Happy Friday! I only have 1 thing to say: Next week will be 40 years since Blondie ascended the top of the Billboard charts with today's intro tune...
President Trump's bid to vastly expand areas available for offshore drilling is on ice — a development rooted in politics, oil markets, and the legal hurdle of unwinding a predecessor's policies.
Driving the news: A judge's ruling in March upholding President Obama's ban on Arctic development has delayed the wider 2019–2024 U.S. offshore leasing plan, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told the Wall Street Journal.
But, but, but: It's political, man! Bloomberg reported yesterday that the plan is delayed until after the 2020 elections amid bipartisan concern among Atlantic Coast politicians.
Between the lines: I'm seeing three immediate takeaways...
1. Bureaucracy is hard. Bernhardt told WSJ that completing the plan may wait until U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason's decision goes through appeals.
2. Politics is hard. Expanding lower-48 offshore drilling outside of the central and western Gulf of Mexico has long been a politically volatile idea.
3. Markets aren't helping Trump here. The onshore shale boom of the last decade and modest prices have sapped the urgency around widening offshore leasing, especially in the Arctic.
Flashback: Last year Interior floated expansive draft plans for offshore leasing in 2019–2024 that envisioned a huge expansion beyond the Gulf of Mexico.
I exchanged emails with an energy lobbyist, who requested anonymity but offers some insight into the status of the 5-year offshore leasing plan...
Where it stands: This source noted several reasons why there's no rush to finish the plan.
The big picture: "If the urgency is gone because [Alaska] is off the table and [the eastern Gulf of Mexico] is under wraps until 2022, why bother charging any political land mines if you don’t need to? There’s only pain picking fights in NC, SC, or GA and especially FL right now, or any time before 11/3/2020," the lobbyist writes.
On the record: "Given the recent court decision, the Department is simply evaluating all of its options to determine the best pathway to accomplish the mission entrusted to it by the President," Interior Department spokesperson Molly Block said.
What they're saying: Some groups responded to the news...
Why it matters: Exxon is the largest U.S.-based multinational giant, and it's been stuck trying to pull itself out of what has been a difficult performance stretch in recent years.
By the numbers: Revenue came in at $63.63 billion against the $64.82 billion that had been forecast, while earnings were at 55 cents per share against an expected 69 cents per share. Those profits were down nearly 50% from its 2018 Q1 profits.
Separately, speaking of Big Oil earnings...
Wind turbines near Palm Springs, Calif. Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Requirements that utilities purchase a share of their electricity from renewable sources may carry costs that outweigh their benefits, according to the preliminary findings of a working paper by University of Chicago economists, which was discussed by Axios' Amy Harder here.
The other side: But, a complete accounting of the benefits of renewable portfolio standards (RPS) would paint a different picture, per Axios Expert Voices contributor Jesse Jenkins. He writes...
The study’s methods provide little clear policy guidance, and its findings about such standards — now in place in 29 states and Washington, D.C. — warrant skepticism.
What's new: The study attempts a complete estimate of the costs of these standards, which have helped kickstart the wind and solar industries. Its authors found that because RPS policies on average cost ratepayers $130 or more per ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) reduced, “the current costs of RPS programs exceed their benefits.”
Between the lines: The paper has yet to go through formal peer review and likely revision, but at this stage raises 2 methodological concerns.
Jenkins is a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Harvard University Center for the Environment.
Texas is generally big in all things energy (including wind, where it's tops in the nation), but the Dallas Fed has an interesting note about why the state is a lagging in rooftop solar deployment.
The big picture: "Solar energy, while experiencing robust growth in recent years, still only provides 0.5 percent of Texas’ total electricity generation, with residential solar supplying a meager 0.1 percent of total generation."
What they found: The note says a variety of forces explain why residential solar is such a small slice of the pie (check out the chart above on capacity per million residents). They include...
By the numbers: According to Solar Energy Industries Association's data about total capacity (that is, not per capita):
Lobbying: Tesla has brought on the firm Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas to lobby for legislation that expands the availability of tax credits for purchasing electric vehicles, a newly available filing shows.
Politics: Joe Biden's newly launched presidential campaign is short on policy specifics so far. His website notes that climate change "threatens communities across the country" and that "we must turbocharge our efforts" to address it.
Power deals: Via Greentech Media, "Duke Energy Renewables, the competitive renewables arm of U.S. utility giant Duke Energy, has agreed to sell insurer John Hancock a minority share of its wind and solar portfolio, amounting to 1.2 gigawatts of generation capacity and $1.25 billion in enterprise value."