Department of Energy

Trump Budget for Renewables Slashed 70% Under Former Koch Insider’s Leadership

Read time: 4 mins
Daniel Simmons being sworn in to his post at the Department of Energy

When President Trump nominated long-time Koch network insider and renewable energy antagonist Daniel Simmons to lead the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), the administration's priorities for federal energy programs were made abundantly clear. Simmons had, after all, been serving at the time of his nomination as Vice President for Policy at a Koch-funded think tank that had, in 2015, called for the outright elimination of the very office he was tapped to lead.

The Trump administration budget proposal released this week, for fiscal year 2020, goes a long way toward delivering this wish to the Koch network, calling for a 70 percent reduction in funding for the EERE and scrapping entirely the Department of Energy’s loan programs. The EERE ultimately received $2.4 billion in the current 2019 budget, and the current Trump proposal would fund it at $696 million. 

Energy Department Hires a Top Cheerleader for Petrochemical Hub Before Issuing Report Favoring It

Read time: 9 mins
Brian Anderson

Near the end of 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hired the leading promoter within academia of a massive and multi-faceted petrochemical complex proposed for West Virginia. A month later, the agency issued a report favoring the construction of such a complex.

On November 9, the Energy Department’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) named as its new director former West Virginia University Professor Brian Anderson.

NETL, which spearheads federal energy-related research and development (R&D) efforts, is currently deciding whether to grant $1.9 billion in R&D money toward building out the proposed petrochemical complex, known as the Appalachian Storage Hub. 

Despite Trump, More Signs Coal Power’s Future Actually Looks Terrible in the US

Read time: 7 mins
Demolition of Richborough Power Station in the UK

In August, President Donald Trump told a rally in West Virginia: “We are back. The coal industry is back.” And to be sure, Trump keeps trying to revive the dying U.S. industry by doing things like relaxing pollution rules for coal power plants, pushing initiatives to keep failing coal plants open, and nominating a pro-coal candidate as a federal energy regulator.

Despite all that, however, the outlook for coal, especially in the U.S., is actually pretty terrible, and reminders of this just keep coming.

Trump’s Pick to Lead Energy Tech Innovation Program Is Invested in Gas Utilities and Pipeline Companies

Read time: 4 mins
Lane Genatowski at his Senate hearing

A nominee to head a cutting-edge research program in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is personally invested in various natural gas-based utilities and gas pipeline companies.

In July, the Trump administration announced the nomination of Lane Genatowski to head the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which tries to bridge the gap between basic research and the commercialization of breakthrough energy technologies and is modeled after the Department of Defense program that led to the Internet and GPS.

Critics Challenge 'Fundamental Flaws' in Energy Department LNG Export Study Draft

Read time: 5 mins
LNG tanker

The Department of Energy (DOE) missed the mark in its newly published draft Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) study, ignoring economic costs associated with climate change and the growth of the renewable energy industry, dozens of national and grassroots environmental groups said in public comments filed with the DOE on Friday.

In June, the DOE published a draft study that predicted expanding LNG exports worldwide could double American natural gas prices by 2040 — but that would carry relatively limited costs to the overall economy.

Another Renewable Energy Basher and Koch Network Alum Joins Trump's Department of Energy

Read time: 4 mins
Technicians on top of a Department of Energy NREL wind turbine

Until February, Christine Harbin spent much of this decade fighting against state and federal clean energy initiatives for organizations with close ties to the petrochemical billionaire Koch brothers. Now, however, she has joined the Trump administration as a senior adviser for external affairs in the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, which deals primarily with the electricity grid.

Before joining a number of other Koch network alum in the Trump administration, Harbin served as vice president of external affairs at Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded group with nearly three dozen active state chapters pushing for conservative legislation at the state and national levels. She had worked for Americans for Prosperity since 2012.

West Virginia Candidate Ousted From Hearing for Reading Industry Donors. But Bill She Opposed Just Passed in House.

Read time: 4 mins
Lissa Lucas being removed from the West Virginia Senate hearing on HB 4268

On Friday, February 9, Lissa Lucas — a Democratic Party candidate for West Virginia's House of Delegates — was forcibly removed from a Senate hearing for calling out how many thousands of dollars legislators backing a pro-oil and gas industry bill have received from that very industry.

The video of Lucas's public comment and removal has gone viral and served as a launching pad for her campaign, which has raised more than $46,000 since the incident. Previously, she had raised just over $4,000. Coincidentally, Lucas supports a publicly funded campaign finance system. 

The bill (HB 4268) she opposed, however, has passed in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

That law, “forced pooling” legislation which makes it easier for the oil and gas industry to obtain mineral rights from private landowners as a precursor to drilling, has the support of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association. It enables oil and gas companies to perform more hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on private land in the state by mandating that, rather than securing land lease contracts from all landowners, companies only need 75 percent of those living in an area to sign leases and are granted the remaining 25 percent by default.

The Obscure Federal Agency That Soon Could Raise Your Electric Bill: 5 Questions Answered on FERC

Read time: 5 mins
Power lines

By Joshua D. Rhodes, University of Texas at Austin

Editor’s note: On or before Dec. 11, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to take action on a controversial proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry that seeks to prevent noncompetitive coal and nuclear power plants from retiring prematurely. Depending on how such a rule is structured, analyses have estimated that it could cost ratepayers in affected regions up to several billion dollars yearly. Energy scholar Joshua Rhodes explains what FERC is and why it has so much power over energy markets and (indirectly) the prices consumers pay.

These Unsigned Comments Supporting a Gas Exports Rule Are Recycled Industry Copy-Pastes

Read time: 11 mins
Copy machine

A review of the comments submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on its proposed rule to fast-track the export of small-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) shows that roughly two dozen of of the 89 comments were directly copy-pasted from either industry itself or else pro-industry materials written by the DOE or Congress.

Furthermore, all of those copy-pasted comments are anonymous, a hint that the oil and gas industry may be behind an astroturf-style comment-submitting campaign for this rule. Only one letter favoring the proposed rule, written by the American Petroleum Institute and the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, has the industry's name on it. Three other comments supporting the rule have actual names of individuals, a law school student, a college student, and an individual who DeSmog confirmed wrote the comment out of personal interest and for a public policy course at his university. 

GOP Senators, Fueled by Industry Cash, Propose Bill to Expedite Small Scale LNG Exports

Read time: 7 mins
LNG tanker

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have introduced a bill to fast-track the regulatory process for the export of small-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The bill, titled “Small Scale LNG Access Act,” was introduced on October 18 and calls for amending the “Natural Gas Act to expedite approval of exports of small volumes of natural gas.” The proposed legislation follows in the footsteps of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) proposed rule which would assume that all U.S. small-scale exports of LNG, with the gas mostly obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), is in the “public interest” as defined by the Natural Gas Act.   

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