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Koch-Funded Former Lobbyist Replaces Koch Lobbyist on Trump’s Energy Transition Team

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Thomas Pyle, President of the Koch-funded Institute for Energy Research and its advocacy arm, the American Energy Alliance, has been tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the transition to the Department of Energy. E&E News reported on Monday that Pyle would be replacing Mike McKenna, who had to step down from the transition team because of the Trump team’s crackdown on registered lobbyists.

McKenna, President of MWR Strategies, currently lobbies for a number of energy industry companies , including a contract with Koch Industries that dates back to 2008.

Michael Catanzaro also stepped down from the DOE landing team. Catanzaro is currently a registered lobbyist for Koch Industries. (More on Catanzaro’s lobbying history and deep oil ties on DeSmog.)

As Lee Fang wrote in The Intercept,

The Koch Industries lobbyist who was overseeing transition efforts on energy and the environment will be replaced — by a former Koch Industries lobbyist who leads a think tank funded by Koch Industries.

The Trump transition team publicized some ethics standards that essentially demand that anyone on the team deregister as a lobbyist and promise not to lobby for five years. But former lobbyists (even those registered as lobbyists at the time of assignment to the transition team) are totally fine, as is anyone working for a lobbying firm without formal registrations.  

Fang described Catanzaro’s and Pyle’s trip through the revolving door to the DOE’s transition team.

Michael Catanzaro, who was set to oversee the transition at the Department of Energy, is a registered lobbyist for fossil fuel giant Koch Industries.

Catanzaro’s departure on Friday made way for Thomas Pyle as his replacement.

Pyle is currently the president of the Institute for Energy Research, a think tank founded directly by Charles Koch, the chief executive of Koch Industries, and also funded by Koch-backed nonprofits. IER broadly supports more drilling and mining of fossil fuels, and regularly criticizes climate change scientists for daring to call for controls on pollution. Before joining IER, Pyle worked as a registered lobbyist for Koch Industries and served as the Koch Industries Director of Federal Affairs, a lobbying job, from 2001 through 2005.

McKenna, Catanzaro, and Pyle aren’t the only Koch affiliates to make their way into Trump’s transition efforts, and we’ll be looking at other Koch ties to the Trump administration in coming weeks.

Trump himself offered a glimpse at his energy policy priorities in a YouTube video published Monday that briefly outlined his plan for his first 100 days in office.

“I will cancel job killing restrictions on the production of American energy, including shale energy and clean coal, creating many millions of high-paying jobs,” Trump said. “That’s what we want. That’s what we’ve been waiting for.” The President-elect didn’t speak to any particular Department of Energy efforts, nor did he discuss how his administration would address the two energy sectors that are fastest growing in terms of both employment and electric generating capacity—solar and wind.

Image: Screenshot from IERDC on YouTube.

Electric Vehicles: Big News From Germany

Tesla Preparing for Gigafactory 2 in Germany

Image credit: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr
Image credit: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr

In its quest to accelerate vehicle production, Tesla has announced plans to acquire German engineering firm Grohmann Engineering. Grohmann specializes in advanced automated manufacturing techniques.

As it says in its announcement, Tesla is looking to change the way vehicle production is approached:

“Accelerating a sustainable energy future is only possible with high-volume factories. They allow us to manufacture high-quality products with economies of scale, making them more affordable and accessible to the world. As the machine that builds the machine, our factories are so important that we believe they will ultimately deserve an order of magnitude more attention in engineering than what they produce. At very high production volumes, the factory becomes more of a product than the product itself.”

Tesla is looking to increase vehicle production from less than 100,000 units in 2015 to one million units per year in 2020. This acquisition is the first step. Elon Musk confirmed the company is looking at locations in Germany to build “Gigafactory 2.” This facility would be capable of producing batteries and complete cars.

Volkswagen Goes All-In on EVs

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Image credit Spanish Coches via Flickr

Days after Tesla announced intentions to build Gigafactory 2, Volkswagen declared it was building a new battery factory in Germany for advanced electric vehicles.

The pilot plant is pact of Volkswagen’s “pact for the future.” The plan is predicated around development and production of electric vehicles. The pact represents a major strategic shift for the Volkswagen.

“To bring Volkswagen to the forefront of the industry in the future-oriented areas of e-mobility and digitilization, the company will be making a massive investment in new technologies”, the company said.

Herbert Diess, Chairman of the VW brand board of management added, “We will be transforming the entire brand and making it fit for the fundamental transformation of our industry. At Volkswagen, we are taking our future into our hands.”

 

Taking a More Comprehensive Look at Coal Subsidies

Earlier this month, Robert Murray, President and CEO of coal giant Murray Energy Corporation, sparred with Tesla founder Elon Musk on the issue of subsidies. Murray called Tesla a “fraud” for failing to achieve a profit despite benefitting from consumer-facing electric vehicle tax credits, and then Musk lobbed back that EVs get “pennies on the dollar” compared to coal. Continue reading “Taking a More Comprehensive Look at Coal Subsidies”

Obama Administration Announces Extensive National EV Charging Network

p091316ps-0088Today, the White House announced a plan to establish 48 national electric vehicle corridors on major highways across the country.

These corridors, located on 48 interstates, will cover nearly 25,000 miles across 35 states. They will also serve as the foundation for an even larger network of “alternative fuel” corridors.

In the same way highways currently alert drivers of nearby gas stations via roadway signs, the electric vehicle corridors will have signs highlighting nearby charging stations. According to the plan, drivers can expect charging stations every 50 miles.

Responding to the announcement, Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council said:

“This all-in approach exemplifies the sprint-to-the-finish attitude we’ve come to expect from someone who promised us hope and change. Eight years later, President Obama has done more than his 43 predecessors combined to protect Americans and future generations from the ravages of climate change.”

For more on President Obama’s initiatives to scale up adoption of electric vehicles, read this fact sheet.

Image credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza