Navigant Research Blog

Federal Shutdown Cripples Energy Efforts

Lauren Callaway — October 11, 2013

This morning, visitors to the U.S. Energy Information Administration website were met with a banner stating that the “EIA is closed due to a lapse in appropriations.  EIA will not update its website until the agency reopens.”  Among many closures and furloughs, this one is particularly pertinent to participants in the energy industry.  Without critical EIA reports, such as the “Monthly Energy Review,” and weekly updates, such as the “Natural Gas Storage Report” and “Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Updates,” stakeholders in energy industries lose access to free information and industry standards that guide daily decision-making.

A number of outlets have published information on the reaching effects that the government shutdown has, will, and could have on the energy industry in the United States (and abroad due to mutual dependencies on resources and information).  Here, I’ve consolidated some of these stories in order to offer a more complete view of what has been (or more appropriately, has not been) going on.

The New York Times, “Shutdown Is Affecting Energy and Environmental Programs” – Highlights furloughs at major institutions such as the EPA (grants, clean air enforcement), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Interior Department (affecting offshore oil and wind projects).

Christian Science Monitor, “In Government Shutdown, who keeps the lights on?” – Discusses effects on reliability and security of the electric grid should the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission remain closed.

The Wilderness Society website, “Government Shutdown Hurting and Stalling Renewable Energy” – Ties the furlough of employees from the Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service (both under the Department of the Interior) to a stall in permitting for renewable energy projects on public lands.  These projects are a large part of President Barack Obama’s second-term plan to tackle climate change.

C.H. Robinson’s Transportfolio blog, “Government Shutdown and the Energy Information Agency” – Discusses the effects on the transportation industry with the loss of the EPA’s weekly bulletin board information on fossil fuel supply, demand, and prices.

The Desert Sun, “Shutdown Delays Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan” – Covers the hold on the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan that balances construction of renewable energy facilities with environmental protection for sensitive environments in Southern California.

Renewable Energy World, “Government Shutdown Damages U.S.  Energy Innovation” – Offers a slightly more specific list of renewable projects that are on hold for permitting during the shutdown.

It is clear that renewables and clean energy projects that require permitting, funding, or both from non-essential government organizations are taking the biggest hit.  Many of these projects have already been stalled due to other regulatory hold ups, and a lot of them are far behind schedule, leaving states and regions highly susceptible to shortcomings in meeting energy efficiency targets during the next few years.  This generally means heavy fines or revisions of targets to lower standards for the amount of renewable energy required — putting the climate-change goals staked out by Obama even further out of reach.

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