Jul 23, 2019

Growing opposition to natural gas pipelines hasn't hurt federal approvals

Data: Federal Energy Regulation Commission; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Environmental opposition to natural gas pipelines has grown significantly over the last decade, but the impact on actual federal approvals of such projects is limited.

Driving the news: The chart above, via the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, shows annual approvals of natural gas pipeline capacity over the past couple of decades. These approvals ebb and flow with fuel prices and other cyclical parts of the energy business.

One level deeper: The drop in pipeline approvals around 2011 is likely due most to declining investment after the financial crisis, says Jacques Rousseau, a managing director of the nonpartisan research firm ClearView Energy Partners.

  • Pipeline approvals rose quickly since then in response to an improving economy and booming natural gas production. That’s now slowing as those pipelines come online and the backlog eases.

Yes, but: Pockets of the country exist where far fewer natural gas pipelines are being built, especially New England as this recent Wall Street Journal article explains.

Go deeper: Energy regulators divided over natural gas and climate change

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Big Oil faces a slowing economy and renewed trade war

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Oil and natural gas companies are staring down the barrel of a slowing economy, President Trump's on-again-off-again Chinese trade war, persistently low oil prices that plunged yesterday, and even lower natural gas prices.

Where it stands: Big Oil's second-quarter earnings are mixed this week. European majors Total, Eni and Shell reported large drops in profits while BP "bucked the trend." On this side of the Atlantic, ExxonMobil faced a 21% drop in quarterly profit while Chevron saw a 26.3% rise in its quarterly profits, per Reuters.

Go deeperArrowAug 2, 2019

Summer price spikes are a feature of Texas' power market, not a bug

Transformers at an electrical substation in Houston. Photo: George Rose/Getty Images

Demand for air conditioning across Texas helped drive wholesale electricity prices to the market cap of $9,000/MWh earlier this week, testing both the grid's capacity and the public's response to price spikes under the state's wholesale electricity market.

The big picture: ERCOT, the grid operator for most of Texas, operates an “energy-only” market that pays power plants only when they produce energy, and not merely for being available to do so. Many ERCOT plants thus rely on high-priced scarcity events to stay profitable in the otherwise low-cost grid, where prices are kept down by cheap natural gas prices and, to a lesser extent, renewables.

Go deeperArrowAug 15, 2019

Wind power is winning in the U.S. despite Trump's critiques

Data: U.S. Department of Energy; Chart: Axios Visuals

President Trump used a speech at a Shell petrochemicals plant in Pennsylvania on Tuesday to revive his attacks against wind energy, but his speech came just days after Department of Energy's latest major analysis of wind technology trends.

Why it matters: The timing of the president's speech clashed with the report, which underscored why wind has become an increasingly competitive resource.

Go deeperArrowAug 14, 2019