Textron awarded $332.9M contract for mobile strike force vehicles

Oct. 18 (UPI) — U.S. Army officials have awarded a new contract to Textron Systems Marine and Land Systems, out of New Orleans, La., for the procurement of 255 Mobile Strike Force Vehicles, or MSFV, in a deal worth more than $ 332.9 million.

Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of October 2024, the Department of Defense said Wednesday when announcing the deal.

Textron Systems Marine and Land Systems produces three variants of the MSFV, including an armored personnel carrier, or APC, which is equipped with a Mk.19 Grenade Launcher, an automatic belt-fed weapon system that fires 40mm grenades. The APC also has a .50 caliber machine-gun turret.

In May 2011, two years after former President Barack Obama surged more than 30,000 troops into Afghanistan, the U.S. Army contracted Textron Systems Marine and Land Systems to produce all three variants of the MSFV for the Afghanistan National Army, or ANA, totaling 240 vehicles. The first MSFVs were shipped there in November 2011 to ANA Kandak battalions, Afghan infantry units made up of around 600 soldiers.

In 2012, Pentagon officials ordered three additional contracts to procure 200 more MSFVs for the ANA. The June 2012 contract alone was worth $ 79.2 million. As the Afghanistan war began to wind down in 2014, the total vehicles the federal government provided to the ANA was 634.

The Department of Defense did not say whether the newly-ordered MSFVs would be for the U.S. Army or other allied nations.

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Hiccup clears for Canada's TransMountain pipeline

Oct. 13 (UPI) — A Canadian energy regulator said it dismissed challenges to environmental issues on the Trans Mountain pipeline after the operator pulled a request for relief.

The National Energy Board said it received a letter from those planning the expansion of the Trans Mountain that withdrew a request for relief from measures that prohibit spawning deterrents along the pipeline’s path. The request drew comments from environmental groups concerned about the pipeline’s development.

“The [NEB] board is of the view that Trans Mountain’s withdrawal of its request, coupled with action by the board’s compliance and enforcement staff, renders the request and related written comments moot,” the regulator said in a late Thursday update. “Therefore the board dismisses these matters for mootness.”

According to advocacy group WaterWealth, pipeline developer Kinder Morgan “was caught” putting fences into waterways that prevented trout and salmon from spawning, in violation of NEB conditions.

The regulatory hiccup followed a decision from pipeline developer TransCanada to pull its Energy East crude oil pipeline from consideration after the NEB expressed concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and the potential for an oil spill.

The NEB in early September said it was satisfied with the environmental plans outlined by Kinder Morgan to expand a port in British Columbia to handle the new volumes from Trans Mountain. Later that month, however, the regulator said it completed a pre-construction audit and found planners haven’t yet laid out plans regarding safety and environmental protection during the build process.

Kinder Morgan’s $ 5.9 billion plan to triple the capacity of the network to around 890,000 barrels of oil per day were approved in November, though vetting is still under way for some aspects. The project is part of a national effort to tap into markets outside North America as nearly all of Canada’s oil exports go to the United States.

Nearly all of the oil that Canada exports heads to the U.S. market and existing pipeline infrastructure means Canada is relatively landlocked to North America. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said this week Canada could be a global energy supplier of choice, but only if the conditions are set up to attract new customers and maintain sector investments.

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Small island nations display climate solidarity

Oct. 13 (UPI) — Small island states and nations with developing economies pledged to take a stronger initiative in the fight against climate change, low-carbon leaders said.

Dozens of government ministers and senior officials met Friday in the Maldives to coordinate efforts on renewable energy development and other ways to stave off the impacts of a changing climate.

“Small island developing nations have been frontrunners in the global drive to scale-up renewables,” Adnan Amin, the director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, said in an emailed statement. “This meeting is further evidence of their collective commitment to strengthen the momentum of the global energy transition as they pursue economic growth, energy security and increased national resilience.”

Amin’s organization estimates small island developing states, or SIDS, have a total installed renewable energy capacity of about 2 gigawatts, with at least 6 GW in the pipeline. According to IREA, several SIDS have made commitments to reach a 100 percent share for renewable energy in their electricity mix.

One gigawatt of power is the rough equivalent of two coal-fired power plants, or enough to meet the energy demands of around 500,000 homes. Based on 2010 U.S. Census data, 1 GW of renewable energy would meet about a third of the total demand for the U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico.

Debt-strapped Puerto Rico has struggled to recover from a string of hurricanes that swept through the Caribbean in late August and September. The pace of recovery has become a source of frustration for U.S. President Donald Trump, who is working to pull the country out of the Paris climate agreement.

“In the wake of a deadly hurricane season in the Caribbean and at a time when the resolve to tackle the climate crisis has been called into question, small islands are sending the world a clear message: we are seizing the promise of renewable energy to grow our economies today and build a better future for tomorrow,” Thoriq Ibrahim, the Maldives Environment Minister and chair of Alliance of Small Island States, said in a statement.

In the Pacific region, the Marshall Islands has a population of about 68,000 spread over 34 low-lying coral atolls, comprising 1,156 individual islands and islets. The average height of the islands is about 6 feet above sea level.

Already, it is experiencing the effects of climate change, mostly from rising sea levels which have caused flooding and inundation of crops. Government officials said that if climate change continues as it is now, there could be 2 million people from the Pacific region who will become refugees.

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Lebanon gets two bids for offshore gas exploration

Oct. 13 (UPI) — Lebanese ambitions to draw investors to its offshore reserve potential, notably for natural gas, brought in only two bids, the government reported.

Lebanon in January filed a request to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a body that aims to cast light on how countries manage their oil, gas and mineral resources. Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said that, as the country opens itself up to foreign energy investors, accountability was essential.

Decrees put forward by the Lebanese government outline a model for revenue sharing, something that derailed previous efforts to court foreign investors. The Lebanese government estimates there are 95 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 750 million barrels of oil in its territorial waters.

Khalil said Thursday the government received two bids for offshore gas operations, but offered few specifics on the details, the English-language Daily Star reported.

Lebanon has been at odds with Israel over maritime borders in the Mediterranean Sea. Parliament members from Shiite group Hezbollah have pushed for the development of offshore reserves. According to Israeli military leaders, Hezbollah’s military arm could hit emerging energy infrastructure centered on the port of Haifa with its missile arsenal.

Israel is working to exploit the gas reserves in the Leviathan and Tamar natural gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea. Delek Drilling, an Israeli company, estimates Leviathan, the larger of the two, holds about 21.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, an estimate that’s about 13 percent higher than when the field was discovered in 2010.

Beirut postponed offshore natural gas auctions several times after rancor erupted over the amount of revenue Beirut would get from energy companies.

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House leadership supports U.S. offshore overhaul

Oct. 12 (UPI) — An offshore drilling act critics said was “wish list” legislation for the oil and gas industry was hailed as a strategic win by House Republican leadership.

The House Natural Resources Energy and Mineral subcommittee heard testimony Wednesday on the Accessing Strategic Resources Offshore Act, or ASTRO. The measure would limit the presidential authority to put parts of the Outer Continental Shelf off limits to oil and gas drillers and give the Interior Department the authority to move ahead with new lease sales “as soon as practicable,” but no later than a year after the announcement of intent.

Subcommittee Chairman Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said the offshore oil and gas industry is vital for U.S. economic success, generating “billions of dollars” in revenue and creating “millions” of direct and indirect jobs in the country.

“It is critical that we maintain and increase access to offshore exploration and production to improve upon these trends,” he said in a statement.

The committee said that, under former President Barack Obama, more than 90 percent of U.S. territorial waters were off limits to drillers. The Republican-led committee said opening up more areas to drillers could create more than 800,000 new jobs and generate $ 200 billion in revenue.

When the committee rolled out its agenda last week, a spokesman for offshore advocacy group Oceana told UPI the ASTRO Act is “the kitchen sink of the oil industry’s wish list.” After the hearing, Ocean campaign director Diane Hoskins said the bill was extreme.

“This is a clear attempt by a few in Congress to provide massive giveaways to special interests in the oil and gas industry,” she said in a statement emailed to UPI. “With an oil surplus and gasoline prices near recent historic lows, it makes absolutely no sense to put our coastal communities and state economies at risk from more drilling.”

Apart from expanding access to drillers, the ASTRO Act would recombine the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. The BSEE was set up in response to failures with the former federal Minerals Management Service in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

“I think such a recombination is not just a profoundly bad idea that would be unnecessarily disruptive for the agencies and the industry and for which no clear case has been made, but it is also a dangerous idea that would significantly raise the risk of a catastrophic offshore accident,” Michael Bromwich, the director of the BOEM at the time of 2010 spill, testified.

The federal government estimates about 90 billion barrels of oil have yet to be discovered in U.S. territorial waters. Erik Milito, the director of industry operations for the American Petroleum Institute, testified that unplanned supply disruptions from the global market, meanwhile, can sometimes put more than 3 million barrels per day off limits, which is about three times what North Dakota produces. A bigger offshore reach, he said, would boost U.S. energy security.

“We can and should do more,” he said.

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British government unveils green spending plans

Oct. 12 (UPI) — The British government said Thursday it would spend more than $ 3 billion on new energy systems that could help it meet obligations for a low-carbon economy.

The British government is legally bound to a commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which are counted as the main contributors to climate change, by 80 percent of their 1990 levels by 2050. The government said Thursday it would invest and spend around $ 3.1 billion through 2021 on new energy systems, nuclear power and renewable energy strategies to help meet its 2050 target.

British Minister for Climate Change and Industry Claire Perry said that emissions last year were 42 percent lower than the 1990 benchmark and 6 percent lower than in 2015. At the same time, British gross domestic product increased 67 percent from 1990.

“On a per person basis, this means that we have reduced emissions faster than any other Group of Seven nation and led the G7 group in growth in national income over the period,” she said in a statement.

The measure drew praise from the fossil fuels industry, which said the strategy was pegged in part to natural gas and the use of carbon, capture and storage, a technique designed to lower emissions from oil and gas production and power plants.

“Natural gas will continue to be a critical fuel for the U.K. in the transition to a low carbon economy,” Ken Cronin, the chief executive of the U.K. Onshore Oil and Gas trade group, said in a statement. “As the report makes clear, the reforming of methane with carbon capture and storage is likely to be the primary means of producing low carbon hydrogen, which has great potential to decarbonize heating, transport and industry and improve air quality.”

About a third of the total spending plan goes toward carbon, capture and storage. To meet the benchmarks outlined in the Paris climate agreement, the International Energy Agency said CCS “will not be optional.”

After the British Parliament backed a measure that gave clarity for the path out of the European Union in September, Buskut Tuncak, a U.N. special envoy on hazardous substances, told the U.N. Human Rights Council that London risks stepping away from some of the highest environmental standards in the world as it leaves the EU.

In July, however, the British government unveiled plans to ban all new gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles from its roads beginning in 2040. For power on the British grid, data show the share of electricity generated by renewable resources was 26.6 percent in the first quarter, up 1 percent from the same period last year.

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