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 Collection: Congressional Research Service Reports
Meeting the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Mandate for Cellulosic Biofuels: Questions and Answers
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was expanded under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA; P.L. 110-140) in an effort to reduce dependence on foreign oil, promote biofuel use, and stabilize transportation fuel prices, among other goals. Over a 15-year period, the RFS seeks to establish a market for biofuels in the transportation sector by requiring that increasing amounts of biofuels-36 billion gallons by 2022-be blended into transportation fuel. The mandate is to be accomplished with an assortment of advanced biofuels, including cellulosic biofuels-fuels produced from cellulosic materials including grasses, trees, and agricultural and municipal wastes-which will ramp up over time to comprise some 44% of the RFS in 2022. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc83938/
Fukushima Nuclear Disaster
The huge earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station on March 11, 2011, knocked out backup power systems that were needed to cool the reactors at the plant, causing three of them to undergo fuel melting, hydrogen explosions, and radioactive releases. Radioactive contamination from the Fukushima plant forced the evacuation of communities up to 25 miles away and affected up to 100,000 residents, although it did not cause any immediate deaths. Studies of the Fukushima disaster have identified design changes, response actions, and other safety improvements that could have reduced or eliminated the amount of radioactivity released from the plant. As a result, Fukushima has prompted a reexamination of nuclear plant safety requirements around the world, including in the United States. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc87170/
Alternative Fuels and Advanced Technology Vehicles: Issues in Congress
Alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles are seen by proponents as integral to improving urban air quality, decreasing dependence on foreign oil, and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. However, major barriers—especially economics—currently prevent the widespread use of these fuels and technologies. The 112th Congress has debated alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles directly and as it has addressed other key topics. On June 16, 2011 the Senate approved S.Amdt. 476 which would have eliminated the excise tax credit for blending ethanol in gasoline before its December 31, 2011 expiration date. Although the underlying legislation failed a cloture vote in the Senate, the amendment was approved 73-27. The prospects for further action increasing or extending biofuels and alternative fuels tax incentives may be limited in light of that vote. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc87129/
Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): Overview and Issues
Report that describes the general nature of the biofuels RFS and its implementation, outlines some of the emerging issues related to the sustainability of the continued growth in U.S. biofuels production needed to fulfill the expanding RFS mandate, and the emergence of potential unintended consequences of this rapid expansion. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc227634/
Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress
This report gives an overview of the situation in the Arctic region. The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region's future. The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial interests in the region. The Arctic has increasingly become a subject of discussion among political leaders of the nations in the region. In varying degrees, the Arctic coastal states have indicated a willingness to establish and maintain a military presence in the high north. U.S. military forces, particularly the Navy and Coast Guard, have begun to pay more attention to the region. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc87154/
Keeping America's Pipelines Safe and Secure: Key Issues for Congress
Nearly half a million miles of pipeline transporting natural gas, oil, and other hazardous liquids crisscross the United States. While an efficient and fundamentally safe means of transport, many pipelines carry materials with the potential to cause public injury and environmental damage. The nation's pipeline networks are also widespread and vulnerable to accidents and terrorist attack. As it oversees the federal pipeline safety program and the federal role in pipeline security, Congress may wish to assess how the various elements of U.S. pipeline safety and security fit together in the nation's overall strategy to protect transportation infrastructure. Pipeline safety and security necessarily involve many groups: federal agencies, oil and gas pipeline associations, large and small pipeline operators, and local communities. Reviewing how these groups work together to achieve common goals could be an oversight challenge for Congress. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc87161/
Financial Performance of the Major Oil Companies, 2007-2011
Periods of rising oil prices can result in reduced economic growth, rising prices, and reduced disposable incomes for consumers, as well as a deteriorating trade balance. For the oil industry, periods of high oil prices generally imply increasing cash flows and higher profits. Although the U.S. oil industry is composed of many firms, to many the face of the oil industry is represented by the five major firms operating extensively in the U.S. market. These firms are ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP plc, Royal Dutch Shell plc, and ConocoPhillips. During the period 2007 to 2011, the five major companies' upstream activities of exploration and production contributed more to the total profitability of the firms than the downstream activities of refining and marketing. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc87219/
Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress
The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region's future. The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial interests in the region. The Arctic has increasingly become a subject of discussion among political leaders of the nations in the region. In varying degrees, the Arctic coastal states have indicated a willingness to establish and maintain a military presence in the high north. U.S. military forces, particularly the Navy and Coast Guard, have begun to pay more attention to the region. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc83942/
Biomass: Comparison of Definitions in Legislation Through the 111th Congress
The use of biomass as an energy feedstock is emerging as a potentially viable alternative to address U.S. energy security concerns, foreign oil dependence, rural economic development, and diminishing sources of conventional energy. Biomass (organic matter that can be converted into energy) may include food crops, crops for energy, crop residues, wood waste and byproducts, and animal manure. Most legislation involving biomass has focused on encouraging the production of liquid fuels from corn. For over 30 years, the term biomass has been a part of legislation enacted by Congress for various programs, indicating some interest by the general public and policymakers in expanding its use. To aid understanding of why U.S. consumers, utility groups, refinery managers, and others have not fully adopted biomass as an energy resource, this report investigates the characterization of biomass in legislation. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc86549/
Renewable Energy R&D Funding History: A Comparison with Funding for Nuclear Energy, Fossil Energy, and Energy Efficiency R&D
This report looks at the history and current status, including Congress delegated funding, of energy-related research and development of coal-based synthetic petroleum and atomic power. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc85494/
Securing Nuclear Materials: The 2012 Summit and Issues for Congress
Congress will continue to decide on funding for the U.S. domestic and international programs focused on nuclear material security and nuclear terrorism prevention. Congress is also likely to assess implementation of the Administration's goal to secure nuclear materials by the end of 2013. The Obama Administration's FY2011 and FY2012 congressional budget request proposed overall increases in funding for nuclear security-related accounts, with the stated purpose of ramping up programs to meet the President's four-year goal. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc87155/
The Federal Excise Tax on Gasoline and the Highway Trust Fund: A Short History
A history and overview of current issues relating to the gasoline excise tax. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc86637/
Europe's Energy Security: Options and Challenges to Natural Gas Supply Diversification
This report focuses on potential approaches that Europe might employ to diversify its sources of natural gas supply, and Russia's role, as well as identifying some of the issues hindering efforts to develop alternative suppliers of natural gas. The report assesses the potential suppliers of natural gas to Europe and the short- to medium-term hurdles needed to be overcome for those suppliers to be credible, long-term providers of natural gas to Europe. The report looks at North Africa and Central Asia as possible sources of future energy supply. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc86605/
Keeping America's Pipelines Safe and Secure: Key Issues for Congress
Nearly half a million miles of pipeline transporting natural gas, oil, and other hazardous liquids crisscross the United States. While an efficient and fundamentally safe means of transport, many pipelines carry materials with the potential to cause public injury and environmental damage. The nation's pipeline networks are also widespread and vulnerable to accidents and terrorist attack. As it oversees the federal pipeline safety program and the federal role in pipeline security, Congress may wish to assess how the various elements of U.S. pipeline safety and security fit together in the nation's overall strategy to protect transportation infrastructure. Pipeline safety and security necessarily involve many groups: federal agencies, oil and gas pipeline associations, large and small pipeline operators, and local communities. Reviewing how these groups work together to achieve common goals could be an oversight challenge for Congress. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc86570/
U.S. Crude Oil Production in Federal and Non-Federal Areas
A brief look at how oil prices are affected by production. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc86612/
Energy Storage for Power Grids and Electric Transportation: A Technology Assessment
This report attempts to summarize the current state of knowledge regarding energy storage technologies for both electric power grid and electric vehicle applications. It is intended to serve as a reference for policymakers interested in understanding the range of technologies and applications associated with energy storage, comparing them, when possible, in a structured way to highlight key characteristics relevant to widespread use. While the emphasis is on technology, this report also addresses the significant policy, market, and other non-technical factors that may impede storage adoption. It considers eight major categories of storage technology: pumped hydro, compressed air, batteries, capacitors, superconducting magnetic energy storage, flywheels, thermal storage, and hydrogen. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc86619/
The Strategic Petroleum Reserve: Authorization, Operation, and Drawdown Policy
This report looks at the history, purpose, and current status of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc86621/
Hydraulic Fracturing: Chemical Disclosure Requirements
This report provides an overview of current and proposed laws at the state and federal levels that require the disclosure of the chemicals added to the fluid used in hydraulic fracturing. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc86622/
U.S. Oil Imports and Exports
Oil import and export developments pose a host of policy issues. Concerns about import dependence continue to generate interest in policy options to directly discourage imports or to reduce the need for imports by increasing domestic supply and decreasing demand. Rising exports at a time of rising prices has led to calls for policies to restrict such trade. The debate around the Keystone XL pipeline involves concerns about imports, exports, and the environment. The rising cost for fuels has led to calls for release of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, meant to provide a short term policy option in case of supply disruptions. Policy options may entail various economic, fiscal, and environmental trade-offs. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc86624/
Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress
This report provides an overview of Arctic-related issues for Congress, including sovereignty claims; commercial shipping through the Arctic; oil, gas, and mineral exploration; endangered species; and increased military operations in the region. It includes background information on the region and on a variety of issues for which Congress may want to consider legislation. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc97986/
Hydraulic Fracturing and Safe Drinking Water Act Issues
This report reviews past and proposed treatment of hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Water Drinking Ace, the principal federal statute for regulating the underground injection of fluids to protect groundwater sources of drinking water. It reviews current provisions for regulating underground injection activities, and discusses some possible implications of, and issues associated with, enactment of legislation authorizing the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate hydraulic fracturing under this statute. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc83959/
U.S. Energy: Overview and Key Statistics
Energy supplies and prices are major economic factors in the United States, and energy markets are volatile and unpredictable. Thus, energy policy has been a recurring issue for Congress since the first major crisis in the 1970s. As an aid in policy making, this report presents a current and historical view of the supply and consumption of various forms of energy. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc83919/
U.S. Trade Deficit and the Impact of Changing Oil Prices
This report provides an estimate of the initial impact of the changing oil prices on the nation's merchandise trade deficit. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc85489/
Hydraulic Fracturing and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): Selected Issues
This report provides an overview of two situations in which agencies are arguing that they do not need to conduct a comprehensive environmental review of hydraulic fracturing under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc85412/
The Strategic Petroleum Reserve: Authorization, Operation, and Drawdown Policy
This report looks at the history, purpose, and current status of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc96717/
U.S. Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing: Industry Trends, Global Competition, Federal Support
The most widely used solar technology involves photovoltaic (PV) solar modules, which draw on semiconducting materials to convert sunlight into electricity. By year-end 2011, the total number of grid-connected PV systems nationwide reached almost 215,000. Domestic demand is met both by imports and by about 100 U.S. manufacturing facilities. The competitiveness of solar PV as a source of electric generation in the United States will likely be adversely affected both by the expiration of tax provisions and by the rapid development of shale gas, which has the potential to lower the cost of gas-fired power generation and reduce the cost-competitiveness of solar power, particularly as an energy source for utilities. In light of these developments, the ability to build a significant U.S. production base for PV equipment is in question. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc85417/
Iran's Nuclear Program: Tehran's Compliance with International Obligations
This report provides a brief overview of Iran's nuclear program and describes the legal basis for the actions taken by the IAEA board and the Security Council. It will be updated as events warrant. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc85374/
U.S. Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage
This report focuses on the current situation with spent nuclear fuel storage in the United States. It does not address all of the issues associated with permanent disposal of SNF, but rather focuses on the SNF storage situation, primarily at current and former reactor facilities for the potentially foreseeable future. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc85420/
U.S. Nuclear Cooperation with India: Issues for Congress
This report discusses the United States' relationship with India as it regards nuclear nonproliferation and cooperation. It particularly looks at agreements made between the Bush administration and India, and the Obama administrations continuation of these policies. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc85454/
Clean Energy Standard: Summary and Analysis of S. 2146
U.S. policymakers have considered and deliberated on several policy designs that could potentially reduce energy-related carbon emissions. In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama proposed the concept of a Clean Energy Standard (CES) that would result in 80% of U.S. electricity generation from clean energy sources by 2035. In March of 2012, the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 (S. 2146) was introduced in the Senate. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc85424/
Canadian Oil Sands: Life-Cycle Assessments of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Recent congressional interest in U.S. energy policy has focused in part on ways through which the United States could secure more economical and reliable crude oil resources both domestically and internationally. Many forecasters identify petroleum refined from Canadian oil sands as one possible solution. This report discusses conclusions revealed from a survey of available literature on the matter, particularly in regards to Greenhouse Gas and Well-to-Tank emissions. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc85434/
U.S. Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage
This report focuses on the current situation with spent nuclear fuel storage in the United States. It does not address all of the issues associated with permanent disposal of SNF, but rather focuses on the SNF storage situation, primarily at current and former reactor facilities for the potentially foreseeable future. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc86632/
U.S. Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing: Industry Trends, Global Competition, Federal Support
The most widely used solar technology involves photovoltaic (PV) solar modules, which draw on semiconducting materials to convert sunlight into electricity. By year-end 2011, the total number of grid-connected PV systems nationwide reached almost 215,000. Domestic demand is met both by imports and by about 100 U.S. manufacturing facilities. The competitiveness of solar PV as a source of electric generation in the United States will likely be adversely affected both by the expiration of tax provisions and by the rapid development of shale gas, which has the potential to lower the cost of gas-fired power generation and reduce the cost-competitiveness of solar power, particularly as an energy source for utilities. In light of these developments, the ability to build a significant U.S. production base for PV equipment is in question. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc86631/
Iran's Nuclear Program: Tehran's Compliance with International Obligations
This report provides a brief overview of Iran's nuclear program and describes the legal basis for the actions taken by the IAEA board and the Security Council. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc87128/
Rare Earth Elements: The Global Supply Chain
This report provides a discussion on the major issues and concerns of the global supply chain for rare earth elements, their major end uses, and legislative and other policy proposals that Congress may consider to improve the U.S. rare earth position. The concentration of production of rare earth elements (REEs) outside the United States raises the important issue of supply vulnerability, since they are used for new energy technologies and national security applications. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc87157/
Alternative Fuel and Advanced Vehicle Technology Incentives: A Summary of Federal Programs
This report gives an overview of the federal incentives support the development and deployment of alternatives to conventional fuels and engines in transportation including tax deductions and credits for vehicle purchases and the installation of refueling systems; federal grants for conversion of older vehicles to newer technologies; mandates for the use of biofuels; and incentives for manufacturers to produce alternative fuel vehicles. It also addresses how these incentives relate to goals of reducing petroleum consumption and import dependence, improving environmental quality, expanding domestic manufacturing, and promoting agriculture and rural development. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc87244/
Cooling Water Intake Structures: Summary of EPA's Proposed Rule
This report looks at the environmental impact of using water to absorb the heat from thermoelectric generating plants and manufacturing facilities during their industrial processes. The issue for Congress has been whether a stringent and costly environmental mandate could jeopardize reliability of electricity supply in the United States. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc96691/
The Navy Biofuel Initiative Under the Defense Production Act
This report looks at the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) entered into by the secretaries of Energy, Agriculture, and the Navy in order to “assist the development and support of a sustainable commercial biofuels industry.” The report specifically discusses how and why this understanding should be funded and why it is important for the U.S. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc93937/
U.S. Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing: Industry Trends, Global Competition, Federal Support
This report gives an overview of the most widely-used solar technology involving photovoltaic (PV) solar modules, which draw on semiconducting materials to convert sunlight into electricity. The competitiveness of solar PV as a source of electric generation in the United States will likely be adversely affected both by the expiration of tax provisions and by the rapid development of shale gas, which has the potential to lower the cost of gas-fired power generation and reduce the cost-competitiveness of solar power, particularly as an energy source for utilities. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc87227/
U.S. Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing: Industry Trends, Global Competition, Federal Support
This report looks at how photovoltaic (PV) solar modules can help increase energy supply for the U.S. It looks at the current status of PV manufacturers, safety of PV imports, and competition within the PV market. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc93931/
Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress
This report gives an overview of the situation in the Arctic region. The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region's future. The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial interests in the region. The Arctic has increasingly become a subject of discussion among political leaders of the nations in the region. In varying degrees, the Arctic coastal states have indicated a willingness to establish and maintain a military presence in the high north. U.S. military forces, particularly the Navy and Coast Guard, have begun to pay more attention to the region. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc93836/
Canadian Oil Sands: Life-Cycle Assessments of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
This report discusses basic methodology of life-cycle assessments and compares several publicly-available assessments of life-cycle emissions data for Canadian oil sands crudes against each other and against those of other global reference crudes. It also includes a survey of the scientific literature and the findings of the State Department's Keystone XL Project Envoronmental Impact Statement, and concludes with a discussion of tools for policymakers who are interested in using the assessments to investigate the potential impacts of U.S. energy policy choices onthe environment. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc96723/
The Strategic Petroleum Reserve: Authorization, Operation, and Drawdown Policy
This report looks at the history, purpose, and current status of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc96718/
U.S. Trade Deficit and the Impact of Changing Oil Prices
This report provides an estimate of the initial impact of the changing oil prices on the nation's merchandise trade deficit. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc94214/
Hydraulic Fracturing: Chemical Disclosure Requirements
This report provides an overview of current and proposed laws at the state and federal levels that require the disclosure of the chemicals added to the fluid used in hydraulic fracturing. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc93927/
Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries: A Primer
This report discusses section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act (AEA), the specific requirements of which must be met in order for the United States to engage in civilian nuclear cooperation with other states. The AEA also provides for exemptions to these requirements, export control licensing procedures, and criteria for terminating cooperation. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc94248/
Nuclear Energy Policy
This report discusses nuclear energy issues currently facing Congress, such as federal incentives for new commercial reactors, radioactive waste management policy, research and development priorities, power plant safety and regulation, nuclear weapons proliferation, and security against terrorist attacks. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc94062/
U.S. Renewable Electricity: How Does the Production Tax Credit (PTC) Impact Wind Markets?
This report discusses the use of wind as a power source, including: production tax credits (PTC), U.S. electricity demand growth, and the price of natural gas. Issues for Congress include whether or not the PTC will be extended. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc93940/
The Navy Biofuel Initiative Under the Defense Production Act
This report looks at the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to “assist the development and support of a sustainable commercial biofuels industry" which was entered into by the Secretaries of Energy, Agriculture, and the Navy. It raises issues and concerns for Congress to consider when deciding how to fund MOU. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc93938/
Hydropower: Federal and Nonfederal Investment
This report discusses the changing energy and economic landscape, as well as the roughly 25 bills introduced by the 112th Congress regarding hydropower (the use of flowing water to produce electricity). Congress is examining numerous energy sources to determine their contribution to the nation's energy portfolio and the federal role in supporting these sources, including hydropower. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc93943/