Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

May 15, 2015

Top Stories

Energy Policy. Seven environmental groups have joined together in a lawsuit challenging the recent safety rules governing trains that carry crude oil.  The groups assert that the rules are too weak to protect the public, noting that they not only allow the use of “unsafe tank cars” for up to ten years, but also fail to impose adequate speed limits for oil trains.  NY Times

Energy Outlook.  According to an auto-industry research firm, low gasoline prices are causing some 55% of hybrid and electric vehicle owners to choose gasoline-only models when trading in their cars.  Furthermore, the recent decline in gasoline prices has been complemented by an increase in fuel efficiency of conventional and sports utility models, making the economic and environmental trade-off between options even less apparent.  NY Times

Oil & Gas.  John Kemp of Reuters argues that the status of “swing producer” in the global market has been hugely misunderstood as a role of power and control.  Instead, Kemp argues that swing producers often become the “passive absorber of shifts in market supply and demand” — a position that will likely be uncomfortable for the U.S. shale sector in coming years.  Reuters

Energy Policy.  Ted Gayer of the Brookings Institute argues that putting a price on pollution with a carbon tax or cap and trade program is more cost-effective than simply imposing energy efficiency standards.  Using the recently proposed American Energy Efficiency Act as an example, he explains that targeting particular emitters of pollution does not guarantee emissions cuts, as industry players can simply reduce electricity output through sub-optimal ways such as scaling back on cleaner energy forms, rather than directly cutting pollution emissions.   Brookings

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

May 13, 2015

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Energy Outlook.  The International Energy Agency warned in its monthly oil market report that the global battle for market share is “just getting started”.   The group contends that while heightened OPEC production has been somewhat successful in forcing U.S. shale oil producers to cut back, unexpected production increases from other non-OPEC producers have upset OPEC’s strategy.  WSJ

Energy Policy.  The oil industry is officially challenging oil-by-train safety rules unveiled by the Department of Transportation earlier this month.  The industry’s main trade group, the American Petroleum Institute, seeks to block the requirement that older tank cars be retrofitted with new safety features and electronic braking systems, arguing that these provisions impose high costs on the industry and will lead to a shortfall in tank car capacity.  NY Times

Energy Outlook.  Moming Zhou of Bloomberg argues that the recent rally in oil prices is unlikely to continue unless global oil demand accelerates considerably.  Zhou notes  that the recent uptick in prices is largely attributable to “bottom-fishing” investors, rather than changes in the underlying causes of the oil price crash — namely slowing demand, a faltering Chinese economy, and an oversupplied market.  Bloomberg

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

May 12, 2015

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Oil.   The New York Times reports that major oil producers have survived the recent plunge in oil prices by leveraging techniques that reduce the average cost of drilling by improving well efficiency, implementing smarter planning, and laying off less efficient crews.   Accordingly, the decline in domestic shale oil production has been much less than expected, and many analysts are predicting increased drilling productivity when the price of oil rebounds.  NY Times

Energy Outlook.  Due to lower prices and fewer active drilling rigs, the Energy Information Agency lowered its forecasts for U.S. crude oil production growth in 2015 and 2016.  The agency lowered its 2015 crude production forecast to 530,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 550,000 bpd, and its 2016 forecast to 20,000 bpd from 80,000 bpd.  Reuters

Oil.  Yesterday, the federal government conditionally approved Royal Dutch Shell’s plans to drill for oil and natural gas in the Arctic Ocean.  The approval is seen as a victory for the oil-and-gas industry as a whole, particularly in the wake of recent regulation that negatively affects the sector — including tougher requirements on hydraulic fracturing and new safety requirements for trains hauling flammable oil.  WSJ

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

May 11, 2015

Top Stories

Energy Policy.  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi tomorrow in attempts to normalize bilateral relations.  The discussion — which represents the first U.S. Cabinet-level visit to Russia since the Ukraine crisis flared last year — is regarded by Moscow as a sign of America’s inability to deal with problems in Iran, Syria, and Ukraine without Russian cooperation.  WSJ

Energy Policy.  In efforts to shape Greece’s economic and geopolitical orientation moving forward, U.S. State Department officials are urging the new government in Athens to forgo entering a Russian-sponsored gas pipeline agreement and instead embrace a Western-backed project linking Europe to natural gas supplies in Azerbaijan.  The latter would provide Greece vital new sources of revenue, while simultaneously reducing the European Union’s dependence on Russian gas supplies.  NY Times

Energy Outlook.  According to a draft of OPEC’s latest strategy report, the cartel does not see oil prices consistently trading at $100 a barrel again in the next decade — in fact, the cartel’s most optimistic scenario predicts that oil prices will only reach about $75 a barrel by 2025.  Additionally, the report (1) recommends that OPEC return to a production quota system after flooding the market with crude oil and cutting prices over the past year, and (2) urges OPEC to develop a robust strategy to prepare for the United Nations climate change talks in Paris in December.  WSJ

Energy Outlook.  Despite rebounding oil prices, OPEC is expected to maintain current output quotas at its meeting next month in order avoid ceding market share.  Market analysts warn that Saudi Arabia should intervene to stop prices from increasing too rapidly; inaction, they say, could prevent a global recovery and encourage battered US shale oil producers to redeploy temporarily closed rigs.  FT

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

May 8, 2015

Top Stories

Energy Outlook.  Bloomberg reports that America’s oil drilling boom is “sputtering back to life,” as oil futures rallied above $60 per barrel and several key rigs came back on-line this week.   Commodity analysts reassure that although the U.S. rig count continues to decline overall, the return of these rigs signals that the bottom of the slump in production is near.  Bloomberg

Oil.  The total number of Americans working in oil and gas fields has declined to the lowest level since March 2014.  While jobs in the oil and gas sector represent a fairly small share of the overall U.S. labor market, energy jobs contribute significantly to the economies of certain states, such as North Dakota and Texas. WSJ

Energy Policy.  Test results from an oil-train derailment in North Dakota on Wednesday find that the oil aboard was in fact less flammable than required by state laws that went into effect last month.  State officials say that the aftermath of the derailment was less devastating than that of previous crashes, which suggests that the rules are working as designed. Reuters

Energy Storage.  A recent report from the EIA indicates that non-hydro storage capacity has doubled in the last five years.  Brookings scholars note that electricity storage yields benefits across the grid by accommodating variable renewable supply, congestion relief to transmission systems, and peak capacity support, but also add that storage costs remain well above other technologies, particularly at the residential level.  EIA, Brookings

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