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E.P.A. Approved Toxic Chemicals for Fracking a Decade Ago, New Files Show

A class of man-made chemicals that are toxic even in minuscule concentrations, for decades PFAS were used to make products like nonstick pans, stain-resistant carpeting and firefighting foam. The substances have come under scrutiny in recent years for their tendency to persist in the environment, and to accumulate inside the human body, as well as for their links to health problems like cancer and birth defects. Both Congress and the Biden administration have moved to better regulate PFAS, which contaminate the drinking water of as many as 80 million Americans.Industry researchers have long been aware of their toxicity. But it …

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Colonial Pipeline Hack Shows Risk to US Energy Independence

HOUSTON — When OPEC barred oil exports to the United States in 1973, creating long gasoline lines, President Richard Nixon pledged an effort that would combine the spirit of the Apollo program and the determination of the Manhattan Project.“By the end of this decade, we will have developed the potential to meet our own energy needs without depending on any foreign energy sources,” he said in a televised address.His timing was off — it took more than 40 years — but the country has come pretty close to energy independence in recent years thanks to a surge in domestic shale oil and natural …

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Texas Froze and California Burned. To Insurers, They Look Similar.

In California, insurers were able to point to a state law, since amended, that held power utilities liable for the fires their equipment started, even without a finding of negligence. In Texas, the law requires a showing of gross negligence. And last month, the biggest target of consumer blame — the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT — was effectively granted sovereign immunity by the Texas Supreme Court. The ruling, in an unrelated case, left standing a state appellate decision that ERCOT is “a quasi-governmental regulator, performing an essential public service” and therefore can’t be sued.ERCOT’s liability insurer …

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Andium is watching oil fields for emissions and just got money from the biggest oil companies to do it

Andium, a company focused on remote field monitoring of assets including oil and gas wells has just raised some not-insignificant cash in an investment round led by OGCI Climate Investments, a firm formed by the largest oil companies in the world.
Launched in 2014 to “support” the targets laid out in the Paris Agreement to limit global greenhouse gas emissions, OGCI has invested in 21 projects to date.
With Andium, the oil majors join existing investors including Tom Miglis, the former chief investment officer of Citadel Securities and Talis Capital in backing a company developing technologies for natural gas flare monitoring, tank …

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Exxon Mobil’s Chief Says It Is ‘Supportive’ of Zero-Emission Goals

HOUSTON — Darren W. Woods rarely makes headlines even though he is the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, the oil company that some people consider a top environmental villain and others think of as a vital engine of the U.S. economy.Few have taken seriously, or even noticed, that he is beginning to make promises to respond to climate change, which is at the very least a rhetorical break from his predecessors if not a substantive one.“What society demands, and appropriately so, is affordable, reliable energy that doesn’t have the emissions associated with today’s energy systems,” he …

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Winter Storm Disrupts Automakers, Retailers and Delivery Services

UPS said weather could cause delays in areas not directly hit by the storms. Packages may take longer to get from one place to another, and many delivery services move goods through big sorting hubs in the middle of the country to serve both the East and West Coasts. UPS’s main air hub is in Louisville, Ky., and it also has a hub in Dallas, for example.The winter storm prompted the United States Postal Service to close post offices, processing hubs and other facilities in Texas, Alabama and Mississippi, according to its website.The storm has also affected …

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‘A Slap in the Face’: The Pandemic Disrupts Young Oil Careers

HOUSTON — Sabrina Burns, a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, had thought she would be launching a lucrative career in the oil and gas industry when she graduated in a few months.But the collapse in the demand for oil and gas during the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted her well-laid plans and is forcing her to consider a new path.“We got a slap in the face, an entirely unforeseen situation that rocked our entire mind-set,” said Ms. Burns, who is studying petroleum engineering. “I have applied for every oil and gas position I’ve seen, like all …

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‘Is Exxon a Survivor?’ The Oil Giant Is at a Crossroads.

HOUSTON — Over the last 135 years, Exxon Mobil has survived hostile governments, ill-fated investments and the catastrophic Exxon Valdez oil spill. Through it all, the oil company made bundles of money.But suddenly Exxon is slipping badly, its long latent vulnerabilities exposed by the coronavirus pandemic and technological shifts that promise to transform the energy world because of growing concerns about climate change.The company, for decades one of the most profitable and valuable American businesses, lost $2.4 billion in the first nine months of the year, and its share price is down about 35 percent this year. In August, Exxon was tossed …

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Oil Industry Expresses Concern, Not Alarm, About Biden Comments

HOUSTON — Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s promise that he would “transition” the country away from oil and natural gas might hurt him politically in Texas and Pennsylvania, but it did not come as a surprise to many in the energy industry.

Oil and gas executives have been keenly aware that the world is starting to move from fossil fuels toward renewable energy, although they strongly argue that their industry will continue to provide cheap and plentiful energy for decades to come. And several of them said on Friday that while they did not like Mr. Biden’s comments, they were not alarmed by them, either.

What ultimately matters to the industry is not whether there would be an energy transition, but how rapid it would be and whether companies would be allowed to exploit oil and gas reserves by offsetting their environmental impact by capturing and storing greenhouse gas emissions.

Large European oil companies are embracing the change that Mr. Biden called for as concerns over climate change grow and investors begin to shun fossil-fuel businesses. For example, BP has announced that over the next decade it will shrink its oil and gas production by 40 percent and increase investments of renewables tenfold, to $5 billion a year.

But the U.S. oil industry, which has donated much more to President Trump’s campaign than to Mr. Biden’s, has been more reluctant to change its business models.

Executives note that natural gas is rapidly replacing coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. Gas also complements renewables by providing power when the sun does not shine and the wind is still. Some energy executives have even endorsed levying a tax on the emissions that are causing climate change, arguing that it would create incentives for carbon capture and storage, which would reduce emissions.

“There needs to be a large workhorse, and ultimately that is what we are,” said George Stark, director of external affairs for Cabot Oil and Gas, which has extensive natural gas operations in Pennsylvania. “We complement wind and solar. You need something that can run on an ongoing basis.”

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Mr. Stark, like others in the industry, said he found Mr. Biden’s comments concerning, but stopped short of criticizing the former vice president harshly. “The opportunity will be there for a greener dialogue that has to take place regarding this whole notion of a transition,” he said.

In Thursday’s debate, Mr. Biden said he would seek to replace fossil fuels with renewables “over time,” noting that the oil industry “pollutes significantly.”

But he had previously said he was against ending hydraulic fracturing of shale fields, a common practice in Pennsylvania, Texas and Ohio. And some oil and gas executives said they liked parts of an energy plan that Mr. Biden put out this summer.

After the debate, Mr. Biden sought to clarify his remarks by saying fossil fuels would not be eliminated until 2050. In remarks that seemed designed to appeal to Democratic progressives and working-class voters who rely on fossil fuel jobs, he added that he wanted to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.

“Of course we were disappointed in the vice president’s comments,” Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s leading lobbying group in Washington, said in an interview. “You can’t just snap your fingers and get to a place where you are suddenly no longer using natural gas.’’

But Mr. Sommers also noted that Mr. Biden had expressed enough ambiguity that a rapid change in oil and gas shale fields was not likely.

The timing of the transition is hard to pin down, in part because the energy industry has been undergoing rapid change in recent years. The United States was importing increasing amounts of oil and natural gas just 15 years ago when suddenly hydraulic fracturing produced a glut of both fuels and made the United States a large exporter.

Now electric cars are becoming increasingly popular, and the costs of wind and solar power are dropping rapidly. Coal, which was the dominant power fuel at the beginning of the century, is in deep decline, losing out to natural gas and renewables.

“The fact that oil and gas are 70 percent of the world’s energy means that you can’t change that on a dime,” said Jon Olson, chairman of the petroleum and geosystems engineering department at the University of Texas at Austin. “If we don’t manage the transition really well, we could end up with energy shortages and all kinds of disasters.”

That still leaves the enduring politics of oil and gas in places, like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas, that the Democrats would like to win but where tens of thousands of jobs are directly or indirectly linked to fossil fuel production or processing. One plant, being built by Royal Dutch Shell in Western Pennsylvania to produce plastics from a natural gas byproduct, is providing construction jobs for thousands of workers.

After watching the debate, Mike Belding, chairman of the Greene County Commission in Western Pennsylvania, said he was concerned about the economic consequences of a Biden presidency.

“Regionally, coal, natural gas and oil have been an economic and work force-driving industry over the past century,” he said in an email. “Newly developed technology, like fracking and cracker plant operations, have great potential to drive our economies for the next century.”

But the growth of oil and gas exploration in recent years has also angered some voters in Pennsylvania, who said it had not been an economic boon to many residents and criticized the industry’s environmental record.

“We’ve been transitioning, and let’s keep transitioning,” said Lois Bower-Bjornson, a resident of Washington County in Southwestern Pennsylvania and a field organizer for the Clean Air Council, an environmental group. “It’s a question of economics. They’ve produced too much gas and have nowhere to put it.”

Peter Eavis contributed reporting.