OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Obama takes energy pitch north amid partisan warfare

He spoke in Florida, another swing state, on Feb. 23, where he accused Republicans of politicizing gas prices and touted his energy platform.

Obama is generally warning that there are no quick fixes on gas prices, while emphasizing his support for expanded domestic drilling (albeit much less than Republicans want), touting auto mileage rules and alternative energy programs.

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The White House stayed mum on the specifics of the speech Wednesday. 

“I don’t want to steal the President’s thunder, but you can expect that he’ll be focused on matters of domestic policy that are of concern to the American people,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said at a briefing.

The speech comes amid constant GOP attacks on White House energy policies that Republicans argue are too restrictive when it comes to expanded oil-and-gas leasing, among other criticisms.

It’s part of an increasingly aggressive effort to defend the president’s energy record by the White House and Obama’s reelection campaign.



The effort came into public view Wednesday when Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager, slammed Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group partially funded by the billionaire Koch brothers.



“You argue that Americans for Prosperity is a grassroots organization of everyday citizens,” Messina wrote in a letter to a Koch executive, responding to Koch Industries recent criticism of the Obama campaign.



“But its emphasis on rolling back environmental protections and blocking a clean energy economy appears to be nothing more than an effort to promote the corporate interests of your employers and others who lavishly, and secretly, fund its operations,” he wrote.

AFP has spent millions on a series of ads targeting the president on energy, particularly the administration’s $535 million loan guarantee to failed solar panel firm Solyndra.

But despite the recent sniping between Obama and the Democrats (and the Obama-Koch feud), the White House and GOP officials aren’t shutting the door on collaboration on energy.

As The Hill’s Russell Berman reports here, Obama met at the White House Wednesday with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a lunch addressing several topics that the GOP leaders called positive.

The Speaker afterward said Obama's recent comments on supporting an “all-of-the-above” energy policy were “welcome.” But Boehner also noted that he pressed Obama on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The administration in January rejected a cross-border permit for the project to bring oil from Alberta’s oil sands projects to Gulf Coast refineries, but more recently signaled support for construction on a more limited Oklahoma-to-Texas portion to carry U.S. crude.

“I did press the president on the Keystone pipeline. The president said, ‘Well, you’re going to get part of it,’ ” the Speaker said after the meeting. “I just wish we were getting the part that was actually going to deliver the oil from Canada and from North Dakota.”

The White House has insisted it did not reject the cross-border permit on the merits, but rather because Republicans insisted on what Obama called an arbitrary deadline to make a decision. Developer TransCanada Corp. is reapplying.

Carney on Wednesday called the meeting, which also included congressional Democratic leaders, “constructive and cordial” while rebutting the continued criticism of the pipeline decision.

Carney again bashed Republicans over Keystone, alleging they are playing politics with the pipeline, but held out hope for collaboration elsewhere.

“There are certainly other areas within the realm of what the President describes as his all-of-the-above approach to energy policy where there should be opportunities for agreement in enhancing America’s energy security and energy independence,” he said.

“The President will continue to pursue his approach, but he will certainly — he welcomes the opportunity to look at other people’s ideas. And if they make sense, then he’ll certainly gladly work together in a bipartisan way to get them done,” he said.


NEWS BITES:

Bingaman's 'clean energy standard' coming Thursday

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) will unveil long-awaited “clean energy standard” legislation Thursday.

Bingaman will tout the bill Thursday morning at an event with Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.).

Center for Climate and Energy Solutions President Eileen Claussen, Nextera Energy President James Robo, American Wind Energy Association President Denise Bode and U.S. Clean Heat & Power Association Executive Director Jessica Bridges will also endorse the bill at the event.

The legislation, known as the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012, will mandate that power companies provide a major portion of the country’s electricity from low- or no-carbon sources like wind, solar and natural gas.

“The 24-page bill employs a straightforward, market-based approach that encourages a wide variety of clean electricity-generating technologies,” Bingaman’s office said in an email Wednesday.

The bill is expected to echo a proposal first outlined by President Obama in his 2011 State of the Union address. The plan calls on utilities to generate 80 percent of the country’s power from “clean” energy by 2035.

Obama revived his call for Congress to pass such a standard in this year’s State of the Union.

But the highly anticipated bill — which Bingaman and his staff wrote after gathering input from the federal Energy Information Administration — is unlikely to pass Congress this year.

Though some Republicans have signaled support for the idea of the "clean" standard in the past, many in the GOP have said the plan is akin to “picking winners and losers.”

Committee ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who initially worked with Bingaman to solicit input on a clean energy standard, has said she will not support the proposal unless it replaces federal greenhouse gas regulations.

Sierra Club mocks coal industry group on Craigslist

The Sierra Club had a little fun with the recent news (first reported by the National Journal Tuesday) that the head of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity is stepping down.

The environmental group posted a fake Craigslist ad Wednesday night looking for a new president for the coal industry group.

Here’s an excerpt from the ad:

“Are you a motivated go-getter who hates to let facts stand in the way of profits? Are you good at making something out of nothing? Do you sleep soundly at night, no matter what you've done? Do you reject the global anti-capitalist "science" conspiracy? Are you comfortable around unicorns, centaurs, and other so-called "mythical" creatures? Do you have experience in the tobacco industry?

“If you answered yes to those questions, we want to hear from you.”

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups have long criticized ACCCE, insisting that there is no such thing as clean coal.

But ACCCE says advanced technologies like carbon capture and sequestration — in which carbon dioxide emissions are injected into the ground instead of spewed into the atmosphere — can greatly reduce pollution from coal-fired power plants.

GenOn shuttering coal plants

GenOn Energy said Wednesday it is shutting down plants as a result of Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Here’s more from Bloomberg:

"GenOn Energy Inc. (GEN), the third-largest U.S. independent power producer by market value, expects to shut about 13 percent of its generating capacity by May 2015 because of environmental regulations.

"Shutdowns will begin in June at the units, which don’t generate enough profit to cover the costs of complying with the rules, Houston-based GenOn said today in a statement. The plants, located at eight sites in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey, generate 3,140 megawatts in the wholesale market overseen by PJM Interconnection. Except for one unit, all of the plants burn coal, according to GenOn’s website."

GAO loan guarantee report coming soon

The Government Accountability Office will release a report on the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program on March 12, according to a spokesman.

Here’s a summary of the report, via GAO spokesman Chuck Young:

“In July 2010, we reported that DOE had treated applicants inconsistently in its review process. Now we will be looking at loans to which DOE has closed or committed, to what extent has it adhered to its review process and due diligence procedures for loan guarantees. We'll also look at what have been the reasons for and potential effects of any deviations from DOE's review and due diligence process.”

Energy Secretary Chu heads back to Capitol Hill

Energy Secretary Steven Chu will face of with lawmakers for the second time this week Thursday.

He’ll appear before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee to defend the department’s fiscal year 2013 R&D budget plans.

Hoeven sees ‘good chance’ of Keystone pipeline vote

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) remains hopeful he’ll get a vote on a GOP amendment to highway legislation that would authorize construction of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

“I am hopeful we will get a vote,” Hoeven said of the amendment he’s backing with Sens. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), David Vitter (R-La.) and others. “I think there is a good chance we will get a vote, but if we don’t we will keep working on it, either stand alone or with other legislation.”

Hoeven is among the senators leading efforts to require approval of the pipeline to carry oil sands from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries. The pipeline is also envisioned to carry oil from increased production in North Dakota and Montana to market.

Sanders, Whitehouse to focus on insurance climate risks

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sheldon Whitehouse will hold an event with insurance industry officials to discuss climate change and the growing costs of damage from extreme weather.

Ceres, a group that promotes sustainable investment, will release new data on economic impacts of extreme weather in the United States for 2011, an advisory states.

Sanders and Whitehouse are both outspoken advocates of taking aggressive action to battle global warming.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

Here's a quick roundup of Wednesday's E2 stories:

- Sen. Murkowski: Focus should be energy, not on contraception
- Rogers rips EPA chief over coal permits
- Bernanke: Policymakers have few short-term options to lower gas prices
- Bingaman to unveil ‘clean energy standard’ Thursday
- Salazar: No study yet on proposed NOAA move
- Gas group taps former Senate aide for lobbying role
- Clinton: SEC should go ‘as far as possible’ on transparency rule
- EPA won’t finish refinery rules in 2012
- Sen. Inhofe: Climate change science relies on ‘rigged’ data 

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