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  • Japanese Court: No Nukes // EIA: Petroleum Increases Abound // Senate Stalls TVA Appointments

Japanese Court: No Nukes // EIA: Petroleum Increases Abound // Senate Stalls TVA Appointments

Japanese Court: No Nukes

Earlier this week, Japan's Sapporo District Court ruled that Hokkaido Electric Power Co.'s Tomari nuclear power plant cannot restart operations. Tomari's three nuclear reactors have been offline since Japan shuttered its nuclear fleet after the Fukushima incident in 2011. Although no one perished from radiation exposure, the Fukushima event has loomed large in the public consciousness.

The ruling comes as sour news to Hokkaido, which has been trying to get the plant back online for over a decade, according to Bloomberg. In a press release, the company said, "Today's decision is regrettable because we did not understand our allegations, and we cannot accept it at all, so we will promptly proceed with the appeal."

The courts ruled that "the Tomari nuclear reactors don’t have a safeguard facility against tsunamis, and that the utility hasn’t shown adequate safety measures for its spent atomic fuel," reports Bloomberg. The Sapporo District Court appears to be responding to allegations and pressure from Japanese anti-nuclear activists who moved to stop the restart.

Many Japanese politicians are likely dismayed as well. Since the beginning of the energy crisis, the Japanese government has been looking to restart its nuclear fleet to mitigate its troubled power sector. Japan, which imports most of its energy, is highly vulnerable to the inflationary pressure the energy crisis has piled on.

But there's hope for Hokkaido's appeal: the court also rejected a proposal to decommission the plant.

EIA: Petroleum Increases Abound

The Energy Information Administration has just released its Petroleum Marketing Monthly report. No surprise, prices are going up.

Here are some highlights:

  • Crude prices hit long-term highs in March. "The average domestic crude oil first purchase price climbed $17.71 (19.8%) to $107.12 per barrel."

  • Gasoline prices haven't been this high since 2008. "The monthly average wholesale price for refiner sales of motor gasoline rose 59.3 cents to $3.232 per gallon in March, its highest level since July 2008."

  • The increase in the cost of No. 2 distillate "marked the largest nominal month-on-month increases since EIA has published these statistics."

  • "The retail sales price for No. 2 diesel fuel climbed 78.9 cents to $3.689 per gallon, while the average wholesale price increased 75.2 cents to $3.582 per gallon. The average retail price for No. 2 fuel oil sales increased 65.5 cents to $3.924, while the average wholesale price climbed 73.7 cents to $3.479 per gallon."

  • Residual fuels oil, jet fuel, propane, and many other products have all seen marked price increases.

Senate Stalls TVA Appointments

The Tennessee Valley Authority is down to five of its nine board members. "That number could drop to two by the end of the year if the Senate fails to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees for the board, who have been waiting more than a year to clear the chamber," reports E&E. This poses yet another obstacle to Biden's climate green energy policies. Without a quorum, the TVA cannot proceed on policy, though it can continue to operate.

E&E reports that "Biden’s picks include nominees with experience in distributed generation, energy justice, labor, and climate policy." It's not clear why the TVA would desire distributed generation and few outside a small clique of wonks and academics could explain what "energy justice" means.

TVA CEO Jeff Lyash has said, “I’m pretty consistent about saying: Identify board members that reflect the geography, the customer base and have the right set of skills. And seating the board fully should be a priority.”

Biden's appointees to the TVA that have moved through the Senate have drawn ire from Senators for being hostile to fossil fuels. None of them have been from the region the TVA serves--Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Virginia.

The TVA is currently about 60% carbon-free, as the chart above shows. Yet environmentalists have criticized its attempts to further decarbonize by adding more nuclear to its portfolio and by replacing coal with natural gas.

Environmental organizations are pinning their hopes for Biden's climate agenda on what the TVA can do with its federal mandate. But the TVA does not have to fully conform to the executive branch's energy policies.

Still, many environmentalists are frustrated with the situation. Amy Kelly, the Sierra Club’s representative for its Beyond Coal Campaign (in part funded by Michael Bloomberg) in Tennessee, said, "Yeah, we’ve got a crisis coming. We would like to see a full and functioning board for the nation’s largest public utility, especially at a time when we are trying to achieve an unprecedented carbon goal from the Biden administration and have a 100 percent carbon-free power sector by 2035."

Maggie Shober, research director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, sa that "It’s not a good time for folks to be playing politics with this kind of a board." SACE often collaborates with anti-nuclear groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund, according to its most recent Form 990 filing.

It seems those who wish the Senate would not play politics are doing so themselves.

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Conversation Starters

  • The Department of Energy is launching a new initiative to aid the grid interconnection process. DOE is collaborating with utilities, grid operators, state and tribal governments, clean energy developers, "energy justice organizations," and other groups to speed up renewables development.

  • After American pressure, OPEC has agreed to ramp up production. "OPEC and its allies on Thursday agreed to accelerate oil production in July and August, as the cartel’s linchpin Saudi Arabia bowed to US pressure to cool a crude price rally that has threatened to stall the global economy," reports The Financial Times.

  • The Permian Basin's production levels are outpacing its rivals.

 Word of the Day

Qualifying facility (QF)

A cogeneration or small power production facility that meets certain ownership, operating, and efficiency criteria established by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) pursuant to the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). (source)

Crom's Blessing