OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Bay of Rigs? Cuban drilling in focus

State of play: Cuba’s offshore oil drilling push, which has drawn plenty of criticism in Washington, will be under the microscope on Thursday.

The Center for International Policy will host a forum exploring whether the United States should do more to “forestall the impact of a major spill.”

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Speakers include William Reilly, who co-chaired the White House-commissioned panel that probed the BP oil spill, and a number of other experts.

Oil exploration off Cuba’s northern coast by Repsol, a Spanish oil company, has drawn concern that a spill would quickly flow into nearby U.S. waters and reach Florida’s shores.

“Over the next 18 months another six countries could be drilling test wells at extreme depths, using a powerful deepwater rig. If a major oil spill were to occur in Cuban waters, vital economic and environmental interests in both Cuba and the United States would be threatened, including Florida’s $60 billion tourism and fisheries industries,” an advisory for the event states.

It adds that there are “serious concerns” about Cuba’s ability to prevent or respond to a major spill and the readiness of the U.S. government to “step up.”

Click here, here and here for E2’s earlier coverage of Capitol Hill criticism of Cuba’s plans to develop its resources and the Interior Department's inspection of Repsol's rig.

NEWS BITES:

CBO: More drilling won't protect public from price spikes

Expanded domestic oil-and-gas production wouldn’t protect consumers from gasoline price spikes, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.

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“Even if the United States increased production and became a net exporter of oil, U.S. consumers would still be exposed to gasoline prices that rose and fell in response to disruptions around the world,” the CBO said in a report on energy security requested by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).

Going further, CBO said lower oil prices caused by expanded domestic oil-and-gas production might actually force the country to be dependent on global price swings for even longer.

“Policies that promoted greater production of oil in the United States would probably not protect U.S. consumers from sudden worldwide increases in oil prices stemming from supply disruptions elsewhere in the world, even if increased production lowered the world price of oil on an ongoing basis,” the report said.

“In fact, such lower prices would encourage greater use of oil, thus making consumers more vulnerable to increases in oil prices.”

Republicans have long claimed that a massive expansion of domestic oil-and-gas leasing will lower gasoline prices and protect the public from fluctuations on world oil markets. But experts say federal policymakers can exert little influence over gasoline prices, as they are tethered to oil prices, which are set on world markets.

Bingaman asked CBO to study energy security in October, specifically calling for a list of policies that could help protect U.S. consumers from price swings.

“This report is a lucid look at those key factors,” Bingaman said in a statement. “It illustrates why some of the slogans used in our energy policy debates actually don’t reflect how world energy markets work, and thus lead us away from the most useful steps we could take to improve our energy security.”

Bingaman called for continued efforts to wean the United States off its dependence on oil.

“[T]he long-term solution to the challenge of high and volatile oil prices is to continue to reduce our dependence on oil, period,” he said.

The CBO report recommends several broad policy options to protect consumers from price volatility.

For example: “[P]olicies that reduced the use of oil and its products would create an incentive for consumers to use less oil or make decisions that reduced their exposure to higher oil prices in the future, such as purchasing more fuel-efficient vehicles or living closer to work,” the report says.

Sanders, Ellison to float bill ending fossil fuel subsidies

A pair of lefty Capitol Hill lawmakers — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) — will float legislation Thursday that would nix a wide range of subsidies for the coal, oil and natural-gas industries.

“The measure would do away with tax breaks, financial assistance, royalty relief, direct federal research and development and many loopholes that benefit the fossil fuel industry. Under current law, more than $110 billion in federal subsidies would go to oil, coal and gas industries in the coming decade,” an advisory states.

The bill has backing from 350.org, Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and Friends of the Earth.

Hearing to explore U.S. unconventional oil prospects

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, and ideological miles from Sanders and Ellison, a GOP-led hearing will promote the prospect of U.S. development of oil sands and oil shale.

A panel of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing titled “Supporting American Jobs and the Economy Through Expanded Energy Production: Challenges and Opportunities of Unconventional Resources Technology.”

More here.

Norquist, Republicans seek to parry Obama on energy tax credits


Anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and a pair of Republicans are pushing back against President Obama’s push to extend green-energy tax credits.

Obama this week called on Congress to extend tax credits for renewable power projects and expand a program that provided credits for manufacturing green-energy components.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) are pushing legislation, however, that would nix tax breaks for green energy and fossil fuel incentives as well. They’re holding a press briefing to respond to Obama on Thursday.

Their bill would repeal tax credits for green electricity, plug-in cars and renewable transport fuels, as well as some for oil-and-gas companies, while applying the savings to a commensurate cut in the corporate tax break.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

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

- Senior Energy Department official resigns
- GOP rep suggests BP escaped scrutiny in return for cap-and-trade support
- Green group files FOIA lawsuit seeking details about White House EPA meetings
- Romney says Obama taking credit for oil production like him taking credit for Red Sox
- House GOP to Obama campaign: What about coal?
- Defeated Sen. Lugar laments GOP climate stance

Please send tips and comments to Ben Geman, ben.geman@thehill.com, and Andrew Restuccia, arestuccia@thehill.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @E2Wire, @AndrewRestuccia, @Ben_Geman

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