A maze of crude oil pipe and equipment is seen with the American and Texas flags flying in the background at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport, Texas.
Richard Carson | Reuters
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Friday aimed at limiting the president’s ability to draw down the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve for any reason other than a “severe energy supply disruption.”
The law is meant to prevent a repeat of President Joe Biden’s numerous withdrawals from the SPR in 2022, that were intended to lower consumer gas prices ahead of the midterm elections
The bill passed on a near party line vote, 221-205, after more than six hours of individual House votes on various proposed amendments.
Titled the Strategic Production Response Act, the legislation passed Friday would prohibit any new drawdowns on the SPR until federal agencies had developed a plan to lease federal lands for oil and gas production “by the same percentage as the percentage of petroleum…that is to be drawn down,” according to the bill’s text.
Despite passing the House, the legislation is all but certain never to be signed into law. It lacks the support to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate and the White House has said Biden will veto it if it ever comes to his desk.
Days before the vote, Biden’s Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said at a White House press briefing that the bill “would impose unnecessary, unhelpful restrictions on when the SPR can be used to help provide supply.”
“It would not offer any tangible benefits to the American people,” Granholm told reporters. “Instead, it would interfere with our ability to be responsive during an international emergency … a natural disaster or a pipeline outage at home.”
The White House has long argued that the releases from the SPR in the past year were necessary to offset the surge in gas prices sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But Republicans counter that the size of the overall 2022 release, 180 million barrels, was excessive, and that individual releases and announcements about future releases were timed for maximum political benefit for Democrats.
Over the last year, the total oil in the reserve shrunk to about 380 million barrels, its lowest since 1984, raising concerns about energy security.
When Biden took office in 2021, the SPR contained 638 million barrels.
Friday’s legislation marked the second time that the Republican controlled House has passed a bill related to the SPR, the first one prohibited the sale of petroleum reserves to Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. It passed with support from Democrats as well as Republicans.
Following Friday’s passage, the bill’s chief sponsor, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, applauded the vote.
“President Biden has turned a longtime bipartisan strategic asset, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, into a political tool to cover up the consequences of his expensive rush-to-green agenda,” she said in a statement.
The legislation “provides a path towards making energy more affordable and reliable for Americans by preserving the SPR’s vital and central purpose — to provide the oil supplies Americans need during true emergencies, not drain them away for non-emergency, political purposes,” she added.
Quick Charge Podcast: March 30, 2023
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Tesla is rumored to be planning a US LFP battery cell factory with CATL
Tesla is rumored to be planning a new battery factory to produce LFP cells in the US with China’s CATL, the world’s biggest battery manufacturer.
Over the last few years, CEO Elon Musk has said multiple times that Tesla plans to shift more electric cars to LFP batteries in order to overcome nickel and cobalt supply concerns.
Iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, which don’t use nickel or cobalt, are traditionally cheaper and safer, but they offer less energy density, which means less efficiency and a shorter range for electric vehicles.
However, they have improved enough recently that it now makes sense to use cobalt-free batteries in lower-end and shorter-range vehicles. It also frees up the production of battery cells with other, more energy-dense chemistries to produce longer-range vehicles.
The main issue is that LFP battery cell production is currently almost entirely concentrated in China. Therefore, it creates a logistical problem for electric vehicles produced in other markets.
Furthermore, in the US, it creates a problem for automakers trying to take advantage of the new federal tax credit for electric vehicles, which requires that the batteries of electric vehicles be produced in North America in order for buyers to get the full $7,500 credit. It creates a demand to bring LFP production to North America.
Ford has recently announced a plan to partner with CATL, the world’s biggest battery cell manufacturer, to build LFP battery cells at a $3.5 billion factory in Michigan.
Now Tesla is rumored to be doing the same thing. Bloomberg first reported the rumor:
The EV maker discussed plans involving Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. with the White House in recent days, said the people, who asked not to be identified revealing private conversations. Tesla representatives sought clarity on the Inflation Reduction Act rules that the Biden administration is finalizing this week, according to some of the people. Rohan Patel, the company’s senior global director of public policy, was among those involved with the discussions, one of the people said.
The report is light on detail, but it states that Tesla is looking at a similar structure to Ford’s own deal with CATL. Texas has also been rumored to be a possible location for the new factory.
The LFP cells would enable Tesla buyers to get the full tax on the base Model 3, which is about to lose the incentive because its cells currently come from CATL’s Chinese factories.
Heart Aerospace finds a new partner to develop ES-30 electric plane battery
Swedish electric airplane maker Heart Aerospace is joining forces with BAE Systems to develop a battery system for its ES-30 electric plane.
Heart partners with BAE to develop electric plane battery
Heart Aerospace is paving the way for sustainable electric air travel to become the norm with its leading-edge zero-emission aircraft.
We first covered the company in 2021 after it made waves with its ES-19 electric airplane. The aircraft was designed to carry up to 19 people up to 250 miles (400 km), perfect for short-distance travel.
The innovation was enough to attract an investment from the third largest US air carrier, United Airlines, in July 2021. United committed to purchasing and deploying 100 ES-19 electric aircraft to its fleet as it works to erase emissions from its fleet “without relying on traditional carbon offsets.”
Air Canada, the largest airliner in Canada, invested $5 million into Heart last year in addition to ordering 30 of its newest model, the ES-30.
Heart introduced the ES-30 last year, an electric plane driven by four electric motors and a battery system. The electric aircraft will have a fully-electric zero-emission range of up to 200 km (124 miles) and 30-minute fast charge capabilities. Hybrid reserve turbogenerators allow travel of nearly 500 miles (800 km) at 25 people max.
To advance the ES-30 battery system, Heart is partnering with BAE Systems, best known for its leading defense and aerospace solutions. The battery system will be the “first of its kind” for a conventional takeoff and landing regional aircraft, operating with zero emissions and significantly reduced noise.
The collaboration will utilize BAE Systems’ over 25 years of experience electrifying heavy-duty industrial vehicles. Chief operating officer at Heart Aerospace, Sofia Graflund, said:
BAE Systems’ extensive experience in developing batteries for heavy-duty ground applications, and their experience in developing safety critical control systems for aerospace, make them an ideal partner in this important next step for the ES-30 and for the aviation industry.
Heart Aerospace says it already has 230 orders and another 100 options for the ES-30 electric aircraft. In addition, Heart says it has a letter of intent for another 108 planes. The ES-30 is scheduled to enter service in 2028.
Heart Aerospace is aiming to double the all-electric range of its aircraft by the late 2030s with close to 250 miles (400km) range. In addition to offering zero emissions, electric airplanes feature lower costs (electricity compared to jet fuel) and less maintenance due to engine repair.
Although 124 miles may not seem like much, it will be perfect for regional air travel while building a base for the future of zero-emission air travel.
The 30-minute fast charge feature is perfect for turning around flights quickly in between loading passengers and luggage.
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