Posted December 30, 2013
As 2013 nears its end, noting some of the year's most popular Energy Tomorrow Blog posts:
Jobs = Job 1
PwC’s latest detailing of the economic impacts of oil and natural gas activity ranked the highest in readership. And why not: It’s a great story. PwC found that in 2011, the last year for which complete data is available, the industry recorded these key numbers:
- 9.8 million full- and part-time jobs supported, directly and indirectly.
- $1.2 trillion added to the economy, accounting for 8 percent of the national total.
- Nearly $600 billion contributed in associated labor income – including wages, salaries, benefits and proprietors’ income.
Posted December 26, 2013
U.S. crude oil production on track to surpass imports for first time since 1995
EIA Today in Energy: Monthly crude oil production in the United States is expected to exceed the amount of U.S. crude oil imports later this year for the first time since February 1995. The gap between monthly U.S. crude oil production and imports is projected to be almost 2 million barrels per day (bbl/d) by the end of next year—according to EIA's March 2013 Short-Term Energy Outlook.
According to EIA's projections:
- Monthly crude oil production could surpass net crude oil imports later this year.
- Monthly crude oil production is forecast to top 8 million bbl/d in the fourth quarter of 2014, which would be the highest level since 1988.
- Net crude oil imports are expected to fall below 7 million bbl/d in the fourth quarter of 2014 for the first time since 1995.
Posted December 20, 2013
In a recent letter to the Obama administration, some members of Congress pushed officials to increase EPA’s proposed 2014 mandate for biodiesel, arguing that EPA’s plan to keep the mandate at its 2013 level could reduce production by approximately 25 percent. With all due respect, the mandate exists as a floor, not as a ceiling, and the biodiesel industry is welcome to exceed it.
And guess what: The biodiesel industry has been doing just that for the past three years – as the lawmakers’ letter points out. According to EPA, since 2011 the volumes of biomass-based diesel fuels produced have been well above EPA’s mandated requirements.
Posted December 10, 2013
EPA held the first of a series of public hearings last week on its 2014 ethanol use proposals under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), during which the National Chicken Council’s Mike Brown observed that the Washington, D.C., hearing basically attracted three groups of people: ethanol producers, corn producers and “the rest of us.”
Quite a bit of truth there. The debate over the RFS finds ethanol backers fairly isolated in arguing that the RFS is fine the way it is and that higher-ethanol blend fuels – like E15 and E85 – should be pushed more aggressively into the marketplace to satisfy the program’s mandates.
The stance has them at odds a number of interests, including consumer and food groups, auto manufacturers, the makers of small-engine vehicles and equipment, turkey and chicken producers, restaurant owners and more. Strikingly, AAA, the venerable travel/motoring organization, has been criticized by Big Ethanol for opposing wider use of E15, which studies have shown could damage engines in vehicles not designed to use it.
Posted December 4, 2013
With the first public hearing on EPA proposals for 2014 ethanol use scheduled Thursday, policymakers should pay attention to how ethanol mandates under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) are affecting regular Americans.
This theme was recurrent during a gathering of diverse, consumer-oriented groups on the eve of EPA’s hearing: RFS mandates are negatively impacting everyday American life, from the fuels we use to the costs of what we eat, and could do additional harm unless Congress takes major action.
Posted December 2, 2013
As EPA opens a 60-day comment period on its proposals for next year’s required ethanol use levels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), below is a light-hearted reminder that higher-ethanol blend fuels like E15 – which ethanol supporters advocate as a way to meet RFS mandates – pose significant risks for small engines.
Posted November 22, 2013
Three new papers released by Iowa State University’s Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) try to portray E85 fuel as both a solution to the ethanol “blend wall” created by the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS) mandates and as a reason to set ethanol volume mandates beyond what can safely be consumed as conventional E10 gasoline. Unfortunately, the papers contain deficiencies, omit key facts, rely too much on hoped-for outcomes and confuse the role of consumers and market signals.
Posted November 18, 2013
More on EPA’s proposed levels for 2014 ethanol usage that were unveiled last week. While the agency rightly acknowledged the existence of the refining “blend wall” by proposing a lowering of how much ethanol must be blended into the U.S. fuel supply under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), it doesn’t go far enough. The blend wall still looms, and so does EPA’s insistence on requiring millions of gallons of phantom cellulosic biofuels.
We covered the blend wall issue when EPA released its proposal last week. Breaking through the blend wall, requiring refiners to put more ethanol into the fuel supply than is safe for millions of vehicles on the road today, could leave consumers stuck with repair bills and could harm the broader economy, according to a study by NERA Economic Consulting.
Let’s look at cellulosic. We refer to it as the “phantom fuel” because over the past few years EPA has required refiners to blend millions of gallons of it into the fuel supply when none was commercially available (2010 and 2011), or when very little was available (2012) – and then forced refiners to purchase credits from the government because they didn't use a non-existent fuel. This year looks to be similar. EPA’s 2013 mandate requires 6 million “ethanol equivalent” gallons, but to date only about 359,000 gallons have been produced.
Posted November 18, 2013
Big Ethanol Finally Loses
Wall Street Journal (editorial): It's not often that the ethanol lobby suffers a policy setback in Washington, but it got its head handed to it Friday. The Environmental Protection Agency announced that for the first time it is lowering the federal mandate that dictates how much ethanol must be blended into the nation's gasoline. It's about time. It's been about time from the moment the ethanol mandate came to life in the 1970s.
The 16% reduction is a modest pullback, which EPA says will hold ethanol blends in gasoline at the standard 10% (E10). But we hope this is a precedent-setting victory. After 35 years of exaggerations about the benefits of renewable fuels, the industry has lost credibility.
Posted November 15, 2013
Before taking a look at EPA’s proposals for 2014 ethanol use announced Friday, first consider a number that must guide the discussion of how much ethanol America’s refiners should be required to blend into the U.S. fuel supply: 132.65 billion gallons. That’s what the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), projects for 2014 gasoline demand.
Do the simple math. Using the government projection, the U.S. supply of conventional E10 fuel (up to 10 percent ethanol), for which the vast majority of cars and trucks on the road today were designed, would require 13.265 billion gallons of ethanol. If the ethanol mandate in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) required more, then you’re running into the ethanol “blend wall” – that is, to satisfy the RFS, refiners would have to blend fuel with higher ethanol content than millions of vehicles are designed to use.