I. The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015: “Something for Everyone” Legislation
- Title I, “Efficiency,” includes subtitles addressing Buildings, Appliances, and Manufacturing, respectively. Title I is dominated by provisions related to energy use in federal buildings, requirements for studies, and reauthorization of existing programs. For example, the Weatherization Assistance Program under Section 422 of the Energy Conservation and Production Act (ECPA) would be extended through fiscal year 2020 with an authorized appropriation of $350 million annually.
- Title II, “Infrastructure,” addresses cybersecurity, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, trade, electricity and energy storage, and computing. The latter category sets forth perhaps the most ambitious goal: the development of two or more “exascale” computing systems – systems capable of an “exaFLOPS” (a billion billion calculations per second). The bearing on energy policy is left to the imagination, although one can imagine many energy control applications. The most significant provision with respect to “trade,” Section 2201, would require the Secretary of Energy to issue a final decision on any application for export of natural gas to non-free trade countries within 45 days after FERC or the Maritime Administration has concluded environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the associated liquefied natural gas export facility.
- Title III, “Supply,” is devoted almost entirely to renewable energy, including hydroelectric, geothermal, marine hydrokinetic, and biomass. The only provision specific to fossil fuels is Section 3101, which amends and reauthorizes a statute concerning research into the commercial viability of methane hydrate as an energy source. Although production of methane from methane hydrate remains largely theoretical, the potential is immense:Methane hydrate is a cage-like lattice of ice inside of which are trapped molecules of methane, the chief constituent of natural gas. If methane hydrate is either warmed or depressurized, it will revert back to water and natural gas. When brought to the earth’s surface, one cubic meter of gas hydrate releases 164 cubic meters of natural gas.While global estimates vary considerably, the energy content of methane occurring in hydrate form is immense, possibly exceeding the combined energy content of all other known fossil fuels.
- Title IV, “Accountability,” offers a smorgasbord of requirements for studies, reports and information gathering.
II. The Offshore Production and Energizing National Security Act of 2015: A Turnabout in Petroleum Policy?
A. The export ban: has it run its course?
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, to promote the efficient exploration, production, storage, supply, and distribution of energy resources, any domestic crude oil or condensate (other than crude oil stored in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) may be exported without a Federal license to countries not subject to sanctions by the United States.