Tag

Energy Archives - Shopfloor

ARPA-E and the Continuing Need for Transformation‎al Energy Technologies

By | General, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

This Friday is Manufacturing Day, when more than 2,500 manufacturers (and counting) will open their doors and show the world what modern manufacturing looks like. When it comes to energy and the environment, modern manufacturing and the solutions we provide are the key to solving the many challenges that confront us.

The good news is that we’ve come a long way already. Disruptive technologies have already changed the way we produce and use energy and will continue to do so in the future. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling unlocked vast natural gas resources and changed the face of manufacturing in America. Advanced technologies like battery storage, demand-side management, electric vehicles, small modular nuclear reactors and many others will almost surely do the same.

It’s great to talk about those transformational technologies, and while a competitive market is generally the best way to encourage their development, the reality is that both the public and the private sector have roles to play. For instance, government can play a positive role ‎in support of the research and development (R&D) of alternative energy sources or technologies at a pre-commercial stage. There is also an important federal role to be played in basic R&D of new high-risk energy efficiency and waste minimization technologies in energy-intensive industries, particularly where private-sector incentives may be inadequate.

That brings us to the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), a 10-year-old program that has found itself in the middle of a debate over the role of federal spending ‎on energy R&D programs. Manufacturers have long supported ARPA-E, which we believe is a valuable program to fund high-risk, transformational energy technologies that the private sector may not yet be ready to invest in. The Department of Energy reports that, since 2009, ARPA-E has provided more than $1.5 billion in financing to more than 580 projects. Fifty-six of those projects have formed new companies; 68 projects have partnered with other government agencies to further development; and 74 projects have attracted more than $1.8 billion in follow-on funding.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently ‎completed an assessment of the program and concluded that ARPA-E has been successful and deserves a longer timeline to pursue its statutory mission. The NAS found that ARPA-E “has the ability to make significant contributions to energy R&D that likely would not take place absent the agency’s activities.”

Several case studies bring this point home. ARPA-E funding helped enable a company called Smart Wires to develop a device that clamps onto existing transmission lines and controls the flow of power within the lines. This is an area of major need for manufacturers, who demand always-on electricity despite a rapidly changing power grid. ARPA-E’s funding allowed Smart Wires to build prototype devices and deploy them for testing. Since this successful test round, Smart Wires has undertaken several rounds of successful fundraising, including $30.8 million in 2015 to bring its PowerLine Guardian product to commercial production.

ARPA-E provided partial funding for a company called 1366 Technologies to develop a novel silicon wafer manufacturing process that could dramatically reduce the cost (and increase the durability) of solar panels. Not only did this company succeed, but the product developed ultimately replaced the leading technology options that had received venture capital funding. ARPA-E’s funding allowed 1366 Technologies the freedom to pursue the basic science that helped lead to commercialization of this technology.

Finally, ARPA-E provided funding for Harvard University to develop slippery surface technologies that yielded extreme energy savings in many industrial settings. After two years, the research had progressed well enough to enable the launch of a startup company, SLIPS Technologies, Inc. (STI), to broadly commercialize the technology. STI was launched in October 2014 with venture capital financing led by the venture capital arm of chemical manufacturer BASF Corporation.

The National Association of Manufacturers supports legislation to keep ARPA-E funded and operating at a high level. In the Senate, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) included a provision reauthorizing ARPA-E in their comprehensive energy bill, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017 (S. 1460). In the House, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) has introduced the ARPA-E Reauthorization Act of 2017 (H.R. 3681), which contains similar language to the Senate provision.

House Energy and Commerce Committee to Hold Markup on NAM-Supported Ozone Bill

By | Energy, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

On June 28, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will mark up H.R. 806, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017. This bill would create a more flexible glide path for manufacturers to comply with the 2015 ozone standard, harmonizing the compliance process for the 2015 standard with the behind-schedule process for the 2008 standard. In doing so, it would allow real ozone reductions to continue through 2025 without the unnecessary economic pain of ozone nonattainment. H.R. 806 would change the five-year review cycle for new standards to a more reasonable 10-year cycle, which is the typical time the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs to complete these reviews. The bill also takes positive steps to address manufacturers’ permitting challenges as they pertain to ozone standards and requires real examination of the impact of international air pollution on domestic ozone levels.

The Clean Air Act has successfully improved air quality across the United States over the past four decades, leading to major reductions of virtually every single air pollutant. Ozone levels have declined roughly one-third since 1980, and the precursors that contribute to ozone—nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds—have been cut in half. In fact, the Obama EPA projected that the United States would achieve nearly the same air quality by 2025 even if the 2015 ozone standard was never implemented.

However, incremental improvements in ozone are now coming at an exponential cost. Even though most states can meet the 2015 standard by 2025, they would be unnecessarily thrown into “nonattainment,” a sort of economic penalty box, if the 2015 standard’s deadlines were to stay in place. H.R. 806 solves this problem by phasing the 2015 ozone standard implementation to align with air quality improvements that the Obama EPA found will occur anyway by 2025.

The NAM supports H.R. 806 and looks forward to working with the committee to get this important legislation to the president’s desk.

“Energy Week” to Highlight U.S. Energy Dominance and Benefits to Manufacturing

By | Energy, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

The White House is making this week “Energy Week” and is putting the focus on America’s diverse energy mix and benefits it provides. Manufacturers are seeing this firsthand, as U.S. energy dominance is making manufacturers more competitive.

A recent study sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers found that as a result of the increase in domestic shale gas production, we saw real GDP increase by $190 billion and 1.4 million more jobs. Just the construction of new natural gas pipelines to transport all this new energy meant more than 347,000 jobs in 2015, with almost 60,000 in manufacturing. Downstream, the benefits are even more striking: our friends at the American Chemistry Council estimate that abundant natural gas and natural gas liquids from shale resources have driven the chemical industry to invest in 294 new projects representing $294 billion in new economic output and 462,000 new jobs.

The energy renaissance is not limited to oil and gas. More than 100,000 workers contribute to the energy production at the nation’s 99 nuclear power plants, including manufacturers providing on-site repair, operations and maintenance as well as replacement components, modifications and upgrades when necessary. Pending retirements are spurring the industry to hire another 25,000 employees over the next few years, and in anticipation of new nuclear plant construction, U.S. companies have created in excess of 15,000 new U.S. jobs since 2005, which include manufactured products like turbines, polar cranes, pumps, valves, piping and instrumentation and control systems. Renewable energy sources have also steadily grown—consumption from wind, solar and geothermal energy sources have increased more than 400 percent over the past decade—now accounting for about 10 percent of total U.S. energy consumption and about 13 percent of electricity generation. Overall energy intensity in manufacturing (i.e., energy consumed per each dollar of goods produced) has steadily improved as manufacturers have grown more energy efficient. And even though the coal industry has faced its share of headwinds in the electric power sector—and is receiving much-needed regulatory relief—coal use in the non-electric-generation manufacturing sector has remained relatively stable, at around 43 million short tons of coal per year.

Manufacturers use a tremendous amount of energy, accounting for roughly one-third of the energy consumed in the United States. For energy-intensive manufacturers like chemicals, paper, metals and refining, energy is one of the largest costs. Manufacturers also make up the supply chain for every single energy source and technology, from fossil fuels, to renewables, to energy efficiency. The bottom line: when the energy sector is competitive, manufacturers are competitive. And that’s certainly what we are experiencing today.

Manufacturers appreciate the Trump administration’s focus on energy and look forward to a great week.

 

Energy: A Key Component of a Comprehensive Infrastructure Package

By | Infrastructure, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) most recent report card gave our nation’s energy infrastructure a D+ grade, pointing out that most U.S. energy infrastructure predates the 21st century. The ASCE says aging electricity infrastructure contributed to 3,571 total outages in 2015, and oil refineries have been operating at around 90 percent capacity. The future presents even bigger challenges: a changing electric grid, new technologies and new sources of energy and changes to where and how energy is being produced will all require improved infrastructure, and it’s not clear that we can keep up. The ASCE projects the investment gap for energy infrastructure to be $177 billion from 2016 to 2025.

The NAM’s Building to Winblueprint ‎puts forward several recommendations to improve our energy infrastructure. Recommended actions include the following:

  • Reform existing laws and regulations to facilitate a more transparent, streamlined and coordinated regulatory process for the siting and permitting of all energy delivery infrastructure, including oil and natural gas pipelines, energy transport by rail, energy export terminals and interstate electric transmission infrastructure.
  • Promote new energy infrastructure investments as a means of increasing U.S. infrastructure’s resilience to climate change by designing for projected future climate conditions. Regulators should work to more quickly approve smart investments.
  • Examine innovative financing mechanisms for new energy infrastructure to encourage private investment.
  • Coordinate underground infrastructure work for road, water, gas, electric and broadband to yield construction savings and reduce traffic disruptions from construction work.
  • Invest in regions without a developed pipeline network to bring down home heating costs in places like New England and make manufacturers more competitive.

‎The National Association of Manufacturers has been encouraged that lawmakers are focusing on energy as a key component of a broader infrastructure package. We’ll be at the table working to drive solutions that make manufacturers more competitive.

Keystone XL Is Back—Here’s What You Need to Know

By | Energy, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

This Wednesday, the town of York, Nebraska (pop. 7,957) will play host to a public hearing on the Keystone XL pipeline where anyone with an opinion on the project can provide three to five minutes of public comment. That’s right…the most hotly debated energy project of the past decade is officially back. Here are the answers to your burning questions.

Didn’t President Donald Trump already greenlight this project?

Yes, but TransCanada still needs Nebraska to approve the portion of the route going through the state.

On January 24, 2017, President Trump issued an executive memorandum inviting TransCanada to resubmit its application for a presidential permit to construct and operate Keystone XL, directing the secretary of state to make a decision on the presidential permit within 60 days and directing the departments of the Army and the Interior to take all steps to review and approve any outstanding requests for approvals under their jurisdiction pertaining to Keystone XL. The State Department issued the presidential permit for Keystone XL on March 24, 2017.

That’s not the end of the road from a permitting standpoint. TransCanada filed an application with the Nebraska Public Service Commission in October 2015 after its previous Nebraska route approval became embroiled in a lawsuit challenging the underlying state law. Nebraska had not finished its route review when President Barack Obama rejected a federal permit for Keystone XL a month later. Now that President Trump has reversed course, Nebraska is the only state left that needs to approve the route. TransCanada refiled its application with Nebraska on February 17, 2017. Wednesday’s hearing is on this latest application.

Can I get involved if I’m not in Nebraska?

Yes. The Nebraska Public Service Commission is taking comments on its website here.

What does the NAM think?

We support Keystone XL and believe it should be approved as quickly as possible. We have long called for completion of this project and applauded President Trump’s actions to revive it in January. Pipelines are an efficient, safe way to transport energy, and every governmental entity that has looked at Keystone XL (federal and state) has concluded that it can be constructed and operated in harmony with the environment around it.

The energy landscape is changing for the better. We are using our resources in a cleaner and more efficient way, and we are becoming more energy independent as we develop a wide range of fuels and technologies right here on American soil. Manufacturers are parlaying this energy abundance into new and expanded facilities across the country. It’s an exciting time.

Pipeline infrastructure like Keystone XL is a much-needed conduit between domestically produced energy and the consumers who depend on it. Manufacturers benefit not only from the energy transported through the pipeline but also from the construction of it: between 32 and 37 percent of the cost of constructing a pipeline is directly for manufacturing inputs. The major types of manufactured goods used include equipment, line pipe, fittings, coatings and booster stations, including pumps. A recent NAM study found that at least 66 different manufacturing subsectors (out of 86 total) benefited from the construction of crude oil pipelines by $10 million or more in 2015. These include iron and steel, fabricated metals, cement, machinery and paints and coatings.

So what happens next for Keystone XL?

You can see a timeline for the Nebraska permit here. Over the next few months, there will be rolling public hearings along the pipeline route. Then there will be five glorious days of public hearings from August 7 to 11 in Lincoln, Nebraska. The commission expects to issue a final order by September 14.

Department of Energy Approves Golden Pass LNG Project

By | Energy, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

The Department of Energy (DOE) today issued a license to Golden Pass LNG to construct and operate a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal in Sabine Pass, Texas, on a site adjacent to the company’s existing LNG import terminal. The DOE authorized Golden Pass to export up to 2.21 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d) of natural gas to any country not covered by a free trade agreement and not otherwise prohibited by U.S. law or policy. A copy of the DOE’s order can be found here, and background on the Golden Pass project can be found here. Read More

New Study: Manufacturers Face 297,696 Regulatory Restrictions

By | Communications, Media Relations, Regulations, Shopfloor Main | No Comments

As the incoming Trump administration prepares to reform and roll back many misguided federal regulations, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has released a new study revealing the sheer number of business and operational hurdles that manufacturers face on a daily basis as a result of the nation’s current regulatory structure. Read More

Experts Say Energy Innovation Strengthens Manufacturing

By | Economy, Energy, Infrastructure, Shopfloor Economics, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

A recent study released by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) examined how new technology has impacted the surge of natural gas production in the United States and made U.S. manufacturing more competitive in the global marketplace. It’s great news that abundant energy resources are energizing American manufacturing. But if we don’t modernize our energy infrastructure to fully connect these resources to manufacturers, we will fall short of our full economic potential.

Read More

Manufacturers Hopeful Pruitt Will Bring Balanced Environmental Approach

By | Energy, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

Manufacturers have routinely found themselves at odds with the outgoing Obama administrationeven in these last few daysbecause it continues to hammer us with regulations that lack critical balance. Just in the past two weeks, the administration seems determined to push the limits of the presidents regulatory power: a massive stream buffer regulation that effectively bans coal‎ mining, followed by a legally tenuous decision to indefinitely ban offshore oil and gas leasing in Alaska and the Atlantic and lastly a chemical storage regulation that imposes major costs but would not actually solve the problem (a Texas fertilizer plant explosion) it was designed to prevent. When these are layered on top of massive, billion-dollar regulations like the Clean Power Plan, Waters of the United States, ozone, PM 2.5, Boiler MACT and Utility MACT, the picture comes clearly into focus: the Obama administration is capping eight solid years of overregulation with a final backbreaking few weeks of the worst of the worst.

‎Throughout, manufacturers have been confronted with regulations where costs greatly exceeded their benefits, a government picking winners and losers in terms of energy sources, caused mass closings of power plants in the Rust Belt and across the southern United States and forced manufacturers to divert capital to environmental compliance that should have been used instead to innovate and create new products.

Well, we are now hopeful this is about to change.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) recently cheered the announcement of Oklahoma Attorney General (AG) Scott Pruitt for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said AG Pruitt’s nomination made him “hopeful the next administration will strike the right balance between environmental stewardship and economic growth.”‎

Our Competing to Win white papers for environment and energy lay out a bold agenda for the new EPA administrator and call on that person to issue policies that protect health, safety and jobs. We call for regulations—on air, water, waste and chemicals and even greenhouse gases—but we want them to be done better and in a more balanced way. ‎

We are confident AG Pruitt will bring balance to the EPA regulatory agenda. Manufacturers have stood side-by-side with AG Pruitt as we challenged the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, Waters of the United States regulation and 2015 ozone standard. In all three cases, manufacturers asked for regulations we could live with—and when we didn’t get them, we were forced to sue. AG Pruitt did the same for the citizens of Oklahoma.

We encourage the Senate to move swiftly in confirming his nomination so this important agenda can begin on day one.

The environment has improved dramatically over the past 40 years. And we believe the EPA plays an important role in preserving the environment by supporting clear, smart regulations that encourage responsible use of our natural resources while keeping energy prices low—not at the cost of the economy, like we have seen over the past eight years.

It’s a winwin for manufacturers and the communities they support. We look forward to working with AG Pruitt on day one to achieve this.

 

Manufacturers Look to New Administration for Relief from Latest EPA Midnight Regulation

By | Energy, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

On December  21, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final update to the Risk Management Program, a regulation that deals with on-site storage of chemicals at manufacturing facilities. Manufacturers support measures that ensure chemicals are stored safely. However, todays update would add burdensome and often duplicative requirements on manufacturers, including new compliance hurdles that will disproportionately hurt small rural businesses, while doing little, if anything, to improve safety.  Read More