USDA to hire climate change fellows

Facing a record number of applications for clean energy funding, the USDA said it would hire 40 Climate Change Fellows to speed up the disbursal of $2 billion through its Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The $2 billion was part of the 2022 climate, healthcare, and tax law.

Enviva, a giant in wood pellets, shifts tree-sourcing policy

Enviva, the largest industrial wood-pellet manufacturer in the world, launched what it calls an “enhanced and expanded global sourcing policy” last week in partnership with Earthworm Foundation, a non-profit that helps businesses reform their supply chains. The announcement came a few weeks after the publication of a report by FERN, in collaboration with The Weather Channel, spotlighting the company’s environmental practices.

Zinke plan for federal land: Drill, baby, drill

The Interior Department would auction off millions of acres of public land for oil and gas development, according to a draft obtained by The Nation of the department's strategic plan for the next five years. "It states that the DOI is committed to achieving 'American energy dominance' through the exploitation of 'vast amounts' of untapped energy reserves on public lands."

Zinke’s travel raises eyebrows

The Inspector General has launched an investigation into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s air travel, after complaints that Zinke was using a private plane owned by an oil executive. That particular flight, from Las Vegas to Zinke’s home state of Montana, cost taxpayers $12,000, according to the Washington Post.  But other taxpayer-funded flights, including one to speak at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, are also being questioned.

Can kelp be the biofuel of the future?

Researchers at the University of Southern California are in the early stages of an experiment to farm seaweed for biofuel in the Pacific Ocean. Kelp can grow two to three feet a day without fertilizer, pesticides, fresh water, or arable land — making it an ideal product for the biofuel industry.

Greens worry over new sage grouse conservation plan

A new sage grouse conservation plan released by the Interior Department has ranchers and energy developers in the West cheering, while environmentalists worry about the endangered bird’s future.

Zinke loads Interior with former oil-and-gas employees

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is stocking the Interior Department with staffers who’ve spent years working for the extractive energy industry, suggesting an agency increasingly less friendly toward public-lands conservation, says Western Values Project, a progressive advocacy organization. …

Oklahoma energy industry behind science and math curriculum

The industry-led Oklahoma Energy Resource Board has spent $50 million since the 1990s training the state's K-12 teachers to teach a science and math curriculum that critics claim is more industry promotion that real education.

EPA will consider permanent reduction in mandate for advanced biofuels

Two months behind schedule, the EPA has proposed the targets for renewable fuel use in 2018 — corn-based ethanol in its usual place as the primary biofuel, at 15 billion gallons, and so-called advanced biofuels at 4.24 billion gallons. The agency said it will begin the technical analysis that could lead to a permanently lower mandate for advanced biofuels, which are being produced in far smaller quantities than envisioned in a 2007 law.

E15 is the doorway for cellulosic biofuels, says trade group

The Advanced Biofuels Business Council told the Senate Environment Committee that year-round sales of E15 would widen the market for cellulosic ethanol, made from gasses and woody plants, reported DTN. At present, E15, a 15 percent mix of ethanol and gasoline, cannot be sold during the summer because of air pollution rules.

Trump dumps Clean Power plan

President Trump officially rolled back Obama’s Clean Power Plan, signing a document called the “Energy Independence” executive order, says The New York Times. Even though many economists have said that the rise in demand for natural gas — and not climate change regulations — are to blame for a depressed coal market, Trump promised his order would put the miners back to work.

Trump expected to roll back Obama’s clean-power plan on Tuesday

President Trump will sign an executive order this week to undo President Obama’s 2015 clean-power plan, EPA secretary Scott Pruitt revealed in an interview with ABC’s This Week. The plan was designed to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. by 30 percent from 2005 levels before 2030, in part by targeting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Ethanol group gets the cold shoulder

The largest of the ethanol trade groups, the Renewable Fuels Association, is out in the cold for supporting a change in the program that gives biofuels a share of the U.S. gasoline market. Fuels America, an agribusiness coalition "committed to protecting America's Renewable Fuels Standard," severed ties with RFA, while the second-largest ethanol group, Growth Energy, said the RFA was doing the dirty work of the oil industry.

Zinke says he won’t sell public lands, but will give states more say

With his wife and family seated behind him, Rep. Ryan Zinke faced the Senate Committee for Energy and Natural Resources yesterday during his confirmation hearing for secretary of the Interior. The Montana Republican told the committee that he was “absolutely against” the sale or transfer of public lands. But he reassured many of his fellow Republicans that under his watch states would have more say in the management of natural resources and wildlife within their borders.

Zinke is no zealot, but ranchers and greens have much to worry about

Rep. Ryan Zinke, a Montana Republican, is reportedly president-elect Donald Trump’s choice to run the U.S. Department of the Interior. Zinke, who has both voted against the transfer of public lands to states and advocated for full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund — a priority for sportsmen — is not as divisive a pick as other rumored contenders, such as oil-friendly Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin or former Alaska Gov. Sarah “drill baby drill” Palin. That said, environmentalists aren’t exactly cheering, either.

‘There’s a lot more uncertainty’ as Trump era nears, says NFU leader

In 10 weeks, Donald Trump will become president and "there's a lot more uncertainty" about his plans for food and agriculture policy than normally accompanies an incoming administration, says president Roger Johnson of the National Farmers Union. "We know a fair amount of what he's against and less of what he's for."

USDA releases $300 million for rural energy efficiency

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $300 million in loans and grants to help small businesses switch to more energy efficient equipment and renewable energy sources such as solar panels. "Cutting energy waste is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to help families save money on their energy bills while reducing carbon pollution," said Vilsack.