Climate-change legislative outlook still uncertain, experts say

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, June 8 -- Prospects for congressional passage of climate change legislation in the wake of BP PLC’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico remain uncertain despite President Barack Obama’s call for action, experts at Deloitte LLC’s 2010 Washington energy conference said on June 7.

“There are only 65 legislative days left until the November elections,” said Gregory M. Scott, executive vice-president and general counsel at the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, during a session on climate change legislation. “Politicians won’t want to impose that kind of pain on their constituents.”

“We hope policymakers won’t rush to react,” added Karen A. Harbert, president of the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the US Chamber of Commerce, who was on the same panel. “Their actions now could be felt for decades. I think most voters understand this, even in the wake of this oil spill. They’ll have to bite the bullet and legislate for the long term instead of for a 24-hr news cycle.”

“The challenge shouldn’t be underestimated. Every single US job is based on affordable, reliable energy. We can’t ignore that,” observed a third panelist, US Energy Association Pres. Barry K. Worthington. “I’m not sure we can build the legal and regulatory framework where investors would be willing to take on the liabilities.”

But Joseph A. Stanislaw, an independent senior advisor on energy and sustainability at Deloitte, said a climate-change bill could get through Congress if Obama puts the kind of weight behind it that he put behind health care reform legislation. “The administration’s coming into play on this is significant,” he told reporters at a luncheon. “If its leadership is strong, we’ll see something happen.”

‘Establish framework’
“No climate bill is going to be perfect,” suggested Branko Terzic, Deloitte’s energy and resources regulatory policy leader. “Even if it’s the wrong price, it would be better than no prices because it would at least establish a framework. We’d get the infrastructure and mechanisms in place, with people, software, and trading floors pointing the way forward.”

Outcry over the oil spill probably has improved a climate bill’s chances, he added. “It has caused people to think about the relationship between energy and the environment,” said Terzic. One possible result could be that future developers of any major industrial or civic project will be required to provide contingency plans for highly damaging events, even if those events are considered very unlikely, he said.

“It’s intensified and emotionalized people’s feelings about the environment,” Stanislaw said. “Any energy source will be questioned—even wind and solar. Everything will be closely scrutinized.”

During the climate-change session, Harbert said one reason the US does not have a national energy policy is that there are 13 federal agencies and 26 congressional committees trying to formulate it. The bill developed by Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and passed by the House in June 2009 was promoted as providing certainty, but there were so many mandates and exemptions in its 1,400 pages that it did the opposite, she maintained.

She also suggested that the US Department of Defense, as the nation’s single biggest energy customer, should take an active part in developing new fuel and electricity regulations. Congress also should address environmental and permitting problems that have led to 380 stalled or canceled projects, many of which were from renewable sources, over the last 3 years, she added.

Toolbox not full
“Energy jobs are not being created because we’re incapable of getting anything built in this country,” said Harbert. “Our toolbox is not full yet. We don’t have the technology to meet our goals. I think it’s astonishing that we don’t have a research and development tax credit for new technologies.”

While crediting US Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and their staffs for reaching out to refiners as they tried to develop compromise legislation, Scott said that their proposal improved some aspects of the Waxman-Markey bill but left other problems in it unsolved.

“They moved the enforcement point to the terminal rack level,” the NPRA official said. “It’s an improvement, but one for the refining industry that’s a choice between lethal injection and the electric chair.”

He and Harbert expressed concern over impacts if the Obama administration’s 6-month deepwater drilling moratorium lasts longer. “The number of jobs that would be lost is very worrisome to many companies,” she said. “Workers are already being laid off and projects are being canceled. We need to be prepared if it goes on.”

“My concern is that the gulf oil spill will turn the clock back 20 years,” said Scott. “The domestic refining industry needs supplies from the US deepwater offshore and from Canada. If it doesn’t get them, more refining will take place overseas and US dependence on crude oil imports will become dependence on imported petroleum products.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

Operators cutting methane emissions

02/10/2015 Cuts in methane emissions from oil and gas production ought to be combined with aggressive efforts to curb excessive carbon dioxide releases, produ...

Emissions from liquid unloadings vary by region

02/10/2015 A recent study by the University of Texas at Austin and the environmental testing firm URS indicated that a small percentage of wells account for t...

Senators’ bill aims to curb flaring by expediting permit process

02/09/2015 North Dakota and Wyoming’s US senators introduced legislation that aims to capture methane and reduce flaring by expediting procedures for obtainin...

USW union workers add two BP refineries to strike list

02/09/2015 Union workers at two BP PLC-owned refineries in Indiana and Ohio have joined the United Steelworkers union’s (USW) unfair labor practice (ULP) stri...

Association presidents want more access in next 5-year OCS plan

02/09/2015 The presidents of three major US oil and gas trade associations urged the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to keep more of the US Outer Contine...

Watching Government: EPA's ozone proposal

02/09/2015 Witnesses from the US oil and gas industry and other businesses strongly spoke out on Jan. 29 against the US Environmental Protection Agency's prop...

BOEM schedules public meetings about draft proposed 5-year OCS plan

02/06/2015 The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold the first of 20 public meetings in Washington on Feb. 9 to receive public comments on potential ...

Union strike ongoing at US refineries as negotiations continue

02/06/2015 A strike by union workers at nine US refining and petrochemical production plants remains under way as the United Steelworkers Union (USW) continue...

The budget vision

02/06/2015 Just because the budget proposed for fiscal 2016 by President Barack Obama mimics six predecessors in its treatment of oil and gas and again has no...
White Papers

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...
Available Webcasts


The Alternative Fuel Movement: Four Need-to-Know Excise Tax Complexities

When Thu, Jun 4, 2015

Discussion on how to approach, and ultimately embrace, the alternative fuel market by pulling back the veil on excise tax complexities. Taxes may be an aggravating part of daily operations, but their accuracy is crucial in your path towards business success.

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Prevention, Detection and Mitigation of pipeline leaks in the modern world

Thu, Apr 30, 2015

Preventing, detecting and mitigating leaks or commodity releases from pipelines are a top priority for all pipeline companies. This presentation will look at various aspects related to preventing, detecting and mitigating pipeline commodity releases from a generic and conceptual point of view, while at the same time look at the variety of offerings available from Schneider Electric to meet some of the requirements associated with pipeline integrity management. 

register:WEBCAST


Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected