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POLITICO New York Energy: Natural gas taking over; SolarCity in NYC

By David Giambusso and Scott Waldman

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NEW YORKERS INCREASINGLY RELIANT ON NATURAL GAS FOR HEAT—POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman and Bill Mahoney: Though fracking is banned in New York, residents here are becoming increasingly dependent on natural gas produced in other states to heat their homes, according to new federal data. In the last decade, New York has had the country’s biggest increase in the number of households using natural gas as a heating fuel source, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Between 2005 and 2014, the number of New York natural gas customers went from 3.7 to 4.2 million, according to a POLITICO New York analysis of the numbers. This jump of 509,610 households was more than the net increase of 326,671 in the rest of the country combined. Heating prices are expected to be 30 percent cheaper in Buffalo this season, the lowest in two decades, because of an influx of natural gas. Central New York faces a similar drop.

SOLAR CITY EXECS PLAY DOWN PREET, STATE INCENTIVES — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: SolarCity executives on Friday downplayed a federal investigation into construction of their Buffalo gigafactory, as well as the importance of state incentives in general. Speaking at an event in Times Squre Friday to announce their new high-efficiency solar panel, which will be built at the Buffalo factory, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said he saw "no impact" from the reported investigation by the U.S. Attorney into how the contractor building the factory was selected. "We haven't seen any impact on that ... and I hope there is no impact," Rive said in response to a question. "We are still on schedule for having the factory up and running in [the first quarter of] 2017."

DEC APPOINTS NEW COMMISSIONER—POLITICO New York’s Jimmy and Vielkind and Scott Waldman: The Cuomo administration is set to appoint Basil Seggos as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, POLITICO New York has learned. Seggos, who has worked as Gov. Andrew Cuomo's deputy secretary for the environment, held positions in both the environmental movement as well as private industry before coming to government in 2012. Seggos was previously vice president of business development at Hugo Neu Corporation, a private equity company involved with clean technology businesses. He was also an attorney for Riverkeeper and serves in a U.S. Army Reserve JAG unit.

CUOMO’S COLLEGE CLIMATE CONTEST — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a state-funded contest Friday evening that will award $1 million apiece to three New York-based universities that make the most progress on campus energy efficiency, renewable energy installation and greenhouse gas reduction.

GAS STOVE POSSIBLE CAUSE OF BUILDING EXPLOSION—POLITICO New York’s Colby Hamilton and Laura Nahmias: Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the state's Department of Public Service to launch an investigation into an explosion that destroyed a building in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn on Saturday. De Blasio said the explosion that killed one person and injured three others was likely caused by a tenant’s attempts to move a stove out of his apartment.

SCHNEIDERMAN SERVED SUBPOENA ON VW—The New York Times’ Danielle Ivory: “Attorneys general from at least 30 states and the District of Columbia are organizing a bipartisan coalition to undertake an investigation into the possibilities of consumer fraud and environmental violations by the German automaker Volkswagen. At least two of the attorneys general, from New York and Illinois, have served subpoenas on the company, according to people briefed on the inquiry who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The multistate inquiry is taking shape unusually quickly after last week’s announcement by Volkswagen that it had installed software in 11 million diesel cars that was designed to trick emissions testers, making it appear that the vehicles met pollution standards.”


--The Utica Observer-Dispatch editorial board wants more oversight of oil trains.

--New transmission lines will run through the Utica area.

--Central New York will see a drop in home heating costs this winter.

MONDAY’S HERE: Where are you?

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SOUTH CAROLINA UNDER WATER — The New York Times: “Flooding from days of relentless, saturating rains paralyzed much of South Carolina on Sunday, as vehicles were submerged, dams were pushed to their limits, electricity was cut off to thousands and emergency officials staged hundreds of swift-water rescues. Officials attributed at least three deaths in South Carolina to the flooding. The menacing weather, an agonizingly powerful blend of a low-pressure system and some of the moisture from Hurricane Joaquin as it spun over the Atlantic Ocean toward Bermuda, was expected to last into the week, raising fears that conditions could worsen.”

RENEWABLE GROWTH ‘IMPRESSIVE,’ ABOUT TO BECOME LESS SO—The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney: “First the good news: In a new report on the near term future of the global renewable energy industry, the International Energy Agency is projecting impressive growth. Renewable sources like wind, solar, and hydropower should constitute nearly two-thirds of new net power capacity brought online across the globe between now and 2020. That’s equivalent to 700 gigawatts of new capacity or “more than twice Japan’s current installed power capacity,” according to the IEA. That would mean that overall, renewables would grow from providing 22 percent of the world’s total electricity generation in 2013, to providing an impressive 26 percent of it by 2020. But then, well, there’s the bad news. According to the IEA’s new Renewable Energy Medium-Term Market Report, the rate of renewables growth, which has been explosive of late, is actually set to “level off.” It’s hardly opportune time for that to be happening, with the world about to assemble in Paris to try to tackle climate change.”

IS RECYCLING WORTH IT? —Opinion for the New York Times by John Tierney: “Despite decades of exhortations and mandates, it’s still typically more expensive for municipalities to recycle household waste than to send it to a landfill. Prices for recyclable materials have plummeted because of lower oil prices and reduced demand for them overseas. The slump has forced some recycling companies to shut plants and cancel plans for new technologies. The mood is so gloomy that one industry veteran tried to cheer up her colleagues this summer with an article in a trade journal titled, “Recycling Is Not Dead!” While politicians set higher and higher goals, the national rate of recycling has stagnated in recent years. Yes, it’s popular in affluent neighborhoods like Park Slope in Brooklyn and in cities like San Francisco, but residents of the Bronx and Houston don’t have the same fervor for sorting garbage in their spare time.”

MOODY’S: MUCH COAL NOT WORTH DIGGING OUT—Bloomberg’s Mario Parker: “Half of the world’s coal isn’t worth digging out of the ground at current prices, according to Moody’s Investors Service. The global metallurgical coal benchmark has fallen to the lowest level in a decade, settling last month at $89 a metric ton. “Further production cuts are necessary to bring the market back into balance,” Moody’s analysts including Anna Zubets-Anderson wrote in a report on Thursday. China’s slowing appetite for the power-plant fuel and steelmaking component has depressed the seaborne market, creating a worldwide glut. In the U.S., cheap natural gas is stealing coal’s share of the power generation market. And the strong dollar has tempered exports.”

NUKING MARS—Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff: “Elon Musk has made no secret of his desire to colonize and, perhaps, travel to Mars. Now, the possible discovery of liquid water on the red planet has reenergized his affection for it and now he's trying to clarify his idea for heating up the planet with nuclear bombs. Musk's goal isn't to blow up Mars in the hopes of heating it up enough for livability. No, he wants to launch fusion bombs into the sky over Mars' two poles to create tiny pulse suns. These suns would be similar to our own sun, but would only last for a short while.”

GLENCORE BET HEAVY ON CHAD OIL — The Wall Street Journal: “A deal struck last year between Glencore PLC and the government of Chad sent $1.4 billion to the African country as an up-front payment for four years of oil shipments. Now, uncertainties over the transaction, which was financed by bank lending, and troubles with other similar deals are shedding light on how Glencore’s energy business has taken some banks into risky areas that are causing jitters as commodity prices fall.”

ENCOURAGING CLIMATE NEWS—New York’s Jonathan Chait: “Most of the debate over whether international action can control climate change has centered on China, a huge country that has industrialized rapidly and leads the world in emissions. But India will surpass China in population within a decade and eventually will matter just as much. Conservatives have backstopped their dismissal of climate science with confident assertions that neither China nor India will ever cooperate with emissions reductions (e.g., Marco Rubio: “As far as I can see, China and India and other developing countries are going to continue to burn anything they can get their hands on.”) China has taken a series of aggressive emissions-reductions steps. Now India is out with a plan, too, and it’s highly encouraging.”

GAS? COAL? BODY FAT? HOW TO POWER YOUR iPHONE–The Wall Street Journal’s Jon Keegan: “Here’s how long your iPhone could last on any number of power sources. Lithium-ion batteries may have made possible such groundbreaking inventions as smartphones, drones and insanely fast electric cars. But unlike the microprocessor, there's no Moore's Law for batteries. We're reaching the upper limits of performance and cost efficiency. Imagine if you could magically replace your new iPhone’s state-of-the-art lithium polymer battery with the same volume of a more potent—albeit impossibly impractical—power source.”


--Rig drop-off gooses oil prices: Drilling rigs are at a five-year low in the U.S. giving crude prices a healthy boost Friday.

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