing director, said in a phone interview from his Houston office. He said his background includes operating in the Permian and called the Permian “the gift that keeps on giving since the beginning of my career.”

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San Antonio Express News

February 26, 2017

DePillis: In the Permian Basin, it’s a rush to become the ‘Uber for the oil field’

Now, dozens of companies are vying to dominate an emerging, multibillion-dollar market by developing online platforms that would connect service companies to drillers, allow them to bid on jobs and send trucks to their most efficient locations at the lowest cost. Think of it as Uber for oil field services. But creating a tech platform for the oil field is a lot more complicated than taking passengers from point A to point B with a smartphone app. The market has multiple layers of operators and contractors. A trucking company that decides to use one program to keep track of all its jobs might be asked to adopt three other programs that its biggest clients use. The jobs often have special instructions, such as dealing with pieces of equipment that might be broken or different ways to bill, such as by the day or by the week.

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Bloomberg

February 27, 2017

Investors See Oil Break Out of Narrow Range With Record Bets

Oil has been bound to the tightest price range in more than a decade, and yet hedge funds have never been so confident it will eventually rally. Money managers boosted their bets on rising West Texas Intermediate prices to a record on speculation that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its partners will manage to ease a global supply glut. America’s crude producers, which are increasing output, aren’t so sure. They’ve been hedging against price declines for this year and 2018. Oil has traded above $50 a barrel since OPEC and 11 other countries started trimming supply on Jan. 1, which has in turn helped fuel a revival in U.S. shale drilling. American explorers have almost doubled the number of rigs targeting oil since May, according to Baker Hughes Inc. The mixed signals have locked WTI in its narrowest range since 2003 this month.

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Houston Chronicle

February 27, 2017

EOG Resources narrows losses as oil prices rise and efficiency improves

On Monday, Houston-based oil and gas company EOG Resources said it narrowed its losses during the fourth quarter of 2016 as oil prices rose and operations improved. EOG’s revenues rose by 30 percent in the last three months to years, climbing to $2.4 billion from $1.8 billion in the same period in 2014. The company’s losses shrunk to $142.4 million, or $0.25 per share, compared to a $284.3 million loss, or $0.52 per share in fourth quarter of 2015.

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Houston Business Journal

February 24, 2017

Houston upstream energy co. makes 13,000-acre Permian Basin deal

Houston-based Camber Energy Inc. (NYSE MKT: CEI), formerly known as Lucas Energy Inc., is about to nearly quadruple its net acreage in the San Andres oil play in the Permian Basin. The company made an $11.03 million deal to buy 13,000 contiguous net acres in the Permian Basin from a private seller, and this time, it’s land Camber is ready to drill on. Camber started off 2017 with a deal to buy 3,630 net acres over the San Andres in an as-yet-undisclosed location — CEO Anthony Schnur doesn’t want competitors coming in to buy up the acreage until Camber gets the land it needs there. Right now, the company is targeting 20,000 net acres there before it starts drilling.

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Houston Chronicle

February 24, 2017

Houston’s Hi-Crush Partners buying Permian Basin Sand Co.

Houston-based Hi-Crush Partners will buy the Permian Basin Sand Co. for $275 million to beef up its sand reserves to service rapidly growing drilling activity in West Texas. Hi-Crush is one of the biggest oilfield services business in providing sand to the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking process. Massive amounts of sand are pumped into the wells to help fracture the shale rock and release hydrocarbons.

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Texas Lawyer

March 1, 2017

Oil Rebound Demands Preventive Maintenance for Contracts

As the recent Permian Basin buying spree and increased offshore capital expenditures by super majors reveal, the energy industry downturn of recent years may be turning a corner. Market movement has companies looking to position themselves to take advantage of opportunities on the horizon. Is your company ready? Just as maintaining physical assets is necessary, preventive maintenance in your contracting practices is equally critical. Such efforts should include evaluating risk allocation as well as updating policies and procedures that could affect the bottom line. With political and regulatory shifts evolving in the U.S. and globally, now is the time for a comprehensive check of your company's contracts, insurance and regulatory compliance strategies.

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Popular Science

February 24, 2017

Fracking fluid is leaking more often than we thought

Hydraulic fracture oil and gas wells spill pretty often, according to a recent study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. That study, along with a companion paper which appeared in the journal Science of the Total Environment, analyzed spill data and behavior across four states—Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota and Pennsylvania—with the goal of identifying common causes of spills to help industries improve. If you feel like you’ve heard this story before, you haven’t. Most studies on hydraulic fracture, or fracking, focus on underground leaks. This study focused exclusively on leaks at the surface, which can harm wildlife—most notably birds and marine creatures—as well as impact drinking water sources.

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Denver Business Journal

February 25, 2017

Denver oilfield service company plans to go public

Denver’s Liberty Oilfield Services Inc. has filed for an initial public offering. Companies preparing to go public say they expect to raise a token amount, in Liberty’s case $50 million, for the purposes of calculating the filing fees with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The amount the company expects to raise frequently rises after the first filing. The company, which filed for the IPO Feb. 14, has grown rapidly since its founding in 2011, when it had one active set of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, equipment, to the 11 active fleets it had in January 2017, according to its filing.

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World Oil

February 25, 2017

Saudi Aramco IPO to impact markets in many ways

The largest IPO in history will have an impact even beyond where it’s listed, rippling through the benchmark stock gauges tracked by investors globally. Saudi Arabia expects MSCI Emerging Markets Index inclusion in the near future, the exchange’s chief executive officer said on Sunday. Assuming a 5% float, Aramco alone would account for about 2.4% of the gauge, according to estimates by Mohamad Al Hajj, a Dubai-based equity strategist for the Middle East and North Africa at EFG-Hermes Holding. That would be enough to propel it into the top five companies by weighting alongside Samsung Electronics Co. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Aramco’s listing would almost double Saudi Arabia’s presence in the benchmark measure, which would be about 2.8% based on the Tadawul currently. The inclusion of the oil-giant would lead to passive inflows of $6.6 billion from MSCI trackers, and $2.5 billion from FTSE investors, Al Hajj estimated.

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Bloomberg

February 27, 2017

Shell Shuns New Oil-Sands Projects as Low Prices Force Cost Control

Royal Dutch Shell Plc is unlikely to take on new oil-sands projects as it maintains a grip on costs after crude’s crash forced competitors to write down Canadian reserves. While Shell’s existing oil-sands operations generate strong cash flows, the expense of developing new projects discourages additional investments, Chief Executive Officer Ben Van Beurden said in an interview. Oil sands, the reserves of heavy crude found primarily in northern Alberta, lured investors in the past decade as oil’s surge above $100 a barrel made the difficult extraction process economic. But they’ve fallen out of favor following the subsequent market collapse as companies dump expensive projects amid fears that competition from low-cost crude could strand costlier assets.

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Inside Energy

February 24, 2017

From Standing Rock To Texas

As protesters in Standing Rock clean up camp and head home, Sioux tribes in North and South Dakota are still battling in court to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Their fight has inspired protesters who are trying to stop pipeline construction in other parts of the country. In the Big Bend Region of Texas, construction on the Trans-Pecos Pipeline is nearly complete. Destiny Willcuts is a native Lakota Sioux. She left Standing Rock with her mother when extreme winter weather hit the area. They headed south, to a newly erected pipeline protest camp in Presidio County, Texas. “I didn’t want to give up the fight so I just decided to head to another front line,” Willcutts said. Willcuts is 16. She was arrested in January for chaining herself to a bulldozer on a Trans-Pecos Pipeline construction site in Presidio County. So far, 16 people have been been arrested while protesting the pipeline. Willcutts is facing felony charges.

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Oil Price

February 25, 2017

How Russia Is Using Oil Deals To Secure Its Influence In The Middle East

A string of oil deals between Russian oil companies and Arab petrostates have shifted the center of political gravity in the Middle East and North Africa towards Moscow – counteracting the effect of decades of American military and political involvement as U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan for the region remains unclear. The 2014 oil price drop hit the national economy hard, causing the price of the ruble to plummet and GDP growth to grind to a halt. This has pushed Moscow to look outward to project strength as a crippling recession proceeds on the domestic front. The Arab World has been Putin’s favorite arena to grow the Russian sphere of influence. Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s visit to Moscow last year brought the two countries closer together on tourism and counterterrorism issues. But the North African country’s lack of oil or gas resources did not leave room for further discussions on Russia’s flagship foreign policy issue—energy.

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Utilities Stories

Wichita Falls Times Record

February 26, 2017

Collins: Progress -- Energy sector buffeted by prices, headwinds

The most notable of North Texas’ 2016 wind projects was one proposed near the community of Byers in Clay County. The project, developed by Windthorst-based Horn Wind LLC and Alterra Power Corp., is an 8,000-acre, $300 million endeavor that has drawn ire from officials at nearby Sheppard Air Force Base. They, along with some local government leaders, have speculated that the proposed turbines would interfere with with base pilot training and radar operations. Jimmy Horn of Horn Wind LLC has allayed some of those concerns in interviews with the Times Record News, along with saying that the project is being put through an extensive government permitting and approval process. Still, bills that would withhold tax credits from wind farms within a certain radius of military bases are working their ways through the state legislature and U.S. Congress.

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Washington Post

February 27, 2017

Fact Checker: Did President Trump save 77,000 coal mining jobs?

The Stream Protection Rule (SPR) is one of those complex federal regulations that can have an important impact on particular communities but may mean little to the rest of the country. The regulations, formulated late during the Obama administration, aimed to reduce the effect of coal mining on surface water, groundwater, fish and wildlife. The rule would have required companies to avoid mining practices that permanently pollute streams and destroy drinking water sources; companies would have needed to test and monitor the condition of streams before, during and after mining as well as restore streams after mining activities are completed. That brief description barely scratches the complexity of the rule, which when it was proposed in 2015 took up 262 pages in the Federal Register, consisting of 150 pages of explanatory preamble and 112 pages of regulatory text.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Science Daily

February 17, 2017

Printable solar cells just got a little closer

A new innovation could make printing solar cells as easy and inexpensive as printing a newspaper. Researchers have cleared a critical manufacturing hurdle in the development of a relatively new class of solar devices called perovskite solar cells. This alternative solar technology could lead to low-cost, printable solar panels capable of turning nearly any surface into a power generator. "Economies of scale have greatly reduced the cost of silicon manufacturing," said Professor Ted Sargent, an expert in emerging solar technologies and the Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology. "Perovskite solar cells can enable us to use techniques already established in the printing industry to produce solar cells at very low cost. Potentially, perovskites and silicon cells can be married to improve efficiency further, but only with advances in low-temperature processes."

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Seeker

February 27, 2017

A Potent Greenhouse Gas Used to Make Solar Panels Is on the Rise

US emissions of a greenhouse gas thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide have expanded tenfold over the past two-and-a-half decades, according to fresh government data. And one reason — wait for it — is America's increasing reliance on solar power. The gas, nitrogen trifluoride, or NF3, is a key chemical agent used to manufacture certain types of photovoltaic cells for solar panels, as well as semiconductors and LCD flat screens. NF3 is produced in minuscule quantities compared to carbon dioxide and now adds only a wafer-thin margin to America's total greenhouse gas emissions, while carbon dioxide makes up 82 percent and methane nearly another 10 percent. But researchers warn NF3 is dangerous due to its devilish efficiency in trapping energy, and long atmospheric lifespan of up to 740 years.

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The Economist

February 27, 2017

Clean energy’s dirty secret -- Wind and solar power are disrupting electricity systems

ALMOST 150 years after photovoltaic cells and wind turbines were invented, they still generate only 7% of the world’s electricity. Yet something remarkable is happening. From being peripheral to the energy system just over a decade ago, they are now growing faster than any other energy source and their falling costs are making them competitive with fossil fuels. BP, an oil firm, expects renewables to account for half of the growth in global energy supply over the next 20 years. It is no longer far-fetched to think that the world is entering an era of clean, unlimited and cheap power. About time, too. There is a $20trn hitch, though. To get from here to there requires huge amounts of investment over the next few decades, to replace old smog-belching power plants and to upgrade the pylons and wires that bring electricity to consumers. Normally investors like putting their money into electricity because it offers reliable returns. Yet green energy has a dirty secret. The more it is deployed, the more it lowers the price of power from any source. That makes it hard to manage the transition to a carbon-free future, during which many generating technologies, clean and dirty, need to remain profitable if the lights are to stay on. Unless the market is fixed, subsidies to the industry will only grow.

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Reuters

February 23, 2017

Alphabet Sues Uber For Patent Infringement Of Key Self-Driving Car Technology

Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Waymo self-driving car unit sued Uber Technologies [UBER.UL] and its autonomous trucking subsidiary Otto on Thursday over allegations of theft of its confidential and proprietary sensor technology. Waymo accused Uber and Otto, acquired by the ride services company in August, with stealing confidential information on Waymo's Lidar sensor technology to help speed its own efforts in autonomous technology. "Uber's LiDAR technology is actually Waymo's LiDAR technology," said Waymo's complaint in the Northern District of California. Uber said it took "the allegations made against Otto and Uber employees seriously and we will review this matter carefully."

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St. Louis Business Journal

February 27, 2017

Whistleblower suits filed by former SunEdison execs

Two former SunEdison Inc. executives have filed whistleblower lawsuits, claiming they were fired for raising concerns about the now-bankrupt company's financial situation. Carlos Domenech and Pancho Perez, who held leadership positions at SunEdison's TerraForm Power Inc. and TerraForm Global Inc. yieldcos, filed the suits last week in Maryland federal court against SunEdison and Ahmad Chatila, former SunEdison CEO, the Wall Street Journal reports. They each are seeking back pay and damages for what they allege were retaliatory firings for bringing their concerns to the company's senior management and board.

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Regulatory Stories

World Oil

February 27, 2017

Texas Legislature files resolutions supporting delegation of federal energy regulations to state

The chairmen of the Texas House and Senate energy committees filed two concurrent resolutions this week calling on the federal government to work with Texas in unraveling the regulations that were implemented during President Barack Obama’s administration, impacting the oil and gas industry. Senate Concurrent Resolution 26 filed by Senator Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) and House Concurrent Resolution 84 filed by Representative Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) strongly urge Congress and the new administration to closely review these regulations in order to determine whether these rules should be revised, repealed or alternatively, delegated back to the states to implement and enforce. "The Texas Alliance of Energy Producers would like to thank Chairmen Estes and Darby for their robust leadership on this important issue," said John Tintera, Alliance Executive Vice President.

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Houston Chronicle

February 27, 2017

EPA chief vows quick rollback of Obama-era rules

U.S. environmental chief Scott Pruitt unveiled plans to roll back at least three Obama-era rules at the EPA while vowing to give businesses "regulatory certainty." Those policy reversals, set to start next week, will empower the Environmental Protection Agency to focus on its core mission of protecting the air and water, Pruitt said Saturday in a speech and question-and-answer session on the final day of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Md. "The previous administration was so focused on climate change and so focused on CO2, some of those other priorities were left behind," Pruitt said in his first detailed remarks since being sworn in on Feb. 17 to lead the EPA. "I really believe that at the end of eight years, we're going to have better air quality, we're going to have better water quality because it's going to be vested in a partnership" with states.

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The Hill

February 27, 2017

Trump to ask for major EPA, State cuts to boost military spending: reports

President Trump is expected to demand major cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of State to fund boosts to military spending in his first budget, according to multiple reports. Trump on Monday will instruct Cabinet and agency officials to prepare budget requests, according to The New York Times and Axios. The administration is expected to release its first budget outline March 13, and Trump will ask for massive cuts to EPA climate change programs to help fund drastic increases in military spending. Trump’s request comes one day before he’ll address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, laying out his policy agenda.

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Texas Public Radio

February 23, 2017

Should Scientists March? U.S. Researchers Still Debating Pros And Cons

Scientists around the United States are getting ready to do an unprecedented experiment: They plan to march en masse in Washington, D.C., and other cities on April 22, to take a stand for the importance of public policies based on science. Some researchers predict that this March for Science will release much needed energy and enthusiasm at a time when science is under threat; others worry it will damage science's reputation as an unbiased seeker of truth. The idea for the march emerged soon after the inauguration of President Trump, and the Women's March that took place the next day. Jacquelyn Gill, a paleoecologist at the University of Maine, says she posted a message proposing a march for science on Twitter.

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Associated Press

February 26, 2017

New Mexico Lawmakers Seek New Powers for Oil Well Regulators

New Mexico would restore one agency's authority to impose administrative penalties against oil and natural gas well operators in connection with petroleum and wastewater spills, under a bill endorsed by a Senate panel on Thursday. The Democrat-sponsored bill would allow the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division, which oversees oil and natural gas well permits and decommissioning, to apply penalties of up to $10,000 a day when aquifers are polluted or threatened by drilling operations, and lesser fines for other violations of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Act. A 2009 state Supreme Court decision held that the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division was not authorized to assess administrative penalties and must pursue lawsuits and legal settlements, a process currently coordinated through the New Mexico Attorney General's Office. Annual fines averaged nearly $600,000 before the ruling. Four operators have been assessed $20,500 since June of last year through legal action.

This article appeared on the US News website

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February 27, 2017

Lead Stories

Midland Reporter Telegram

February 26, 2017

Commissioners racking up campaign contributions

Texas’ three Railroad Commissioners build sizable campaign war chests during their six-year terms, with a large share of the contributions coming from the oil and gas industry that they regulate. The practice has long concerned environmental advocates and watchdog groups, who worry about the influence of an industry that pours money into campaign coffers year in and year out, making it difficult for challengers to mount competitive campaigns. For instance, commission Chairwoman Christi Craddick, who is not up for re-election until 2018, received $4.9 million in political contributions between July 2011 and June 2016, more than half from oil and gas interests, according to data compiled by Texans for Public Justice, an Austin-based advocacy group. Commissioners say the campaign contributions don’t buy influence and they make decisions based on their merits and the public interest. There have been attempts to stem this flow of campaign contributions. In the past, the Sunset Commission, the state agency charged with periodically reviewing state agencies and recommending if they should be reauthorized, has suggested that the commissioners be allowed to collect campaign contributions only during the years in which they must run for re-election.

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Austin American-Statesman

February 25, 2017

Past fiscal decisions, not just oil slump, root cause of budget woes

In the wake of an oil and gas boom that flushed state coffers, lawmakers in 2015 went on a spree of tax cutting and spending on GOP priorities. They cut the state franchise tax on businesses by 25 percent, costing $2.6 billion over two years; green-lighted a vote on a constitutional amendment that will redirect to transportation projects $4.7 billion in state sales tax revenue from general funding that could pay for schools, prisons and health care services; spent an unprecedented $800 million on the state’s border security campaign; and expanded the local property tax homestead exemption, a move the state pays for on the back end when it shores up school district budgets.

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San Antonio Express News

February 25, 2017

Where will our nuclear waste go?

ANDREWS — Not many American towns would welcome thousands of tons of high-level nuclear waste. Fewer still would see its leaders spend three decades trying to bring it there. In Andrews, a hard-working oil town of 18,000 on the empty, flat plains of the Permian Basin, a game of reverse hot potato is playing itself out. A company here wants the heat-generating, potentially deadly radioactive leftovers that nuclear power plants and other facilities would rather get rid of. For a price, Waste Control Specialists would take this waste from across the country and store it above ground for 40 to 100 years until the federal government can find a permanent resting place, something that has eluded it for more than 30 years. The players in the game include the Department of Energy, Congress, the commercial nuclear industry, town residents, anti-nuclear activists, the independent Nuclear Regulatory Commission and, most important, WCS, which already owns a 14,000-acre storage and disposal facility 30 miles from Andrews, close to the Texas-New Mexico border.

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San Antonio Express News

February 26, 2017

Led by Congressman Lamar Smith, GOP coalition seeks to slow down push to new energy technology

Over the past decade, the U.S. government has spent tens of billions of dollars to speed onto the market the energy technology that many believe is the future — from solar panels to industrial-size batteries to modernized nuclear reactors. “Building the new energy economy,” the U.S. Energy Department still proclaims on its Twitter feed. But with Barack Obama out of the White House, a coalition of conservative politicians led by San Antonio Congressman Lamar Smith, the powerful chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, is pressing to overhaul a system they say allows the government, rather than the market, to decide the future of the country’s energy industry in a bid to create a new low-carbon economy.

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Oil & Gas Stories

CNBC

February 27, 2017

Oil ticks up on supply cuts, rising US output caps gains

Brent oil prices edged up on Monday and were set to rise for five out of seven sessions as a global supply glut appears to ease, but rising U.S. production limited gains. Brent crude was up 0.04 percent at $56.01 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate was unchanged at $53.99 a barrel. Oil prices tumbled on Friday after U.S. Energy Information Administration data showed U.S. crude inventories rose for a seventh straight week.

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Business Insider

February 24, 2017

Baker Hughes oil rig count rises for 6th straight week

The US oil-rig count increased by five to a total of 602 this week, according to Baker Hughes. At 632, the oil rig count would be double the trough it fell to after the most recent oil crash. The gas rig count decreased by two to 151. With one miscellaneous rig remaining in use, the total rig count rose by three to 754. Last week, the oil rig count rose by six and the gas rig count by four.

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San Antonio Business Journal

February 24, 2017

Eagle Ford rig counts increase for six weeks straight

There has historically been a lag of a few months between oil prices and the rig count, but drilling permit filings with the Railroad Commission of Texas show that many companies are able to make the current market environment work for them. Over the past week, some 27 companies have filed a record 130 drilling permits for new oil and gas wells in South Texas. Among those making the biggest push in the Eagle Ford are Carrizo Oil & Gas (Nasdaq: CRZO), ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) subsidiary Burlington Resources, Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) and Marathon Oil (NYSE: MRO). The Eagle Ford hit a low of 29 active rigs at the height of the downturn in June 2016 and has recovered. There still is a long way to get near the record of 259 rigs reported in May 2012.

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Reuters

February 26, 2017

Funds prepare $2 billion oil market play as supply tightens

Passive investment funds are poised to shift an estimated $2 billion from far-term to near-term crude futures over the next week, anticipating an energy market rally as a historic OPEC output cut slashes supply. The switch may foreshadow the end of a global oil glut that built up during a two-year price war. On Friday - for the first time in six years - a rule in one of the most popular commodity market indices was triggered, requiring funds tracking the index to sell Brent crude futures contracts for December LCOZ7 and to buy contracts for June LCOM7. The S&P GSCI Enhanced Commodity Index rule aims to ensure that investors are positioned to cash in when oil market fundamentals change - in this case, when supply becomes so tight that the current price of oil becomes higher than the price of oil for delivery many months or years into the future. That structure is called backwardation.

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San Antonio Express News

February 25, 2017

Feds also targeting Uresti’s consulting company

State Sen. Carlos Uresti’s consulting company, Turning Point Strategies, was one of the targets of the raid on his law offices by federal authorities 10 days ago, law enforcement sources said. At the time of the Feb. 16 search, Uresti issued a statement saying it was part of a “broad investigation” of FourWinds Logistics, the scandal-plagued oil-field services company that he once represented. But FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents also were there to gather information on Turning Point, the sources told the San Antonio Express-News. Agents “were instructed to look for anything with Turning Point, including its investors or contributors,” one of the sources said. ... In November, the same month Uresti easily won re-election for the District 19 Texas Senate seat, an ad pitching Turning Point’s services appeared in Shale Oil & Gas Business Magazine. The company says it provides consulting services in such fields as oil and gas, utilities, alternative energy, and housing and development. “Have you been looking for someone to help your company thrive and just need to meet the right people?” the ad reads. It doesn’t identify Uresti, who’s pictured in the ad, as a state senator.

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Austin American-Statesman

February 25, 2017

PolitiFact: Midland outpacing San Francisco in startups? Yes, but …

Gov. Greg Abbott told state lawmakers that Texas not only leads the nation in oil and gas, it’s enjoying an “innovation renaissance” typified by technology development. “Midland,” Abbott said in his State of the State address, “Midland, Texas, now beats the San Francisco area in the percentage of jobs created by startups.” ... The Midland area in 2014 whaled the San Francisco area by this metric. We don’t know where either region ranks now; the government hasn’t done an update. It’s worth clarifying, too, that “startups” in this context simply means new businesses; Midland didn’t become a better-than-California high-tech hub. The two economies differ in scale and job types. We rate this claim Mostly True.

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Yahoo! News

February 26, 2017

Iran holds naval war games amid rising tensions with U.S.

Iran launched naval drills at the mouth of the Gulf and the Indian Ocean on Sunday, a naval commander said, as tensions with the United States escalated after U.S President Donald Trump put Tehran "on notice". Since taking office last month, Trump has pledged to get tough with Iran, warning the Islamic Republic after its ballistic missile test on Jan. 29 that it was playing with fire and all U.S. options were on the table. Iran's annual exercises will be held in the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman, the Bab el-Mandab and northern parts of the Indian Ocean, to train in the fight against terrorism and piracy, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said, according to state media. Millions of barrels of oil are transported daily to Europe, the United States and Asia through the Bab el-Mandab and the Strait of Hormuz, waterways that run along the coasts of Yemen and Iran.

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Houston Chronicle

February 24, 2017

New Exxon CEO endorses carbon tax

Two months after taking over the CEO suite at Exxon Mobil, Darren Woods confirmed the company would continue to support a tax on carbon dioxide. In a blog post on the company’s website, Woods writes, “A uniform price of carbon applied consistently across the economy is a sensible approach to emissions reduction.” “One option being discussed by policymakers is a national revenue-neutral carbon tax. This would promote greater energy efficiency and the use of today’s lower-carbon options, avoid further burdening the economy, and also provide incentives for markets to develop additional low-carbon energy solutions for the future.” That echoes language by Woods’ predecessor, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who for years argued that if governments were to regulate greenhouse gas emissions a uniform tax made the most sense.

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Houston Chronicle

February 24, 2017

Noble Energy sanctions massive Leviathan project offshore of Israel

Houston's Noble Energy and its Israeli partners said Thursday they will move forward with drilling one of the world's largest undeveloped natural gas fields off the coast of Israel, sanctioning the first phase at a cost of $3.75 billion. The project, known as Leviathan, has been championed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but has faced numerous issues in political debates and within the Israeli Supreme Court before finally winning governmental approval last year. Noble, which discovered the field in 2010, said drilling will commence in the middle of this year, although it doesn't expect to start delivering natural gas to Israel until late 2019. "The move would give Israel gas supply, and promote cooperation with the countries of the region," Netanyahu said Thursday in a statement translated from Hebrew.

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Inside Climate News

February 24, 2017

Unplugged Natural Gas Leak Threatens Alaska's Endangered Cook Inlet Belugas

Natural gas from a 52-year-old underwater pipeline has been leaking for at least two weeks into Cook Inlet in Alaska, home to a number of endangered species, including beluga whales. The company that owns the pipeline, Hilcorp, has said that the pipeline cannot be shut down without posing additional risk to the environment or employee safety because stopping the flow could trigger a crude oil leak. The 8-inch pipeline, which carries natural gas from shore to four offshore oil platforms, is leaking an estimated 210,000 to 310,000 cubic feet of natural gas each day, according to the company.

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Houston Chronicle

February 26, 2017

Houston transforms the U.S. into an energy exporting hub

Massive cranes loom over the Port of Houston, ready to load cargo containers packed with plastic pellets onto ships bound for China and India, where the pellets will be transformed into grocery packaging, car parts and other consumer products for the growing middle classes of these developing nations. Along the Houston Ship Channel, Enterprise Products Partners has added and expanded terminals to ship crude oil and petrochemicals. New terminals to process and ship liquefied natural gas are planned or under construction from Corpus Christi to Lake Charles, La. All this represents a dramatic shift in the Houston and Gulf Coast economy and another example of how the technologies that opened shale formations to oil and gas drilling were truly revolutionary. In less than a decade, Greater Houston has shifted from net importer to net exporter as energy and petrochemical companies find international markets for crude oil, natural gas, natural gas liquids, refined products, and chemicals, including methanol, ammonia and propylene.

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Los Angeles Times

February 25, 2017

Amid U.S.-Mexico acrimony, energy might present common ground and opportunity, analysts say

Ixchel Castro, the manager of oil and refining research in Latin America for the consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, said the involvement of former Exxon Mobil Chief Executive and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who visited Mexico City last week, was a good sign. “Someone from Exxon Mobil understands very well how this mutual collaboration has been a win-win in the last few years,” Castro said. Castro was referring to the changes that President Enrique Peña Nieto signed into law in 2013, opening the Mexican oil industry to foreign investment. It was a groundbreaking move. Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, had been a state monopoly since 1938, and has long been beset by mismanagement, corruption and nepotism.

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Austin American-Statesman

February 25, 2017

Austin’s Forestar Group sells remaining oil and gas assets

Austin-based Forestar Group Inc. has reached an agreement to sell substantially all of its remaining oil and gas assets for $85.6 million, continuing its divestiture of holdings outside its main residential and mixed-use development portfolio. In a filing with the U.S. Securites and Exchange Commission, the developer said it had agreed to sell about almost 520,000 acres of “fee minerals” in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia to Mineral Resources Partners LLC. The deal comes about three months after Forestar sold about 58,000 acres of timberland in three separate sales collectively worth almost $104.6 million. Those properties were in Georgia and Alabama.

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Houston Chronicle

February 23, 2017

Energy Transfer to expand in Mont Belvieu with $385 million project

Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners said it plans to expand its Lone Star campus east of Houston in Mont Belvieu with the addition of a $385 million fractionator and storage system. Energy Transfer said it’s responding to the increasing production levels coming from the Permian Basin that’s flowing into Houston. Energy Transfer’s planned fractionator would take streams of natural gas liquids that are collected during oil production, and then separate the liquids into individual products like ethane, propane and butane.

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Reuters

February 25, 2017

Dakota protesters regroup, plot resistance to other pipelines

Opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline who were pushed out of their protest camp this week have vowed to keep up efforts to stop the multibillion-dollar project and take the fight to other pipelines as well. The Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, was cleared by law enforcement on Thursday and almost 50 people, many of them Native Americans and environmental activists, were arrested. The number of demonstrators had dwindled from the thousands who poured into the camp starting in August to oppose the pipeline that critics say threatens the water resources and sacred land of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The tribe has said it intends to fight the pipeline in court.

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Forbes

February 25, 2017

U.S. Set To Rival Russia In Oil And Natural Gas Exports

Overall, to say that we will now be implementing more pro-oil and pro-natural gas policies might be the biggest understatement you will hear this year. Think about it: former Texas governor Rick Perry is head of the U.S. Department of Energy and former ExxonMobil CEO is head of the U.S. Department of State. Thus, the U.S. could rival Russia as the world's largest oil and gas exporting machine. Russia accounts for over 20% of the world's exported natural gas, and gas is easily the world's most important fuel going forward given climate commitments: gas emits 50% less CO2 than coal and 30% less CO2 than oil. In 2016, "Russia tops Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil exporter," and oil is the world's most important fuel, with no significant substitute whatsoever.

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Utilities Stories

Houston Chronicle

February 23, 2017

Dynegy reports losses as it shuts down coal-fired power plants

The shutdown of two coal-fired power plants and the bankruptcy of a subsidiary contributed to losses last year for Houston-based Dynegy Inc., the company said Thursday. Dynegy said it lost $180 million in the fourth quarter, compared to a $134 million loss during the same period in 2015. For all of 2016, the company reported a loss of $1.24 billion, compared to a profit of $50 million 2015. Dynegy attributed most of its fourth quarter losses to the December bankruptcy filing of its subsidiary Illinois Power Generating Co., which operates coal-fired power plants in Illinois. The company, known as Genco, emerged from bankruptcy earlier this month after its plans for restructuring debt were approved by the Southern District of Texas Bankruptcy Court, according to a company statement.

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San Antonio Express News

February 26, 2017

Landowners near Eagle Pass coal mine had water shut down from wind-blown dust

Some residents living near a controversial coal mine outside of Eagle Pass had canal water services shut down for six days after a windy Valentine’s Day left their water coated in dust. Maverick County Water Control and Improvement District #1 staff found “little dust particles” covering a few tenths of a mile of Lateral 20 near Thompson Road on Feb. 15 following a day of 34-mile-per-hour winds, general manager Cynthia Martinez said. “It’s nasty,” said Jeff Taylor, who owns 13 acres near Dos Republicas Coal Partnership’s Eagle Pass mine. “It’s just all gooey and it’s not fit for anything.” The canals deliver residents domestic and irrigation water diverted from the Rio Grande. Martinez said she cannot confirm the su

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San Antonio Express News

February 25, 2017

CPS Energy’s nonprofit rescues stray animals found at power plants

It had been three weeks since the brown dog had slipped beneath a loose section of chainlink fence at the Leon Creek Power Plant and settled down next to a guard shack. She was a friendly Rhodesian Ridgeback and CPS Energy employee Lee West wanted to help her find a new home. So West turned to Worthwhile Animal Rescue Mission, a nonprofit started by CPS employees in 2011 under the company’s umbrella. It’s common knowledge among CPS Energy employees that the area near Quintana Road, where the plant is located, is a regular dumping site for unwanted pets.

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New York Times

February 26, 2017

Coal Industry Casts Itself as a Clean Energy Player

President Trump has questioned the science behind climate change as “a hoax” in positioning himself as a champion of coal. The three largest American coal producers are taking a different tack. Seeking to shore up their struggling industry, the coal producers are voicing greater concern about greenhouse gas emissions. Their goal is to frame a new image for coal as a contributor, not an obstacle, to a clean-energy future — an image intended to foster their legislative agenda. Executives of the three companies — Cloud Peak Energy, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal — are going so far as to make common cause with some of their harshest critics, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Clean Air Task Force. Together, they are lobbying for a tax bill to expand government subsidies to reduce the environmental impact of coal burning.

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Alternatives & Renewables Stories

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

February 25, 2017

FWST: Clean energy gets second wind

There is a change in the wind. Wind, the stealer of umbrellas, has climbed its way to become a major contender in the energy field. Gone are the days of skeptics scoffing at the novelty and the choice between good for the environment or good for the wallet. In the last decade, the use of wind energy has sharpy increased. About 24 million American homes use wind, about 4 million of those in Texas, and many businesses are starting to use wind to power their facilities. The wind industry also provides stable job growth. In 2015, the sector provided about 24,000 to 25,000 jobs in the state, and thousands of Texas landowners were able to get lease payments for allowing wind turbines on their property.

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The Guardian

February 20, 2017

'The wild west of wind': Republicans push Texas as unlikely green energy leader

Living in New York and Washington, Greg Wortham heard all the grand talk about green energy from liberal politicians. Then he returned to the place where he grew up, a small town that embraced wind power so warmly that within a couple of years of the first turbine turning, it had some of the biggest farms on the planet. Yet Wortham is not from California, Oregon or New England, but a deeply conservative sector of Texas on the edge of the Permian Basin, one of the most bountiful oil and gas patches in the world. The welcome sign that greets motorists as they arrive in Sweetwater along Interstate 20, a three-hour drive west of Dallas, is not in the shape of an oil derrick or pumpjack, though: it’s a wind turbine blade bearing the town’s motto, “Life is sweet in Texas”.

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Offshore Wind

February 23, 2017

US Grid Ready for Large-Scale Offshore Wind Power Boost

US electrical grid has the potential to handle scores of gigawatts (GW) of installed offshore wind capacity which would also lead to less pollution and reduced electricity costs, according to a study carried out by researchers from the University of Delaware and Princeton University. The researchers, who have completed a first-of-its-kind simulation with the electric power industry, consulted with PJM Interconnection — a grid operator supplying electricity to more than 60 million people in 14 states — to develop a computer model that simulates how the electric grid would respond to injections of wind power from offshore wind farms along the East Coast at five build-out levels, between 7 and 70GW of installed capacity.

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Yahoo! News

February 17, 2017

Blackouts may cause Australia to shy away from renewables

In 2015, Canberra signed the Paris COP21 Agreement pledging to reduce its carbon emissions. The government concurrently set its own voluntary target aiming to secure 23 percent of its energy from renewable sources. But a string of recent blackouts might have prompted Canberra to change tack. Following a massive storm last autumn, South Australia was plunged into darkness after high voltage power lines were severed by a series of tornadoes. A subsequent December blackout wreaked havoc on a major industrial plant, which suffered damages that required a multi-million dollar government bailout. Investigating the catastrophic failure of backup systems to kick in, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) concluded that South Australia’s reliance on renewables played a significant part in producing the outage, as wind farms shut down for security reasons.

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Reuters

February 14, 2017

Cheap solar ambulances to speed into service in rural Bangladesh

An inexpensive, solar-powered ambulance that can fit down narrow laneways is set to hit the road in rural Bangladesh this year, its manufacturers say. The three-wheeled van, as well-equipped as ambulances used in Bangladesh’s cities, runs entirely on solar power – including solar battery power at night – and can be used in rural areas with no grid electricity, according to the developers. A Bangladeshi university, a government organisation and a local vehicle manufacturer who are collaborating on the vehicle say it should for the first time bring ambulance service to rural areas without it. The vehicle is in the field testing stage and there are plans to launch it by the end of 2017.

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Regulatory Stories

Dallas Morning News

February 26, 2017

Schnurman: Deal-killers galore? NextEra CEO goes to Austin to send a message on Oncor

It’s Week 1 in the Oncor hearings, and NextEra Energy has already gone to the bullpen and brought in its ace. Jim Robo, chairman and CEO of the energy giant, made an unusual visit to Austin on Thursday. The Public Utility Commission, which is reviewing NextEra’s purchase of Dallas-based Oncor Electric Delivery Co., stopped its morning hearing and called an emergency open meeting for two hours later. The legal maneuvering allowed Robo to speak to the panel without being sworn in, so his comments wouldn't be considered evidence in the case. Robo first used the opportunity for a charm offensive. He said his wife was from Dallas, they married here and still have relatives in the state. He has the best interests of Texans at heart, he added.

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Austin American-Statesman

February 26, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott meets with Trump EPA head Scott Pruitt

Newly confirmed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt met Friday in Washington with Gov. Greg Abbott to discuss environmental issues. An EPA press release said: “The two men agreed to work cooperatively on a range of issues,” including areas of Texas with smog conditions that run afoul of U.S. environmental standards — such as Houston and Dallas. Pruitt and Abbott both served as former state attorneys general who got much of their campaign contributions from oil and gas interests. As elected officials, both men have argued against more stringent EPA smog standards.

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Dallas Morning News

February 23, 2017

Texas' rural roots and urban future are on a high-speed collision course over a bullet train

John Stoneham’s knees don’t work like they used to, and it’s gotten tougher to count the cows roaming his 1,000 acres of land in southeast Texas. Sometimes newborn calves disappear into the tall brush and the 77-year-old can’t find them for days. ... The farms and homesteads in Grimes County blanket open land that for now is beyond the reach of Houston’s sprawling outer suburbs. The economic momentum and booming population growth that have transformed the state’s largest metro areas are distant phenomena in this and other rural Texas counties. But all that could change if the bullet train comes barreling through. Stoneham’s ranch is among thousands of parcels of Texas land that could one day be home to America’s first high-speed rail line. It’s also the site of a likely collision between two of the state’s most dearly held principles: Texans’ right to do what they want with their property and the free market’s ability to solve thorny problems with little government interference.

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Politico

February 24, 2017

Moore, Wallner: Why the GOP should abandon the border adjustment tax

Investors, employers and workers are getting nervous. What’s holding up the promised Trump tax cuts? The White House and GOP congressional leaders are hinting that tax cuts may not come until after Obamacare is repealed — meaning late summer at the earliest. But delay is the enemy of what these politicians need most: an early signature legislative victory that delivers on a key promise to voters and ramps up growth quickly. One distraction stalling the tax plan is the thorny issue of border adjustability. The Border Tax Adjustment, proposed by the House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, would in effect impose a tax on American imports while exempting American made exports from income tax calculations.

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Wall St. Journal

February 24, 2017

The Carbon Tax Chimera

The climate may change but one thing that never does is the use of climate change as a political wedge against Republicans. Also never changing is the call from some Republicans to neutralize the issue by handing more economic power to the federal government through a tax on carbon. The risk is that Donald Trump takes up the idea, which would hurt the economy with little benefit to the environment. George Shultz and James Baker, the esteemed former secretaries of State, have joined a group of GOP worthies for a carbon tax and recently pressed the case in these pages. They propose a gradually increasing tax that would be redistributed to Americans as a “dividend.” This tax on fossil fuels would replace the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan and a crush of other punitive regulations. Energy imports from countries without a similar structure would face a tax at the border.

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