Proposed Amendment to the Fuel Quality Directive and to the Renewable Energy Directive: EU's Promotion of 'Advanced' Biofuels Over 'Conventional' Biofuels

On 17 October 2012, the European Commission (‘Commission’) issued a Proposal for a Directive designed to amend the Fuel Quality Directive (‘FQD’),[1] and the Renewable Energy Directive (‘RED’).[2]  The aims of the Commission’s Proposal are multifold: (i) reduce conventional biofuels’ contribution to the achievement of the RED’s objectives; (ii) promote increased market penetration of ‘advanced’ biofuels through higher contributions to the achievement of the RED’s quantitative objectives compared to ‘conventional’ biofuels; (iii) ameliorate the greenhouse gas (‘GHG’) performance of biofuel production processes; and (iv) ameliorate the reporting of GHG emissions by Member States and fuel suppliers.  On the whole, the Proposal is premised on the need to prioritize ‘advanced’ biofuels over ‘conventional’ biofuels.[3] ‘Advanced’ biofuels are biofuels “that do not compete with food”, do not require an extra demand for land, are more sustainable and generally that have a lesser GHG impact than first generation or ‘conventional’ biofuels.[4]

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Adoption by the European Commission of its June 2012 Communication 'Renewable Energy: a major player in the European energy market' - steps towards achieving a medium- and long- term renewable energy policy beyond 2020


On 6 June 2012, the European Commission (‘Commission’) adopted a Communication entitled ‘Renewable Energy: a major player in the European energy market’ (‘June 2012 Communication’),[1] which was based on the outcome of two preparatory documents.[2] From an economic point of view, the Commission claims that an important increase by 2030 of EU’s share of renewable energy could result in the creation of 3 million jobs.[3] On a more political level, the Commission argues that a strict transposition of the Renewable Energy Directive (‘RED’),[4] which is aimed at achieving the 20% renewable energy target by 2020, needs to be combined with a clear long-term policy on renewable energy.[5]

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Guest Blogger: New Study Indicates Gas from Cows is the Largest Contributor to Methane Emissions (Not Shale/Unconventional Natural Gas Production)

By John S. Wyckoff, MS, CPG
Senior Regulatory Scientist, Technology Sciences Group, Inc. Washington, DC.[1]

The June 1, 2012 American Petroleum Institute (API) study entitled, Characterizing Pivotal Sources of Methane Emissions from Unconventional Natural Gas Production prepared by URS Corporation indicates that US EPA overestimated by 50% the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (in particular methane) included in its National Emissions Inventory for Petroleum and Natural Gas Systems.   As a result, methane emissions from natural gas production are now the second largest source behind enteric fermentation (a.k.a. bovine digestion).  The new Study showed that methane emission data for unconventional natural gas production operations related to liquids unloading and unconventional refracture rates is critical to the estimation of emissions from the development of shale energy sources, particularly given the current energy debate and the use of US EPA’s estimates to justify environmental benefits of other energy sources.   According to US EPA, methane emissions associated with gas wells with liquids unloading and refracturing operations (well stimulation/workover activities conducted to increase production) account for 59% of the natural gas production sector methane emissions (US EPA, 2021, Table A-129 on page A-175).

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Mexican House Adopts Climate Change Law

This week the Mexican House of Representatives passed the groundbreaking “General Law on Climate Change” Mexico’s emissions are the 11th highest on an annual basis and has a growing economic and carbon footprint in the hemisphere.  

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California Land Use Legislation for 2012 that Could Benefit Renewable Energy Projects

As California’s public policy makers continue to demand greater and greater use of renewable energy resources, solar energy is still hot and wind energy is still cool.  With all the attention given to renewable energy, one might think that California law would make it easy to develop renewable energy projects.  One would be wrong. 

Like any other development project, a sponsor of something other than a rooftop solar installation faces a multitude of permitting challenges.  While the path to a successful project is still fraught with risk, recent legislation is intended to ease the process for some types of projects.  The following briefly examines a few of the legislative initiatives that could help renewable energy developers bring their projects to market.

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Comer v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc. Dismissed by Mississippi Federal Court

On March 20, 2012, a federal district court judge in Mississippi dismissed for the second time Comer v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc., a lawsuit by various Mississippi property owners against numerous oil, coal, and chemical companies seeking tort liability for climate change.  The decision, though not unexpected, certainly strikes a blow to persons wanting to hold greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters liable for the alleged harm they are causing to the environment. 

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Commission's Energy Roadmap 2050 - What Direction for EU's Climate Change Policy?


On 15 December 2011, the European Commission published its “Energy Roadmap 2050” in the form of a Communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.(1) The Roadmap should be read in light of the fourth meeting of the Advisory Group on Energy Roadmap 2050 whose minutes were published on DG ENER’s website on 16 January 2012.(2)

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McKenna Long & Aldridge Launches "Politics, Law & Policy" Blog

The team here at Climate Change Insights wants to welcome a phenomenal group of commentators to the McKenna Long & Aldridge blogosphere.  Earlier this week, MLA launched its newest blog, “Politics, Law and Policy,” authored by a bipartisan group of attorneys and public policy advisors in the firm’s nationally-recognized government affairs practice. The blog will serve as an important resource for those seeking analysis and resources on the impact of federal and state politics and public policies on a wide range of issues and debates, including health care, energy, infrastructure, taxes, transportation, cybersecurity, and campaign and election compliance.

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Will California LCFS ruling affect other state and regional climate initiatives?

On December 29, U.S. District Judge Lawrence O’Neil issued a preliminary injunction against California’s Air Resources Board’s (“CARB”) low carbon fuel standard (“LCFS”).  The lawsuit, brought by the ethanol, oil and trucking industries, alleged that California’s LCFS violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and is preempted by federal law. Judge O’Neil held that California’s LCFS violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, because the regulation impermissibly attempts to regulate interstate commerce. The ruling, however, dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim that federal law preempted California’s LCFS.  An important question will be the influence that this recent decision will have on other state and regional climate initiatives.  

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Watch What Happens: Top 5 U.S. Climate & Energy Questions in 2012

President Obama came into his first term in office focused on 3 key energy and climate issues: 1) cap & trade legislation, 2) offshore oil production and 3) scaled-up support for nuclear energy. 2011 saw all those issues depart as centerpieces of U.S. policy direction. 2012 will bring a set of high stakes questions that will set the direction.

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Corporate Social Responsibility - an effective tool for promoting climate change?

On 25 October 2011, the European Commission (‘Commission’) adopted a Communication addressed to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.

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Would a CES Raise Electricity Prices?

At the request of House Science and Technology Committee Chair Ralph Hall (R-TX), the Energy Information Administration (“EIA”) released a study this week on the potential impacts of a clean energy standard (“CES”).  In January’s State of the Union address, President Obama called for Congress to pass legislation creating a CES, which would require that utilities generate 80% of their electricity from “clean” sources by 2035.  “Clean” sources would include not only renewables but also nuclear, natural gas and coal-fired power plants employing carbon capture and sequestration technology. 


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EU-sponsored conference on "Prevention and Insurance of Natural Catastrophes": a call for increasing public-private partnership

Co-authored by Nora Wouters and Nicolas Croquet

The European Commission organized on 18 October 2011 a conference in Brussels titled “Prevention and Insurance of Natural Catastrophes”. The conference gathered EU officials, a member of the World Bank, representatives of think tanks and of insurance associations, and finally academics. The conference centered around four themes, namely the general framework for approaching the prevention and insurability of natural catastrophes, ‘insurance availability’, ‘public-private interaction’, and finally ‘natural catastrophes and insurance value chain’. Focus here will be on the third theme. In particular, emphasis will be put on the way in which the EU does and can contribute to promoting and fostering public-private partnership (‘PPP’) in the prevention and insurability of natural catastrophes.

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AES Corp v. Steadfast

In a major victory for insurers, the Virginia Supreme Court held that insurance companies do not have to defend utility companies accused of intentional wrongdoing in connection with climate change liability lawsuits. In AES Corp. v. Steadfast Insurance Co.,[1] the court concluded that the underlying climate change claims in the Kivalina lawsuit did not constitute an “occurrence” under AES’ commercial general liability (CGL) policies. Because the court decided the case on the occurrence issue, the court did not reach the issue of whether the pollution exclusion might apply. 

[1] Virginia Supreme Court Case No. 100764.

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Rhetoric increases over alleged EPA regulatory "train wreck" but will reliability really be imperiled?

As part of their fall jobs agenda, House Republicans are targeting a number of controversial EPA regulations, including the utility MACT and cross-state air pollution (“CSAP”) rules.  Opponents of these and other rules argue that they will result in a regulatory “train wreck,” which could threaten the reliability of domestic electricity grid.  Next week, the House is expected to consider H.R. 2401, the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act, which would require an analysis of the cumulative economic impacts of EPA’s air, waste, water and climate change rules.  In addition, two House Committees held hearings this week regarding the potential impacts of these rules.  The House Energy and Power Subcommittee held a hearing with commissioners from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) on the potential reliability and costs implications of the utility MACT, CSAP and other proposed EPA regulatory actions.  A House Science Committee also heard testimony from EPA, utilities and state regulators regarding the CSAP rule.  

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