Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

May 26, 2015

Top Stories

Oil.  Oil prices fell today amid a strengthening U.S. dollar, leading market participants to question the sustainability of the recent price rally.   Prices have increased from lows in recent weeks on expectations that the oversupplied market will come into balance later this year;  however, analysts question the strength of the rally as production continues to exceed global consumption.  WSJ

Energy Policy.  Nearly 10 years after Hurricane Katrina, experts are still debating over which groups should be held responsible for the fatal engineering flaws that led to the catastrophic flooding of New Orleans.  Additionally, there has been a separate but no less persistent debate regarding the legal liability for the damages; after a decade of recent setbacks, a federal judge ruled just this month that the federal government owed compensation to the owners of certain flooded properties in and near the city.  NY Times

Oil.  Data collected from sources across the oil industry indicate that despite a decrease in rig count and the number of monthly permits, the volume of leases has remained on par with year-ago levels.  According to data company Drillinginfo, this indicates that companies are looking to gain leaseholds while the market is still sluggish —  which suggests that the market will have rebounded by the time these new leases mature to producing wells.  Forbes

Energy Outlook. Reuters reports that traffic volume is increasing across the nation as gasoline prices remain moderate and significantly lower than prior-year levels.  Traffic volume is growing fastest on rural interstates and arterial roads, suggesting a large increase in leisure-related driving rather than commuting.  Reuters

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

May 21, 2015

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Climate Change.  Climate forecasters from the U.K. Met Office and Reading University warned yesterday of the development of a “moderate to strong” El Niño event this year, echoing reports published last week by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.  The report warns that the El Niño event — the first in six years — may exacerbate water shortages in Latin America, southeast Asia, and the Sahel, while bringing more rainfall to parts of North America; overall, the event is expected to boost global temperatures in 2015 and 2016 to record highs.  FT

Energy Policy.  James Conca writes in Forbes that U.S. policymakers should address the country’s myriad energy challenges by focusing on priorities outlined in the Department of Energy’s Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), such as tackling climate change, adopting an appropriate national energy mix, addressing cyber-threats, and improving oil and gas infrastructure.  Conca notes that America’s aging energy infrastructure presents a particularly serious problem; according to the Department of Energy, more than 90% of U.S. gas transmission and gathering pipelines were built prior to 2000.  Forbes

Energy Policy.  The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to move a $35.5 billion funding bill for energy and water programs to the floor for a vote.  If passed, the bill may face a serious hurdle during the reconciliation process, since the White House has announced that it would veto the House version of the bill.  The Hill

Natural Gas.  The benchmark natural gas price jumped 3.3% today — the biggest intraday change in more than a week — following the announcement of a smaller-than-expected increase in underground stocks in the U.S.  High inventory has tempered gains in the Nymex benchmark price, but growing demand from the electric power sector — which is capitalizing on low natural gas prices to switch from costlier coal — may prop up prices in the near-term. FT

Energy and Environment News

Energy and Environment News

May 19, 2015

Top Stories

Oil.  According to a new report from data provider Genscape Inc., almost 19 million barrels of U.S. crude oil were shipped from the U.S. Gulf Coast to Canada’s eastern coast from the beginning of this year through early May.  The report states that these shipments provided a “crucial relief valve” for U.S. producers, as storage units in Texas would have easily run out of capacity had they not been able to export excess supply north.  WSJ.

Energy Policy.  At a meeting today in preparation for the United Nations-sponsored climate change conference in Paris later this year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande announced their plan for an “ambitious, comprehensive, and binding” climate agreement that would fully decarbonize the global economy over the course of this century.  While industrialized countries like Germany and France are leading the push to curb carbon-dioxide emissions through strategies like national and regional carbon markets, developing countries are concerned about the economic sacrifices at home required for compliance.  WSJ

EPA.  The New York Times reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “tested the limits of federal lobbying law” in its campaign to garner public support for a major new water rule last year.  While the EPA was acting under a mandate from the Obama administration to build support for proposed environmental regulations, some critics claim that environmental groups inappropriately influenced the campaign.  NY Times

Energy Outlook.  According to an analysis commissioned for the Financial Times, $118 billion of spending on new energy projects worldwide was canceled, postponed, or slowed in response to the oil price plunge.  Industry analysts predict that these severe capital expenditure cuts may lead to a substantial rebound in Brent crude prices over the longer term, as the significant delay in investment will reduce future supplies of oil.  FT

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

Top Stories

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

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