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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Shell Arctic Drilling, DOI Offshore Oversight, 54.5 MPG Costs, UK Wind Power

Shell has permission from the DOI to begin preparatory work on its first well in the Arctic Ocean. Shell can put down as much as 1,400 feet of well casing in the Chukchi Sea to support the required blowout preventer and cannot drill into any subsurface formations that may contain oil or gas until safety and containment systems are in place, the New York Times said.

The Government Accountability Office concluded that the Interior Department still has limited ability to identify and evaluate risks from offshore drilling projects, despite increased oversight after the 2010 BP oil spill and reorganization. Areas of concern include the department’s ability to analyze industry exploration and development plans, and the management of offshore regulation, The Hill said.

The America Road and Transportation Builders Association said that the 54.5 miles per gallon requirements for cars will make less fuel tax money available to pay for construction projects. The group said the highway trust fund would lose about $71 billion revenue; meanwhile, the Obama administration said stricter mileage rules will save drivers $1.7 trillion in fuel costs, The Hill said.

A report from think tank IPPR says wind power is an efficient and reliable energy source, contrary to claims made against it. The study follows a February 2012 letter to David Cameron from more than 100 MPs asking for a cut in state support to onshore wind power, claiming that the technology is inefficient and less reliable than traditional power sources, The Guardian said.

If Japan permanently closed its 50 nuclear reactors this year, power companies would lose about $55.9 billion, the government’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy says. Four power companies could go bankrupt as a result. The government is now considering at least three options to reduce dependence on nuclear power, and all three would give the power companies until 2030 to shut down reactors, the New York Times said.

The EPA has temporarily waived certain federal clean gasoline requirements for Louisiana due to the impact of Hurricane Isaac. The waiver applies to 7.8 psi low Reid vapor pressure (RVP) requirements for the state. The waiver is effective for 10 days and allows the sale of 9.0 psi conventional gasoline in fourteen Louisiana parishes, the agency said.

AES has sued Exergy Development, alleging that Exergy has not finished paying for wind turbines slated for use in Idaho wind projects. The projects are delayed, Exergy says, because another lawsuit with Idaho Public Utilities Commission is stalling project financing, North American Wind Power said.

Biofuels groups including the Biotechnology Industry Organization said that political pressure from governors to waive the RFS this year is beginning to send mixed signals to potential investors. Eight state governors have asked for an RFS waiver in response to the drought. Though commercial advanced biofuels plants are coming online this year, much private investment is needed to meet the RFS blending requirement, The Hill reports.

The USDA forecast for US agricultural exports in fiscal years 2012 and 2013 shows three consecutive years of record exports despite the extreme weather. Exports of food and agricultural products are expected to reach $143.5 billion in fiscal 2013, above the record set in 2011. The forecast for fiscal 2012 is revised upward to $136.5 billion, the department said.

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