Harsher energy regulations seen in Obama's second term
(Reuters) - Energy producers braced for tighter regulation in President Barack Obama's second term, with coal companies expecting more emissions restrictions and drillers anticipating less access to federal land even as his platform promotes energy independence.
Opponents already believe Obama has waged a "war on coal" through the administration's push for stricter regulation of greenhouse gas emissions by the Environmental Protection Agency.
"Four more years of President Obama translates into additional pressure on the coal industry from the EPA and numerous environmental groups," energy investment bank Simmons & Co said in a note to investors on Wednesday.
Analysts at ClearView Energy Partners in Washington expect Obama to "continue prosecuting energy policy through regulation and administrative action, with only the courts as a check on that agenda."
Miners criticize Obama for not living up to a 2008 promise to develop clean coal technology, arguing that his policies actually preclude the construction of any new coal plants.
Shares of U.S. coal companies plunged on Wednesday. Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources ended trade down more than 12 percent, while Peabody Energy closed 9.6 percent lower.
Eric Green, senior managing partner at Penn Capital Management, which owns coal stocks, said the sell-off was "100 percent related to election results."
Alpha Natural Resources Chief Executive Kevin Crutchfield argued that the United States, with the world's largest coal reserves, should use what it has. "We would hope the administration remains true to its campaign promise to support coal as an indispensable part of our nation's energy mix," he said.
Yet up to 33 gigawatts of coal-fired power generation is estimated to be due for retirement - 3 percent of U.S. capacity. While tougher emissions regulation play a part, that change is also driven by cheap natural gas as an alternative power source.
Obama has paid plenty of lip service to natural gas because it burns cleaner than coal, and his approach to the oil and gas industry in general is more nuanced.
He has pledged to cut oil imports in half by 2020 and advocates an "all of the above" approach to developing domestic energy sources. Yet he has also said that he would roll back subsidies for oil companies and reduce U.S. reliance on oil by mandating production of more fuel-efficient vehicles.
"The Obama administration really hasn't helped the oil and gas industry," said Michael Linn, founder and former chief executive of Linn Energy. "It's going to be a tough four years."
FOOT ON GAS, TAX BREAK THREAT
More restrictions are expected for companies drilling on federal lands, as well as more rules governing water management and methane emissions. Any new rules related to hydraulic fracturing may drive up costs for active drillers including Chesapeake Energy Corp and Exxon Mobil Corp.
"You are going to have less access to federal lands and tougher government agencies," said Dan Pickering, chief investment officer at TPH Asset Management, part of energy-focused investment bank Tudor Pickering Holt in Houston.
Obama's solid support for natural gas on the campaign trail won him praise from America's Natural Gas Alliance, a lobby group. But he also wants to eliminate $46 billion in subsidies for fossil fuel companies, a plan producers vigorously oppose.
Virginia Lazenby, chair of the Independent Petroleum Association of America whose members supply 54 percent of U.S. oil and 85 percent of its natural gas, worried about potential "duplicate" federal regulation of what states already do, and rejected the call to collect more tax from the industry.
"IPAA hopes President Obama will stop his call to eliminate the crucial tax provisions of intangible drilling costs and percentage depletion, which are not subsidies at all, but allow independent producers to reinvest 150 percent of their cash flow into new energy projects," she said.
While the Obama administration put approval of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline on hold, eventual approval is expected, which will increase the flow of cheaper crude oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast at Port Arthur, Texas.
Companies with refineries in Port Arthur or in nearby Beaumont include Valero Energy Corp, Royal Dutch Shell, France's Total and Exxon.
FORECAST: SUNNY SPELLS, BREEZY
Obama has promised more assistance for solar and wind technology, though he will need congressional support to extend tax breaks that help those industries.
"Obama can love solar as much as he wants, but I don't know that a whole lot more is going to happen in terms of new, constructive policy," said Morningstar analyst Stephen Simko.
Obama's advisers include Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winner with expertise in renewable energy, who regularly talks up the government's role in developing hydraulic fracturing technology. The top White House energy adviser is Heather Zichal, who has been an advocate for green jobs and tackling climate change by reducing dependence on oil.
Obama's green policies had a major setback when solar power company Solyndra collapsed after receiving a $535 million federal loan guarantee. And his energy strategy shifted away from climate change when a bill establishing a cap-and-trade system to curb carbon emissions died in the U.S. Senate in 2010.
Renewable energy also faces obstacles that are not directly related to policy: competition from low-priced natural gas; lack of infrastructure to connect projects to the grid; and a glut of solar panels putting manufacturers out of business. Yet having Obama back was broadly welcomed by most in the green business.
"The renewable energy industry and solar have retained a really important ally in the White House," said Arno Harris, chief executive of U.S. solar installer Recurrent Energy, a unit of Sharp Corp. "Solar and renewable energy were so severely attacked during the campaign that the president's win, I think, gives him a mandate in pursuing a clean energy agenda."
CHEMICALS BRACE FOR HIT
Obama is also likely to implement long-delayed emissions regulations for industrial boilers that are commonly used by chemical makers. The centerpiece provision, Boiler MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology), was proposed in 2004 but effectively shot down by courts before the EPA revived it in 2011.
It has been winding its way through courts again, and the EPA is due to issue new rules by December.
Obama's victory may embolden EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to further tighten Boiler MACT regulations next month on limits for dioxin, mercury and carbon monoxide emissions. It is not clear if Jackson will stay at the agency in Obama's second term.
"While we don't agree with some of the provisions (of Boiler MACT), we think that it will be pushed through more readily than if Romney had won," said Lawrence Sloan, president of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates, a trade group.
I know a lot of the coal industry isn't happy with him. With the Marcellus Shale boom in this country...OMG, in our area, they are drilling EVERYWHERE, if he tightens the reign, that will be bad news for them...they have created TONS of jobs, people are making money hand over fist (land owners AND corporations) and the local townships and state are making the industry be environmentally responsible...there are all kinds of watch dog groups. The EPA has been impressed with the increase in standards demanded by the people. MS is very compliant...for example, fracking alone was a big problem, initially. Now, in most areas, they are compliant.
Yeah...tighter reigns would be all bad for those kind of people.
I'm all for energy independence....and have seen the effect of them coming into our state (and local area...they're drilling all around us)...the hotels are booked 24/7, restaraunts are booming, it's been an awesome thing. They are stimulating the economy AND helping the gas industry by utilizing the massive amounts that are here.
As someone who works directly in the energy industry I will say that the restrictions that were put into place for drilling on federal land really brought the hammer down in CO as most of the state is federal land, the rig count went from in the hundreds down to 61 the last time I checked, however I am still able to find work easily as long as I am willing to travel to where they are drilling on private land, as I have been in the industry for 25 yrs, lately I have been working in TX they are drlg for oil.
Well, I think we need to look forward towards a sustainable energy policy.
I care about the environmental costs of oil and coal. I'd like to leave a clean planet for our children and grandchildren.
Coal, and oil are finite and they also are polluting. It's past time we put our efforts towards clean energy.
So called alternatives are already in use in many countries and could be here.
When I was in Turkey I saw solar hot water heaters on the roofs of apartment buildings, hotels and homes, everywhere I went.
There is no reason why the entire southwest isn't using them, for example.
First let me say that I am NOT trying to get into the political side of this topic but the oil and gas industry facts. In 11/07 there were approx. 1800 drlg rigs running in the US then peaked at approx 2000 in 8/08, it then dropped to a low of 950 in 5/09, however it has continued to climb since and is at approx 1800 rigs as of 11/12, there has been a big shift in what is being drilled for though, there has been a decrease in natural gas drlg and an increase is drlg for oil.
My opinion would be a responsible and gradual transfer of power sources. Reality is that right now oil is the primary source. And coal I think too right? I don't think we can expect an overnight shift to other more sustainable (and cleaner) sources. It has to make sense and be a workable situation. Our countries are just not going to go without enough power. I agree that solar and wind are the best resources for the future, but there is a long way to go before we can properly depend on them. It's going to take time.
I think Obama is taking the right approach. He is continuing to drill, but investing in future technologies. I think it's the right balance, and to me it makes sense. (still want that pipeline though...lol)
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