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Week in Oil & Gas: EPA Fight Heats Up, POET's Ethanol Pipeline and More

Sen. Lisa Murkowski's fight to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions veered off course last week after reports revealed two Washington lobbyists helped craft an amendment aimed at quashing the government agency's powers. Consider me officially shocked.

Murkowski is still in the driver's seat, despite the slight dent to her credibility, and must decide this week if she will offer -- or postpone -- an amendment to prevent the EPA from creating rules that would limit emissions from stationary sources like power plants, The Hill's E2 Wire reported Monday. Democrats, in the meantime, have busied themselves crafting counter amendments that would end up strengthening the EPA's powers. Of course, the whole kit and caboodle will most likely die. For Murkowski's amendment to become law, which was tacked onto federal debt ceiling legislation, it must also pass the House and be approved by the White House.

The Republican senator of Alaska could bypass the amendment for a stronger legislative instrument, the Hill noted. Murkowski could make a "resolution of disapproval" that would overturn the EPA's recent endangerment finding that GHGs are a threat to the public. Either way, Murkowski will do something come Wednesday, her staff told The Hill.

Across the pond, an senior Iranian oil minister produced a head-scratching moment after claiming OPEC members achieved a 66 percent crude production compliance rate in 2009. The oil cartel's 11 member countries subject to quotas cut production and established a ceiling of 24.84 million barrels a day. OPEC countries never completely compiled with the production limit, however it was much better in the beginning of 2009. Since then it has dropped considerably and hit 58 percent compliance in December, according to the International Energy Agency.

The IEA also reported Friday global demand for crude will be 86.3 million barrels a day in 2010, up 1.7 percent from 2009. The Paris-based agency cut its forecast for consumption from the world's developed countries.

On the ethanol front: POET, the largest U.S. producer, and Magellan Midstream Partners unveiled its plans to build an 1,800-mile ethanol pipeline in the United States. The proposed pipeline has been floated before, however the specs and cost has changed a bit. The pipeline, originally designed to start in Iowa, will be 100 miles longer and begin in South Dakota. It is expected to cost more than $4 billion and would be operational as early as 2014.

And finally, a great, not-so-little blog shuts its virtual doors last week after more than two years and 2,000 posts, as fellow BNET Energy blogger Chris Morrison also noted in his week in renewables roundup. The WSJ's Environmental Capital, headed by Keith Johnson, was a smartly written blog whose writers dug into the complex bits and pieces of the global energy question -- green or otherwise. You simply have to love a blog that offers up a HHGTTG reference in its farewell post. Farewell guys and DON'T PANIC. Sadly, the blog is just another example of the demise of the environmental reporter in the mainstream media.

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