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Posts Tagged ‘natural gas’

Natural Gas Offers an Opportunity for Success, Not a Guarantee

December 12th, 2013


Remember that movie “The Jerk”, in which Steve Martin plays a monumental idiot who stumbles into a fortune, and then blows it all on things like a giant stuffed camel and a private nightclub in his basement? Ultimately, Martin’s character is rescued by family members who prudently invested the money he’d occasionally sent them—providing both a happy ending and a life lesson about responsible resource management.

Technological developments like hydraulic fracturing have suddenly given the U.S. access to a fortune in natural gas, which is already providing opportunities for economic growth. And recent studies like those being conducted by Environmental Defense Fund further support the tremendous environmental opportunities presented by natural gas, including climate change mitigation. But opportunity alone does not guarantee success. A certain amount of planning and public support can help ensure we maximize the benefits of this resource, and avoid being… jerks.

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Energy Policy after 2012

October 23rd, 2012

by and

Summary points

  • Thanks to continued partisan gridlock, major congressional action on energy is unlikely after the 2012 elections. However, this could change if there is a deal to address the budget deficit or if one party makes significant gains in seats.
  • Domestic oil and natural gas production will continue to grow under either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.
  • A second Obama administration would be likely to seek to accelerate the commercialization and deployment of clean energy through a mix of tax incentives, encouraging private financing, and regulation of conventional and climate pollutants.
  • A Romney administration would be likely to focus on increasing domestic conventional energy production by reducing environmental regulation, particularly on coal-burning power plants, and opening more public land to oil and natural gas development. Excluding basic research, government incentives for clean energy would most likely be eliminated.


In 2008, the price of natural gas in the United States was roughly $8 per thousand cubic feet (tcf), coal was used to generate more than 47 per cent of all electricity, and there was a consensus among Democrats and Republicans that climate change was real, caused by humans, and needed to be addressed immediately. It seemed only a matter of time before the country adopted a cap-and-trade system similar to one backed by both parties’ presidential nominees.

Four years later, the energy landscape has changed dramatically. Cap-and-trade is on the ash heap of history, and climate change and clean energy have become enormously politicized. The price of natural gas has dropped as low as $2.25 per tcf thanks to the hydraulic fracturing drilling process (fracking) that has given the United States access to more than 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and sent domestic coal use into a precipitous decline. That same fracking technology has led to a domestic oil boom, with imports dropping to 42 per cent of use, the lowest level in two decades. Clean energy, particularly wind and solar, also saw a boom in the early years of the Obama administration thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

The growth in domestic shale oil and gas production seems inevitable. But the broader future of US energy faces much more uncertainty. There are enormous differences in how the two candidates would approach regulation of energy production and generation, climate change and America’s competition in the global clean energy race. Polling shows that these issues will have little impact on the decisions voters make. But they will have enormous implications for the price and source of the energy Americans consume, the success of America’s energy industries and the fate of international efforts to stem climate change.

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By the numbers: Why the PTC should be extended

August 7th, 2012


By: Jeremy Twitchell

The prospect of renewing the wind production tax credit is already stirring debate. Given the strong, bipartisan support for the credit’s extension, this debate is more of a reflection of how polarized our energy debate has become than the merits of the credit.

But beneath all of the back-and-forth, there are three simple numbers that create the narrative of a tax credit that has been singularly successful in its purpose, but must remain in place in order for wind power to reach equal footing.

123%. That’s how much wind’s share of the U.S. energy mix grew from 2008 to 2011. Wind now provides about 3% of our energy, and is second only to natural gas in terms of how fast it has grown in the last four years. The current production tax credit, which has been uninterrupted since 2005, has allowed wind to thrive in the U.S. Installations have grown in seven out of the eight years since, and costs have dropped to the point that analysts are forecasting all-time lows as soon as next year. Read the rest of this entry »

Ready-to-Tweet: Recent Actions to Reduce the Burden of Gas Prices

March 15th, 2012


Increasingly, important and complicated policy debates in Washington are being reduced to sound bites or even tweets. The debate over skyrocketing gas prices is no exception. As we outlined in a recent memo, there is not much that can be done to reduce the immediate impact of high gas prices. There is, however, a lot that can be done to kick the oil habit once and for all over the long-term. We’ve included a list of steps the government has taken over the last three years below, in a handy Tweet-able format.

Kicking the Oil Habit with Alternative Fuels

The US SuperTruck program will save trucks $15,000 in fuel costs every year

Increased tax breaks to families and companies that buy alternative fuel vehicles up to $10000 from last year’s $7500

Feds getting off of oil: By 2015, 100% of government vehicles to run on alternative fuels

Save money at the pump, go electric: Feds and private sector to develop car battery that’s ½ price, 300 miles/charge

4 commercial biorefineries are 1 year ahead of schedule. Will produce nearly 100 million gallons of biofuels/year

Recovery Act grant recipients purchased 1,286 buses and vans powered by clean tech like biodiesel and natural gas

Increasing Domestic Oil and Gas Production

Domestic oil production has increased every year President Obama has been in office

Since 2009, the United States has been the world’s leading producer of natural gas

Currently, the U.S. has a record number of oil and gas rigs operating – more than the rest of the world combined

We have already cut net imports of oil and gas by ten percent – 1 million barrels a day – in the last year alone

Last year the US was a net exporter of refined petroleum products for the first time in sixty years

In 2008, US imported 11 million barrels of oil/day. By end of last year, that number fell to 8.4 million barrels/day

Natural Gas STAR Program encourages companies to adopt safe practices and technologies to reduce methane emissions

Natural Gas STAR partners reported domestic emissions reductions of 86 Bcf, worth over $421 million, in 2009

Rapid development of oil and gas spurred by shorter lease terms

The Administration has tied lease-extensions for oil and gas to lessee investment in exploration and development

New Admin proposal would reward rapid development of oil and natural gas through new royalty structures

Increasing Fuel Efficiency

Higher fuel standards mean filling up less often – by middle of next decade cars will average almost 55 miles/gallon

The Obama Administration has put in place the first-ever fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks

New CAFE standards for passenger vehicles will save drivers more than $8000 in fuel costs

Heavy duty fuel economy standards will reduce oil consumption by over 500 million barrels

Election Offers Opportunity

January 10th, 2012


This piece was originally posted in National Journal

This year’s election is an opportunity to ditch the snake oil and talk straight to voters about gas prices, an issue which keeps taking a bigger bite out of Americans’ budgets. After a decade of hearing about short-term solutions that are only as good as the last price on the gas station sign, the driving public is ready for something different; putting us on the path for a real choice in the fuels we use offers that.

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Clean Energy Can Drive Long Term Growth

September 13th, 2011


This piece was originally posted on National Journal.

We all need to do something that seems increasingly uncommon in Washington these days: look at the big picture. We are commenting on a 33 minute speech previewing a likely hundreds-of-pages, $447 billion proposal. Based on the President’s speech, some aspects of his plan are likely to relate to clean energy. Many won’t. That’s because this is an economy-wide problem that requires an economy-wide solution.

Let’s not forget, President Obama has already done an enormous amount for both conventional and clean energy. While the President did not explicitly highlight energy or environmental programs, they were present in his proposals to repair and modernize schools, revitalize our transportation network and create a national infrastructure bank. His administration helped bring the American auto industry back from the brink and into profitability by encouraging the manufacture of fuel efficient and even electric vehicles. This year, the energy industry is adding almost 10,000 jobs each month. Domestic oil and natural gas drilling is nearing a 30 year high. We’ve seen a big jump in the deployment of clean energy and investment in emerging clean technologies and a historic number of energy efficiency retrofits. Thanks to these actions, the President has fewer new options to launch new energy programs that would create jobs immediately. Read the rest of this entry »