What a Government Shutdown Means for the Energy Sector
Written By: John Shimkus
With democrats and republicans in congressional gridlock over the national budget, threats of a government shutdown are coming to a head. This will result in the shutdown of several crucial government agencies and services; however, government leaders assure that vital services will remain intact, such as the postal service and military security offices. But what about the energy sector?
In the 1995 government shutdown, the Department of Energy (DOE) shut down its Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. This office is now a centerpiece in the current administration, and a shutdown could stall several energy initiatives bolstered over the last few years.
A document dated 1999—but the most current of the DOE’s shutdown plans—outlines that the department will close all offices except those related to national security matters. Grants, contracts, cooperative agreements, small purchases and scholarships would all be suspended. Any contracting paperwork, loan guarantees, and business deadlines currently in the works would all be in jeopardy. Essentially, if you are an energy company with government contracts, patent or trademarks in the works, be prepared for a rough couple of weeks (or potentially longer) if this shutdown occurs.
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The shutdown would also halt cleanup of toxic superfund sites, including Cold-War era nuclear testing areas.
One would assume that in such an uncertain time in the United States’ energy security—especially considering the current oil market—that the DOE would relate energy security to national security and maintain its energy sector activities. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Last week DOE Secretary Steven Chu announced that DOE energy patents would even be made widely available for private licensing at a discounted rate through the DOE’s new “America’s Next Top Energy Innovator” challenge, but this too will likely be put on pause in the government shutdown. Come on politicians… I’m pretty sure our tax dollars are paying you to work things out and come to some kind of consensus, not bicker to the point of walking away like a bunch of schoolyard children!
Toyota unveils electric van and Volvo opens fuel cell lab
Toyota is launching its first zero emission battery electric vehicle, the Proace Electric medium-duty panel van, across Europe.
The model, which offers a choice of 50 or 75kWh lithium-ion batteries with range of up to 205 miles, is being rolled out in the UK, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden.
At present, alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs, including battery electric vehicles) account for only a fraction – around 1.8 per cent – of new light commercial van sales in the UK, but a number of factors are accelerating demand for practical alternatives to vans with conventional internal combustion engines.
Low and zero emission zones are coming into force to reduce local pollution and improve air quality in urban centres, at the same time as rapid growth in ecommerce is generating more day-to-day delivery traffic.
Meanwhile the opening of Volvo's first dedicated fuel cell test lab in Volvo Group, marks a significant milestone in the manufacturer’s ambition to be fossil-free by 2040.
Fuel cells work by combining hydrogen with oxygen, with the resulting chemical reaction producing electricity. The process is completely emission-free, with water vapour being the only by-product.
Toni Hagelberg, Head of Sustainable Power at Volvo CE, says fuel cell technology is a key enabler of sustainable solutions for heavier construction machines, and this investment provides another vital tool in its work to reach targets.
"The lab will also serve Volvo Group globally, as it’s the first to offer this kind of advanced testing," he said.
The Fuel Cell Test Lab is a demonstration of the same dedication to hydrogen fuel cell technology, as the recent launch of cell centric, a joint venture by Volvo Group and Daimler Truck to accelerate the development, production and commercialization of fuel cell solutions within long-haul trucking and beyond. Both form a key part of the Group’s overall ambition to be 100% fossil free by 2040.