Blog, Climate

A National Voice for Republicans on Climate Change

In what may seem like a politically senseless move, a young Republican congressman is trying to rally support in the U.S. House of Representatives for comprehensive actions addressing climate change, including possibly a tax on carbon emissions. “I’m not ready to come out yet and endorse any specific ideas, because ideally this would happen organically, and members would together think it through and build something by consensus,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo said in an interview with me on the “Columbia Energy Exchange” podcast. “But we are approaching the time when Republicans, in conjunction with our Democratic colleagues, have to do more than simply oppose bad policy. We have to proffer good policy, and that’s what we’re trying to build to.” At a time when many members of his party still deny the occurrence of climate change and humans’ contributions to the…

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Article, Climate, coal

A long-shot opportunity for coal and carbon capture?

By Bill Loveless New efforts to promote technology to capture carbon-dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and bury them underground or use them to enhance oil production are getting more attention in Washington these days thanks to the Trump administration and its commitment to save the U.S. coal industry. Now, the credit-rating agency Moody’s is cautiously predicting that the technology may be the answer for the declining industry in the long run, though daunting obstacles remain. One thing that could jump start interest in carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) would be a spike in the cost of natural gas, whose abundance in the U.S. and low price in recent years have persuaded electric utilities to rely more on gas to fuel their power plants and less on coal, according to a new report from Moody’s. On that score, the agency…

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Electricity, Infrastructure, Podcast

Columbia Energy Exchange: Barry Perry

Barry Perry is a chief executive from a remote region of Canada whose company is gradually becoming a major player in North America’s electric power industry. We sat down recently for a discussion on the Columbia Energy Exchange podcast. From St. John’s, Newfoundland, the oldest city in North America, Perry runs Fortis Inc., the largest investor-owned utility in Canada. Since 2004, the company’s assets in Canada, the U.S. and the Caribbean have grown ten-fold to $48 billion. Fortis’ most recent acquisition, one that really put it on the map in the U.S., was ITC, the biggest electric transmission company in America, at a price of $11.3 billion. We visited with each other during one of his visits to Washington to talk about the electric and natural gas business in the U.S. and Canada, the different energy policies of the two…

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Corporations, Energy, Podcast

Columbia Energy Exchange: Centrica CEO Iain Conn

Disruption is widespread in energy industries around the world today, and success or failure in dealing with that change often depends on who’s running a company. In this episode of the “Columbia Energy Exchange,” I talk with Iain Conn, the chief executive of  Centrica, a multi-national company based in the United Kingdom, whose roots go back as far as 1812. Conn, who joined Centrica in 2015 after spending 29 years at the oil major BP, is repositioning Centrica from exploration and production and central power generation to what he calls “customer-facing” businesses, a move he says makes sense given fluctuations taking place in energy markets. We talked about that transformation during one of his visits to Washington as well as about world oil markets, Brexit, climate change and Donald Trump.      

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Article, Climate, Electricity

Coal comeback unlikely after Paris climate pact withdrawal: utility CEO

From USA TODAY President Trump once again promised to revive the U.S. coal industry when he announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. But that reversal seems as unlikely as ever as electric power producers, the biggest consumers of coal in the U.S., continue to shift to natural gas and renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. In 2016, natural gas became the leading fuel for U.S. electricity generation for the first time, responsible for 33.8% of the output, compared with 30.4% for coal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Nick Akins, the CEO of American Electric Power, one of the largest utilities in the U.S., says the preference for gas, renewables and energy efficiency, will only grow in response to increasing demands from shareholders and customers for cleaner energy, regardless of changes in…

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Blog, Climate, Sustainable Energy

With void in Washington, energy policy shifts to states

As the late U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local,” and that pertains to energy as much as any issue. Take the Metro section in the May 17 Washington Post where three stories remind us that battles over climate change are increasingly shifting from Washington to the states and local communities, as the Trump administration puts the kibosh on Obama-era environmental policies. The lead story reports that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has ordered state officials to develop regulations to reduce carbon emissions from power plants and encourage solar and other clean energy sources. McAuliffe wants the plan, which is consistent with the Obama strategy for climate change and energy, implemented by the time he leaves office in January, a tall order given the resistance he will face from the Republican-controlled legislature in Virginia. Nonetheless, his bid…

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Energy, Podcast, Policy

Columbia Energy Exchange: Rep. Fred Upton

Amid the political upheaval in Washington, is there an opportunity to legislate on something relatively routine but still critical to the U.S. like energy policy? The top energy lawmaker in the U.S. House, Fred Upton, says “yes.” Now, the Michigan Republican is an optimist by nature, noting, for example, “I’m a Cubs fan!” And he finds reason for hope when it comes to energy legislation, recalling bills on pipeline safety and other energy measures that he initiated and former President Obama signed. Perhaps the best opportunity for energy action on Capitol Hill is promoting infrastructure, especially steps to further protect electricity transmission and oil and natural gas pipelines from cyber attacks, he tells me in this edition of the “Columbia Energy Exchange” podcast. And Upton, the chairman of the House Energy Subcommittee, isn’t necessarily toeing the line when it comes…

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Natural Gas, Oil, Podcast, Policy

Columbia Energy Exchange: Tommy Beaudreau

President Trump has ordered the Department of the Interior to consider sweeping changes in the government’s plan for offshore oil and natural gas drilling, including opening areas in the Arctic and off the Atlantic Coast where exploration and production was prohibited by President Obama before he left office. What will it take to implement Trump’s plan, and how likely is it to happen? In this episode of the “Columbia Energy Exchange,” host Bill Loveless looks for answers from a man who ran the offshore oil and gas program for Obama, Tommy Beaudreau. Beaudreau is now a partner with the law firm Latham & Watkins in Washington and a non-resident fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. He and Jason Bordoff, the founding director of the center, have just completed a paper on the topic: “What’s Next…

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Podcast, Policy, Sustainable Energy

Columbia Energy Exchange: Bloomberg’s Ethan Zindler

Sustainable energy in the form of natural gas, renewable energy and energy efficiency, is gaining ground in the U.S. and around the world, as concerns over climate change increase. And sustainable energy isn’t just cleaner, it’s cheaper, as well, as Ethan Zindler, the head of policy analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, tells host Bill Loveless in this episode of the “Columbia Energy Exchange.” Their conversation took place just after BNEF and the Business Council for Sustainability released their 2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook.

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Climate, Oil, Podcast, Policy, Shale

Columbia Energy Exchange: Chevron CEO John Watson

Host Bill Loveless talks with John Watson, Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Chevron Corporation, the second largest integrated oil company in the United States. Bill and John spoke in Washington, D.C. about topics including: the outlook for oil and natural gas markets; climate change and the role of energy companies; the breakdown of public discourse on energy issues; and the Trump Administration, free trade, tax reform and energy policy. Listen.

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